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CBS/Paramount Have Lawsuit Against Crowdfunded “Axanar”

startrek-axanar-ship-700x341In a story that certainly broke the Internet this past week, Entertainment Weekly reported on how CBS and Paramount are suing Alec Peters of a project called Axanar.

Back in 2014 Alec Peters successfully raised money through crowdfunding to create a short film called Prelude To Axanar, which tells of the 4 Years War between Starfleet and the Klingon Empire. The short film was able to cast such Star Trek notables as Tony Todd (Candyman, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine),Kate Vernon (Star Trek: Voyager, Battlestar Galactica)  J.G. Hertzler (Pirates of Silicon Valley, Dead Space, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Gary Graham (Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Voyager, Alien Nation), as well as Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica, The Guild), and Alec Peters himself played a character named Garth (previously seen as an insane inmate in the original series episode “Whom Gods Destory”). The short was filmed in the style of a documentary (the narration was attributed to the Star Trek character John Gil, previously seen in the original series episode “Bread and Circuses”). The entire short interviews the key players in the 4 Years War, with Peters, Hertzler, Vernon, and Todd representing the Federation and Hatch playing the Klingon Chancellor Kharn. The short film was greeted with enormous enthusiasm, both online and on the convention circuit. With that excitement Peters chose to go forward and raise the money (and successfully raised over 1 million dollars) to create a feature film of Axanar, with the intent of creating studio quality fan film. Up until now Paramount and CBS have had no qualms with fan made films, but were not happy when it came to Axanar.

While Axanar has been referred to by Alec Peters as strictly being a fan film, it has been pointed out that there are quite a few professionals in the Hollywood Industry who are a part of this project, and some industry insiders are pointing to this as the chief complaint from Paramount and CBS.

The gist of the lawsuit from CBS & Paramount is basically this:

The Axanar Works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes.

In a statement reported by EW, Alec Peters said:

“It is the Star Trek fans themselves who are most affected here, for by suing Axanar Productions to stop making our movie and collect so-called damages, CBS and Paramount are suing the very people who have enthusiastically maintained the universe created by Gene Roddenberry so many years ago.” (In the lawsuit, the studio asks for $150,000 in damages per “each separate Star Trek Copyrighted Work infringed.”)

Peters has also stated on social media that he does not wish for this situation to become unnecessarily inflamed any further, and that he will not comment too much on advice from his legal counsel. However, Peters did issue a statement in response to the lawsuit.

This morning, I was greeted with news that our production company, Axanar Productions and I, personally, am being sued by CBS Studios, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation for copyright infringement of Star Trek.
First of all, I was disappointed to learn about this through an article in an industry trade. For several years, I’ve worked with a number of people at CBS on Star Trek-related projects, and I would have hoped those personal relationships would have warranted a phone call in advance of the filing of a legal complaint. Nevertheless, I know I speak for everyone at Axanar Productions when I say it is our hope that this can be worked out in a fair and amicable manner.
Axanar is a fan film. Fan films – whether related to Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, Batman or any other franchise – are labors of love that keep fans engaged, entertained, and keep favorite characters alive in the hearts of fans. Like other current fan films, AXANAR entered production based on a very long history and relationship between fandom and studios.
We’re not doing anything new here.
Like all fan films, AXANAR is a love letter to a beloved franchise. For nearly 50 years, Star Trek’s devotees have been creating new Star Trek stories to share with fellow fans. That’s all we’re trying to do here.
Since the original Star Trek TV series, when the letter writing campaign by fans got NBC to greenlight a third season of Star Trek, fan support has been critical to the success of the franchise. It is the Star Trek fans themselves who are most affected here, for by suing Axanar Productions to stop making our movie and collect so-called damages, CBS and Paramount are suing the very people who have enthusiastically maintained the universe created by Gene Roddenberry so many years ago.
The fact that many of the fans involved with Axanar Productions are also industry professionals speaks volumes to the influence of Star Trek in the entertainment industry. Not surprisingly, these fans want to give something back. We’re very proud that the work we’ve done to date looks so good. That is also a reflection of the devotion of Star Trek’s fans.
Like everything related to Axanar Productions, we take this matter very seriously and remain open to discussing solutions with all parties that can be mutually beneficial.
Alec Peters

So here we are at what could become a significant crossroads for fan film projects. This has created quite a split in fandom, with many people taking the side of CBS/Paramount, and many taking the side of Alec Peters and Axanar.

Where do you stand with this? What would you like to see happen with this lawsuit? It has also been reported that many other Star Trek fan film projects have been taken down, possibly in fear of receiving similar lawsuits, so how do you feel about what this might do to future fan projects, and not just of Star Trek, but of any other successful franchise?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below!

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Updated: January 3, 2016 — 12:23 pm

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