Crowdfunded Star Trek 'indie' Film Is Sued by CBS/Paramount

Reply Fri 1 Jan, 2016 08:26 pm
Ai yi yi.

Here's the skinny.

For the 50 years Star Trek has been around, people have been reimagining it in all sorts of unofficial ways. Fanfiction didn't start with Trek, although Star Trek was/is certainly fertile ground for it. Slash did start with Trek, and got its name from a fanficcer's idea to 'ship Kirk/Spock (hence the term, 'slash').

In recent years, fans have been making films, and the quality has mainly risen, at least in the area of effects, costuming, makeup, and set design. Acting has improved as any number of series actors have hopped on the bandwagon in order to be paid scale and potentially be able to charge more for their signatures and photo ops at conventions. But stories? Quality tends to be uneven.

With the rise of crowdfunding websites such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe, fan filmmakers have started pressing fans harder for the thing they need the most - cold, hard cash. Production values have soared, but at the same time, it stopped having the charm of being a fun project done in someone's basement.

For Axanar (the production named in the abovementioned lawsuit), there were a few things which clearly got CBS/Paramount's dander up (CBS owns the TV rights to Trek; Paramount owns the movie rights):
  1. With three fundraisers, Axanar raised over $1 million, begging the question as to whether it was a 'fan film' at all, and instead a commercial venture (Note: you don't have to make a dime to be considered in breach of copyright)
  2. Axanar's writer and star, Alec Peters, went on record (several times) claiming his film was indie Star Trek and not a fan film
  3. Peters made it clear at least some of the funds were earmarked to build a commercial for-profit studio, Ares Studio
  4. Peters further made it clear some of the monies raised were for a salary for him
  5. Axanar (which has released a 20-minute YouTube video) used a character from Star Trek: Enterprise (Soval), alluded to using one from Star Trek: The Original Series (Sarek), alluded to using one from Star Trek: The Animated Series (Robert April) and
  6. Axanar used ship designs based on the ships shown in the two JJ Abrams-directed Star Trek films, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness
Axanar was never given permission to use any part of Star Trek's intellectual property.

Axanar fans (using objective numbers from their Facebook groups and the number of donors to their crowdfunding projects) number about 95,000 or so. Even the least popular season of the least popular television incarnation of Trek (Star Trek: Enterprise, season 4) clocked an average of over 2.8 million viewers/week. So Axanar fans are a fraction of that. This doesn't even get into the numbers of people who've watched the two most recent movies.

To my mind, it's an open and shut case. CBS/Paramount is going to eat Axanar for lunch.

What do you think?
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Reply Mon 29 Feb, 2016 01:54 am
That was bound to happen. When it comes to copyright, some lawyers become absolutely vicious and more willing to abandon common sense than anyone else ever before.
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