Star Trek Axanar Lawsuit

Recently, there was a bit of an uproar surrounding a Star Trek fan film, Axanar. The producers behind Axanar raised around a million dollars. Shortly after funding was acquired, this labor of love was hit with a lawsuit by CBS and Paramount. J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin urged Paramount to drop the lawsuit, which they haven’t yet, but Abrams insisted the studio will do so soon.

Now, if you’re a Trek fan and want to make your own fan film but you’re not terribly interested in getting sued, then you should probably read CBS and Paramount’s Star Trek fan film rules.

Axanar breaks many of CBS and Paramount’s rules, including the first one listed. Here’s a portion of the list, which you can read all of at Star Trek.com:

1. The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.

3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.

4. 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.

5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.

6. The fan production must be non-commercial:

  • CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.
  • The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.
  • The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.
  • The fan production cannot be used to derive advertising revenue including, but not limited to, through for example, the use of pre or post-roll advertising, click-through advertising banners, that is associated with the fan production.
  • No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.
  • The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or costumes.

7. The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy.

Rule no. 5 is another major rule broken by Axanar, which employed professional actors, including Tony Todd (Candyman), and crew members, some of whom had worked on official Star Trek productions. Apparently, a “real fan” production can only involve amateurs, suggesting working actors and crew members don’t qualify as real fans.

Axanar‘s executive producer, Alec Peters, has already responded to the guideline, expressing his dismay:

While CBS and Paramount claim to want to encourage the passion of fans to produce ‘reasonable fan fiction,’ the restrictions presented do just the opposite, willfully ignoring over forty years of fan works that helped buoy the ‘Star Trek’ franchise through some very lean years and enthusiastically spread the magic of the franchise in more plentiful times. Around the franchise’s 50th anniversary, we would have hoped CBS and Paramount would have taken this opportunity to unite with ‘Star Trek’ fans in celebration of their creativity, not seek to crush it.

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