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CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit Over 'Star Trek' Fan Film (hollywoodreporter.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Stand down from battle stations. Star Trek rights holders CBS and Paramount have seen the logic of settling a copyright suit against Alec Peters, who solicited money on crowdfunding sites and hired professionals to make a YouTube short and a script of a planned feature film focused on a fictional event -- a Starfleet captain's victory in a war with the Klingon Empire -- referenced in the original 1960s Gene Roddenberry television series. Thanks to the settlement, CBS and Paramount won't be going to trial on Stardate 47634.44, known to most as Jan. 31, 2017. According to a joint statement, "Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar's film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law." Peters' Axanar video and script, which feature such arguably copyrighted elements as Vulcan ears, the Klingon language and an obscure character from a 1969 episode, sparked a lawsuit in December 2015. The litigation then proceeded at warp speed with the case almost making it to trial in just 13 months, an amazingly brisk pace by typical standards. When Axanar comes out, it will look different. "Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the 'Guidelines for Fan Films' distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016," states the parties' joint announcement of a settlement.
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CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit Over 'Star Trek' Fan Film

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  • by Psion ( 2244 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:04PM (#53708765)
    The only thing I can read from this is that in order to meet CBS/Viacom/Paramount requirements, it can't retain any of the Star Trek elements we'd like to see. In which case, it will be just another space combat short with no connection to any greater framework that makes it have relevance. Peters' bluster has not only ruined his Axanar project that would have brought an interesting bit of Trek 'history' to light, but it has ruined the chances of any other fan film becoming a serious production worthy of consideration, thanks to those stringent guidelines CBS understandably developed.
    • by irving47 ( 73147 )

      If it continues, it'll be rewritten and we'll end up with fewer of the cool actors that were in prelude.... We'll eventually see what was done to Andromeda to make it non-Star Trek

      • by Psion ( 2244 )
        An excellent comparison! And Peters could still turn this into something interesting. But I'm disappointed because this was hugely promising and the man let his ego get in the way.
        • by irving47 ( 73147 )

          The problem is, and it's admittedly *my* problem... Once I know it's a veiled copy, every lame name change, every alteration so that "it doesn't upset the lawyers" will snap me out of what I'm watching and make me roll my eyes. Much like Andromeda. I have no idea how much of the Kevin Sorbo "takeover" of Andromeda made it look cheesier than normal Star Trek, or if it was simply the "Action Pack" production company's fault... But I tried hard... But in the end Andromeda was border-line unwatchable.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      I for one am a bit sick of Star Trek fan films anyway. There was one where the Enterprise was parked underwater just to hide from a pre-industrial civilization - can you believe that? Another where a belt buckle made all of Star Fleet obsolete. There is some utter crap out there.
      • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @01:11AM (#53709417) Journal

        There was one where the Enterprise was parked underwater just to hide from a pre-industrial civilization - can you believe that? Another where a belt buckle made all of Star Fleet obsolete.

        I even saw one where the Enterprise was being built in the middle of a field on Earth's surface, and a single drop of red paint was enough to implode Vulcan.

      • There was one where the Enterprise was parked underwater just to hide from a pre-industrial civilization - can you believe that?

        It makes sense, they probably didn't have sonar back in the 80s. Right?

    • > The only thing I can read from this is that in order to meet CBS/Viacom/Paramount requirements, it can't retain any of the Star Trek elements we'd like to see

      Read the actual guidelines rather than reading between the lines of the Slashdot summary. IF you want to use all the Star Trek trademarks and copyright stuff, you're not allowed to dob the following, unless you ask permission first:

      Sell tickets
      Have a long-running TV show with many episodes
      Buy knock-off costumes (you can make them or buy licens

  • Axenar looked significantly better than anything Paramount/CBS has come up with in the past 20 years. They had to kill it.

    • Re:Let's face it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Psion ( 2244 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:22PM (#53708869)
      They had to kill it because Alec Peters was obviously trying to make money off their property. CBS/Viacom was playing hands off on fan films for decades before this selfish bastard came along!
      • by irving47 ( 73147 )

        I think I'm with you... But you seem to know more than I've heard/read. I got banned from their facebook page when I asked about the production studio and equipment that was paid for with the Axanar crowd-funding money. Was there something else, as well?

        • by Psion ( 2244 )
          As I recall, the ledger that was leaked also included a salary for Peters, which is a big no-no in these cases, and probably the thing that pushed CBS over the line -- well, that and financing a studio to make more productions. He wasn't taking a huge a cut, I think it was in the $30k region, but it definitely made the Axanar project more than a not-for-profit fan film.
          • Rather than a leak, they purposefully published their finances, including salaries for Peters and his fulfillment manager.
      • Help me understand that one. What about Alec's efforts make it obvious he was trying to profit? Paying staff wages?
        • Re:Let's face it (Score:5, Informative)

          by ZenShadow ( 101870 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @01:32AM (#53709489) Homepage

          How about paying himself a salary?

          The instant you do that, it's not a hobby anymore. It's a commercial enterprise.

          • Axanar Productions is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. All staff are employees and Alec was paid an earth-shattering $38K last year for his 60 hour work weeks. Mean while he guaranteed a $250K 3-year lease for the building housing the production set. Other staff have tossed large sums of personal money into the coffers as well. While the numbers themselves are in a different league, the business model is resemblant of grandmas selling their knit doilies at a craft fair to pay for more knitting supplies.
            • No. Just, no.

              Firstly, what I said above stands; even non-profits can be commercial enterprises.

              Secondly, Alec has claimed to be a non-profit. AFAIK, the filing was never actually started, let alone completed.

      • Bunch of bullshit. CBS/Paramount can't smell an opportunity when it is shoved up their nose. They didn't have to kill it. They could have embraced it and turned into something legit and made boat loads of money. But CBS/Paramount hasn't treated the ST property right since day one when they practically stole it from Lucille Ball and immediately canceled the show. It has made money despite them only b/c the original idea was so good and true believers have sacrificed to keep it going. But Gene is dead, and Pa

    • by irving47 ( 73147 )

      Damn straight. My buddy had me and another friend over to watch ST: Renegades... and we sat through it because, hey, Chekov, and all... Or whatever, it's Star Trek.... Then I said, "Well, that's cool, but check THIS out." (Played Axanar) They were both amazed how good it was in comparison.

    • What, they couldn't compete with Axanar by making their own star trek franchise again? There are still plenty of good stories to be made in the star trek universe. Hell, CBS could even reinvent the universe to make Axanar obsolete. Instead, they just slap down the legal papers and give up.
  • To save some web searching, here is the movie on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] , and the web site for the production company: http://www.axanarproductions.c... [axanarproductions.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:21PM (#53708863)

    The law may be on the side of CBS and Paramount, but I'd like to know how they're harmed by the production of fan fiction. There's a case to be made that use of trademarks may be a problem, but the companies chose not to pursue that issue. They focused on copyright. How did this harm them?

    Fan fiction doesn't reduce fan interest in the franchise and the works created by CBS and Paramount. Instead, it increases interest, by keeping fans interested in between series and movies and perhaps winning over new fans who might encounter the videos on Youtube. Thefan works are non-canon, and there's no reason why it would reduce the desire of fans for films that are considered canon. For example, Star Trek Continues makes use of most of the TOS characters played by different actors. I don't see any logical reason that Star Trek Continues would reduce interest in TOS, though. If anything, encountering that on Youtube might make viewers want to watch TOS and increase revenue for CBS and Paramount.

    How could there be any damages to CBS and Paramount? Those donations are to cover the cost of production, not for the creators to pocket the money. That money was never going to CBS and Paramount anyway, who don't solicit donations to pay for the cost of their films. Instead, the studios set a budget, invest that money, and get paid though advertising and at the box office (for movies).

    How were CBS and Paramount possibly harmed? And if they're not harmed, how could they collect any damages at all?

    • by irving47 ( 73147 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @11:03PM (#53709035) Homepage

      Well, apparently, the damages *could* be something like, "Hey, we can crowd-fund this cool Axanar thing, or we could go buy the Star Trek Beyond DVD..."

      As for the donations to cover production... It seems the sticking point was they used the money to pay for tangible equipment and a studio that could be considered profit. I'm not sure if that's accurate 100% or if there was something else.

    • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @11:20PM (#53709101) Homepage

      They are very harmed if they wanted to make a mediocre movie about that part of the story, and there is already some higher-quality "fan" movie that uses their copyrighted material that they would have to compete with.

      It isn't hard to find a way that it harms them. I agree that fan fiction usually helps, but that isn't a guarantee, it isn't a law of the Universe that fan fiction can only help the company who owns the copyrights.

      It is a weak argument. There is no proof one way or the other what the effect will be, and will vary on a case-by-case basis. To even do the analysis you'd have to know what stories CBS/Paramount plan to tell in the future, and that will always be confidential, so you can't even do an analysis of it directly steps on their toes.

      Also, fans complain when new canon material contradicts popular fan material, and fans complain that if they didn't shut something down it is as if they had approved it for canon. It isn't obvious that encouraging or even passively allowing it doesn't change canon in the minds of viewers.

      • Just call it a parody highlighting the lack of plot and poor writing of Star Trek Beyond using contrast. Parody is largely protected from copyright and Paramount CBS can go suck eggs.

        • Just call it a parody highlighting the lack of plot and poor writing of Star Trek Beyond using contrast. Parody is largely protected from copyright and Paramount CBS can go suck eggs.

          Hey that's an awesome idea, create a parody Star Trek movie short (29 min, 59 seconds) where the plot is that the "C.B.S. Enterprise" (Copyright Barristers' Ship), under captain T'Sapf enters the timeline from an alternate universe and sues the Federation for infringing 'their' IP rights (i.e. their continued existence) as per their "Paramount Directive". And as per Grand Council's order, are allowed to end their existence. Our hero (TBD) and his crew are to enter the alternate universe, navigate to their H

    • by mmell ( 832646 )
      Because now CBS/Paramount can't independently come up with that idea. Not that they would've, but if they had the could no longer do it without suffering comparisons to the fanfic.

      Had Alec Peters kept it non-profit, there's a really good chance CBS/Paramount would've ignored him. Hell, they may even quietly have been grateful to him for pumping more life into the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek Continues is a fine example of such a not-for-profit venture. For the record, JJ Abrams made some interesting

    • The guidelines they set out are sufficient that another company isn't allowed to have Star Trek TV show.

      In this particular case, actually the guy WAS pocketing the money, which was the biggest issue. You can still make fan fiction if you want, you just can't sell tickets to a professionally-produced full-length feature film starring well-known actors b without getting permission first.

  • Some odd things in their guidelines

    "Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity.

    Data has said "shit" in startrek before.
    There has been some nudity in a couple of episodes, bum shots.
    The entire crew of the enterprise got intoxicated on drugs in more than one occasion.
    Some startrek drinks contain alcohol.
    I'm sure there have been characters on the holodeck smoking tobacco before.
    And.. if you can't show any "harmful

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Try quoting the whole thing:

      "If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products."

      This isn't about "fan made props". It's about buying "bootleg" imitations of official products.

      The purpose is so fan films don't give publicity to people selling bootleg merch - or, probably more specifically in line with the intent, so that fan films cannot be cre

    • Shit isn't considered universally profane, it is only profane in certain contexts. Obviously they would allow uses of "shit" that are similar to how Data used it in the story.

      Obviously, "partial nudity" of the same equivalent rating-level as has been featured in Star Trek would be acceptable. "Nudity" and "partial nudity" are not actually the same thing, and those "bum" shots are probably not even shots of naked actors. You would have to understand the American English meaning of these words, and American s

    • After that silhouette of Uhura I have to agree with the ban on nudity.

  • Stardate 47634.44 would be in the middle of Star Trek: The Next Generation 7th season. But no Picard? Fake!

    • Right? I'm pretty sure our current Stardate is in the negative seeing as how we haven't even adopted it yet... let alone achieved warp.
  • Everyone knows they were modeled on depictions of demons having pointed ears.
  • A perfect example of the point I made earlier [slashdot.org] and previously when talking about Star Wars under Disney versus under Lucas. Not funding your own oppression is hardly radical, it's quite sensible to recognize that politics are very much a part of the matter involved in dealing with corporate media (such as Hollywood movies and TV shows). This also isn't a matter of seeking perfection -- if /.ers stop paying to see Star Trek we don't take down Paramount -- that argument puts more power in your hands than you h
    • In my view, having followed this from the beginning, Paramount's most likely motivation was to protect the consumers.

      Couple of interesting points:
      1. They never sued Renegades, even though they had highly recognizable names in it. And that's a completed movie, not an "in production" movie.
      2. They never sued Horizon, another completed movie, and one that was leaps and bounds more watchable than Renegades IMO, especially given the minimal budget.

      There is a lot of speculation that Peters has not put the 1.4

  • ST Continues was very well made, and most importantly, well-acted. It's now dead because of this crap
  • (Liberal snow flakes please just move to read the next comment and keep your mod phasers set to stun). This whole thing just highlights what is fundamentally wrong with copyright. This is a cut and dried example of how the ridiculously long copyright laws supported by both establishment parties are stifling and robbing our culture and are only for the enrichment of a few. This is the system that Barak Hussain Obama defended and did not fix for the last 8 years. We will have to see what the next administ

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      This is the system that Barak Hussain Obama defended and did not fix for the last 8 years. We will have to see what the next administration brings.

      Likewise President Bush for eight years. Neither of them did anything about it because neither of them could. U.S. copyright policy is in the hands of the legislative branch. The US Patent and Trademark Office is part of the Department of Commerce, but the Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress. Blame the Republican senators and the Democratic senators. Better yet, blame the incumbent publishers that provide campaign contributions, super PAC contributions, and in-kind donations of coverage on t [pineight.com]

      • If you have a president who is a leader (not a spoiled child) they are typically the leader of their party, and they set much of the legislative agenda. Bush inherited a recession (dot com bubble) from Clinton and then had 9-11. His hands were full. Beyond that, Bush was a conservative, and copyright is good for businesses, thus he was not going to shorten it. Obama, on the other hand, purported to be for the people, aka. a populist, but contrary to his rhetoric, he did jack shit on out of control paten

  • I get all your comments that it violated copyright. And I agree that he was selling model kits and taking a salary.
    It was a bad scene.

    The problem is that Axenar was one of the best star trek treatments I've seen since Wrath of Khan.
    It felt RIGHT.
    It sent shivers up and down my spine.

    In a different world, CBS and Paramount would have have had Peters and the original crew make it as a real film as their employees in a regular setting.

    And that would have also probably ruined it. Too big a budget ruins so man

  • by DatbeDank ( 4580343 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @05:34AM (#53709979)
    If anything, the film maker should have been granted a reasonable license fee from the studio for using the copyrighted works. We all know the reboot is trash and here we have someone going back to the series' roots to make something new.
    • If you're going to invest your time and money in a creative endeavor, don't base it on someone else's property. That puts you completely at their mercy. Just like Zynga is completely at the mercy of Facebook, you are completely at the mercy of CBS/Paramount if you make Star Trek fiction. They own the creative works, they get to decide what should be granted a reasonable license, not you and me. If they want to be asses about it, they can.

      Fanfics are fine since they represent a minimal investment of y
  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Saturday January 21, 2017 @06:27AM (#53710047) Homepage

    My Valcun first officer tells me we're running the risk of Klangon attack, but I never listen to that pointy-nosed pink-blooded twerp.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      My Valcun first officer tells me we're running the risk of Klangon attack, but I never listen to that pointy-nosed pink-blooded twerp.

      Ironically you should mention this.

      The series Andromeda was based on unused material from Gene Roddenberry, much of which was from Star Trek so its no surprise that a lot of it was very similar (I.E. Commonwealth == Federation and Nietzschiens == Klingons). However it was picked up by another production company so someone ran a find/replace through it just enough to avoid Paramount's lawyers.

  • Wouldn't copyrighting a language run afoul of the First Amendment ? I would like to see the results of a lawsuit of this

"It's my cookie file and if I come up with something that's lame and I like it, it goes in." -- karl (Karl Lehenbauer)