The saga of Pararmount Pictures Vs the Makers of the fan film Axanar continues as a legal decision yesterday allowed the lawsuit, which is now been before the courts for a year, to proceed to a jury trial. In a legal good news/bad news situation, the first, best defense of the Axanar producers to get the lawsuit thrown out of court was itself thrown out by the judge, but U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner decided to not go so far as to end the case himself, and will let the question that the case hinges on answering be decided by a jury later this year.
Judge Klausner ruled on motions to deliver a summary judgment on the lawsuit that was brought by both the plaintiff (Paramount and CBS) and the defense (Axanar’s producers), and turned them both down. Further, Klausner’s decision is seen as a tacit victory for the plaintiffs as the defense’s argument of fair use was rejected by the court. “With respect to the first core issue, the Court finds that the Axanar Works have objective substantial similarity to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works,” Kluasner wrote in his decision.
Further, Klausner noted that between 13 Star Trek movies and six television series, Star Trek is “given broad copyright protections,” seeing as how Axanar uses established alien races like Klingons and Vulcans, elements like a Klingon officer’s uniform from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and, as a central character, uses Garth of Izar, who appeared in the original series episode “Whom Gods Destroy” in 1969.
“Under the extrinsic test, the Axanar Works are substantially similar to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works,” wrote Klausner. “This conclusion finds strong support in Defendants’ intent for the Axanar Works. ‘Defendants expressly set out to create an authentic and independent Star Trek film that [stayed] true to Star Trek canon down to excruciating details.'”
Still, Judge Klausner stopped short of ruling on the other half of the case, which is to answer the question if an ordinary person might reasonably be able to tell the difference between a fan film like Axanar and an official Star Trek production produced by Paramount/CBS. Klausner feels that decision should be left up to a jury. “If the jury does not find subjective substantial similarity, Defendants did not infringe and fair use defense is moot,” he said. “If the jury finds subjective substantial similarity, the Axanar Works are rightfully considered derivative works of the Star Trek Copyrighted Works. Rejection of Defendants’ fair use defense is consistent with copyright’s very purpose because derivatives are ‘an important economic incentive to the creation of originals.”
There’s no word on when this is going to come to a jury decision, but observers think a verdict may be delivered quickly as both sides have submitted evidence lists and have questions ready for perspective jurors. This legal process continues despite statements from Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin and producer J.J. Abrams that the legal matter would be resolved after the introduction of new rules for Star Trek fan films, which was received with some degree of derision. Read our recent Trek Bastard column on the matter to get background on the case.
We’ll have more news about the lawsuit as it develops.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter