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Star Trek: Axanar

Captain's Blog Stardate 93610.44

You may have heard about Star Trek: Axanar. It is a fan film that tells the story of Garth of Izar, a role model for Captain Kirk and the hero of the Battle of Axanar. The Four Years War between Starfleet and Klingon Empire almost tore the Federation apart, until the Battle of Axanar was won. Now the creators of this fan-production have their own war to fight.

Axanar has been around for a while. It put out two videos which show the great quality of this fan movie and people have been excited for it ever since, including myself. Many people who have worked on Star Trek productions in the past are a part of this project. Although now CBS/Paramount is suing for copyright infringement.

You see, Axanar has raised over 1 million dollars from fans, something that has never been heard of before in a Star Trek fan-production. Up until now CBS/Paramount have allowed fans to create their own Star Trek stories, as long as they weren't sold. Axanar hasn't been sold, but earning this money has painted a target on their backs. Now there is an ongoing argument among fans over whether or not CBS/Paramount are right or wrong.

Here's the short version of it. Some are saying that CBS/Paramount own Star Trek and therefore have every right to sue anyone who infringes on it. Others are saying that even though this is true, they shouldn't spit in the face of fans. Instead of giving us movies like the previous two, they should've given fans the Star Trek movies we wanted to see, a.k.a. Axanar.

Where do I stand on this argument? That's a tough question to answer. I understand the need to own ideas and control them. It's the basis of our society and therefore no one can wrong CBS and Paramount for this approach. Although as a fan of Star Trek, I know that fans have been creating Star Trek stories for years. Star Trek Online is a testament to that with the Foundry. Up until now CBS/Paramount have basically stood on the side and watched, because nothing threatened their position. Axanar does just that with its professionalism.

I believe that CBS/Paramount should take a step back. Drop the legal act and understand that this isn't about who owns Star Trek but rather who loves it. Yes Axanar may have crossed a line that no fan-production has crossed before, but doesn't that sound familiar? To boldly go where no one has gone before. Axanar is a great thing. Perhaps instead of suing and halting production/release on Axanar, they should work with the production team. If they want to earn a percentage of that money I understand, but support the producers as well. Earn that money without angering fans and then officially endorse it. I'm not saying it should be canon material, but it should be something like the Star Wars Legends (previously Expanded Universe).

To CBS and Paramount I have this to say. Put a system in place which allows fans to tell the stories they want without infringing on your ideas. We fans will love you for it and that love will translate into money that as a business such as yours needs. So yes, CBS/Paramount have the right to do what they want with Star Trek and I will always stand up for the legal rights of any entity. Although I do think they should change their approach. Do you agree or disagree?

Written by Attilio on January 03, 2016 at 09:13 pm


TacPaddy (Member) said...
January 04, 2016 at 05:08 am

I am virtually speechless. Speechless and disappointed. Like you said, that should have teamed up with the Axanar Production Team, thereby properly celebrating the franchise's 50th Anniversary this year. But instead, they are like running home to Mama, because there is someone better out there.

This is ridiculous and will most likely backfire in ways, we can't imagine yet.

Reply to TacPaddy
TacPaddy (Member) replied...
January 04, 2016 at 05:25 am

Just looked looked at the original document and had a nice laugh. The Plainstiffs claim that all TV Series spans "thousands" of episodes, when it is in fact only about 726 (depending on point of view). I informed the Production Team on their facebook page about it.


Reply to TacPaddy
Kitty (Guest) replied...
January 18, 2016 at 09:37 am

its not them LOL an they own it they can sue who they want to

Reply to Kitty
Tobiasosir (Guest) said...
January 04, 2016 at 10:03 am

Good article, and I agree with your position--this isn't about ownership so much as it is about who loves the franchise--or it should be.

What I think it's *really* about, from CBS's point of view, (and sadly) is money. With the 50th anniversary on the horizon, a new film coming out this summer, and a new series in 2017, this is the time for CBS to strictly control their intellectual property. Axanar threatens those projects by being something that's fan made--i.e. exactly what the fans want to see, rather than something CBS produces that may not be received well. All of CBS's projects are a gamble because of the track record (e.g. luke warm reception of Ent and the JJ-verse), but Axanar is already a success. If they don't control it, they'll lose their audience.

But you've got the right solution: work with them, take a cut, and let the Axanar team do all the work. It should be win-win.

Reply to Tobiasosir
Malikius (Guest) said...
January 04, 2016 at 10:08 am

Greed on CBS and Paramount. They have just lost a fan in me. Think I will continue to play SWTOR then. I'm a Lifer on STO but that might change now. If they want to cry to mommie then I have lost ALL repeat for them then.

Reply to Malikius
Dave Kiser (Guest) said...
January 04, 2016 at 10:40 am

You're missing a detail. Current US Copyright law does not support selective defense of intellectual property. Therefore, if CBS/Paramount failed to defend this instance of infringement, they would forfeit the ability to defend future infringements. It's not CBS/Paramount's fault. No one can reasonably expect them to just give up their copyrights to the Star Trek IP through inaction.

Whether or not any wrongdoing actually occurred is for the courts to decide, naturally, but from my understanding of the US's copyright law, this could have gone no other way. If Peters wasn't prepared for this, he was fooling himself and made the serious error in not consulting a copyright lawyer before starting the project. That is beyond ill-advised.

Now for the hearsay/opinion portion of my comment. :)

We should stop pretending that Axanar is just like every other fan production, because it isn't. It's professional (their words), created by a studio (risen from the funds raised), not some fan with a hand-held cam, and edited by a fan with Adobe Premier on his Mac. No fan film hires actors, either. They don't have costume designers, make-up artists, or writers, let alone a production team, sets, etc. They have cardboard, markers, friends and their moms, and supportive family. No fan can say their fan film was their job, unlike Peters, who drew a salary, and his production staff, and the actors hired for Axanar. It's not the same thing, which is most of why fan films aren't infringement, and Axanar is.

I heard that Peters has violated non-profit laws while running Axanar Productions. The truth of that will come out in the proceedings, but if it is true, then CBS/Paramount will win.

It is a fact that some of the backer rewards include DVDs/Blu-Rays. I seriously doubt the production team is producing those themselves. If they are, more power to them. If not, a business is making profit off of the production of those discs, and thus off the IP, and CBSP will win.

It is a fact that a production company has risen from this project. The money for this production went into not just the film, but building that company (the equipment, furniture, etc.), and it stands to reason that that company will continue after the project ends. If I'm not mistaken, that is a violation of either non-profit law, or the copyright laws, because it is a form of profit. That production company will also profit from Axanar by gaining business and future investors/backers based on the Axanar project. That is profit, made off of an IP they don't have permission to use.

So, yeah. I will refrain from demonizing the big bad corporation in this case, until a lot more facts are released. But from where I'm sitting now, Axanar Productions seems to have actually infringed upon CBSP's intellectual property in ways people are ignoring. It seems to me that a false equivalency is being made between Axanar Productions and the general fan productions out there, and that false equivalency is blinding people to other facts. From where I'm sitting, with the information I have dug up and gleaned from other sources, it looks like (which doesn't mean it is actually the case) that Peters could have used the "fan film" and "homage" labels to hide his actual intentions to build his own company, and used the nostalgia and yearning of fans to see their beloved franchise return to its roots to do it. I sincerely hope this isn't the case, but that's what it looks like to me.

Reply to Dave Kiser
Dave Kiser (Guest) replied...
January 04, 2016 at 10:47 am

By the way, Peters said he and his team met with CBSP, and weren't given any guidelines, except one, which is the heart of the problem, and all copyright law: You can't make money off of it. The production company, the salaries being paid, the physical media being distributed to backers, the production company's potential future business, all of it, is legally profit. That's the real core issue.

Reply to Dave Kiser
Dave Kiser (Guest) replied...
January 04, 2016 at 10:51 am

Bah. Keep forgetting things. Need more coffee. :)

And that meeting and warning means Peters and Axanar Productions were warned this could happen, so they should have prepared for it. If they did, they're good, and this is all just necessary motions that they need to go through. If they didn't, it's either ODF or criminal intentions, which the courts will sort out. I hope they prepared. Failing that, I sincerely hope it's just ODF. Nothing about this situation would be worse than Peters intentionally abusing fans' love of ST for his own gain. :(

Reply to Dave Kiser
Andrew Koldwell (Guest) replied...
January 04, 2016 at 04:50 pm

This. Well said, Dave.

Paramount/CBS have no real option but to sue given the way US copywrite law is.

Axanar seems to have fallen on the same problem that Pendant Audio (if you remember their fan shows) fell into. They were making fan shows for free, but then (as the same group) trying to sell their original content. Technically, this is using the goodwill of the borrowed IP to launch a for profit brand.

Reply to Andrew Koldwell
Attilio (Owner) replied...
January 04, 2016 at 07:33 pm

All valid points, thanks! I do agree with you that they needed to sue assuming profits are being made in order to protect their brand later on. Otherwise this could set a precedent for future productions.

With that being said, I still believe a better option would be to work out some sort of deal. Perhaps suing is just a way of saying "you better take this seriously" and eventually they'll settle so that Axanar can continue.

What I find curious is that they haven't tried to put a stop to this sooner. Axanar has been around for a while.

Reply to Attilio
G-Man (Guest) said...
January 06, 2016 at 04:41 pm

I was disappointed to hear that CBS/Paramount had sued the Axanar Team, but not at all surprised. While the Axanar Team claims the film will be non-commercial, salaries are being paid and professionals are being employed. Additionally, the Axanar Team are attempting to modify canon by expanding on an officially un-explored aspect of Trek Lore. Both of those activities were likely cause of great concern to the Copyright holders because they violate the spirit of amateur based "Fan Productions" and usurp the IP holders rights to develop and license original content. Do I agree with CBS/Paramount's actions? Absolutely not! I believe they could have approached the Axanar Team with their concerns and crafted a "Fan Fiction" license, which would have ensured them of a percentage of the crowd-sourced funding and royalty free airing of Axanar on the CBS premium network. Unfortunately, they did not find such a course in their interest and the Axanar Team's aggressive advertising ensured CBS/Paramount's full attention. It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out. In any case, it was a noble effort.

Reply to G-Man
Superplush (Guest) said...
January 07, 2016 at 10:03 am

One thing that irritaites me about all this is everything is always set around the TOS era. It's like people can't get outta the damned 60's. I don't like that era of Trek myself, it seems like what they're trying to do with JJ Trek. Make an action-film out of a Space-drama, it's always about the wars with fans :(

Reply to Superplush
CptZak (Member) said...
January 07, 2016 at 01:11 pm

Just watched the trailers for the first time. I really hope the corporate monsters jump on board instead of trying to crush all this awesome.

Reply to CptZak
Kitty (Guest) said...
January 18, 2016 at 09:36 am

too right that it should e sued... way too many fans do a p*s poor trek and it should stop....


they need to leave it to the people who make it!!! END OF

Reply to Kitty

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