CBS and Paramount Pictures has targeted Axanar, a “love letter” of a crowdfunded Star Trek tribute film, with a lawsuit. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Paramount and CBS both see Axanar as a violation of the intellectual property developed by their studios, while Alec Peters, who is leading the production team behind the film, says that “Axanar is a love letter to a beloved franchise,” the Wrap reported.
However, the Star Trek lawsuit that has been launched by Paramount and CBS allege copyright infringement against Axanar and the prequel to the fan film, Prelude to Axanar, which are collectively referred to as The Axanar Works. Peters expressed his dismay that he had to learn about the Star Trek lawsuit via the press instead of being contacted personally, especially since he has worked on Star Trek-related projects in the past with some individuals at CBS
“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,” he said.
The Axanar project covers the period of 21 years before “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — the first episode of the original Star Trek series. The Axanar project has garnered over $1 million in crowdfunding through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The crowdfunding campaign generated around $638,000 on Kickstarter and 189 percent of its target goal on Indiegogo. Peters is hopeful that the project will ultimately become a studio-quality feature film, to be preceded by the short film Prelude to Axanar.
However, before the film is realized into full studio quality brilliance, CBS and Paramount want to protect their property, and that includes all the ideas associated with Star Trek — ideas which the Star Trek lawsuit alleges Peters and others involved in the Axanar Works might be taking advantage of, and which might ultimately cost the Axanar team a great deal of money in the long run.
According to the Wrap, the complaint filed by Paramount and CBS states that The Axanar Works is making use of many elements of Star Trek, and everything from settings, characters, and themes could be encapsulated in The Axanar Works. They are suing for up to $150,000 for every copyrighted Star Trek component included in the films. This could mean that, if it is found that The Axanar Works is guilty of copyright infringement, this “fan film” will likely be shut down by the Star Trek lawsuit.
With a new Star Trek series to air on CBS All Access in 2017 and Star Trek Beyond ready to hit theaters in late July 2016, Star Trek fans could perhaps find themselves ready for a prequel of sorts to the original series itself. The Hollywood Reporter pointed out that CBS and Paramount have always been wont to encourage Star Trek fans to maximize their imaginations when it comes to the series in all its incarnations.
Peters, however, is not without an understanding of the law, and said that he had licensed other products with CBS in addition to being a lawyer himself. In an effort to avoid a Star Trek-related lawsuit such as the one he and the other Axanar players are currently facing, he had asked CBS and Paramount for guidelines similar to the ones George Lucas had given Star Wars fans when it came to producing material related to the franchise. He was apparently not provided with such guidelines.
In a joint statement to the Hollywood Reporter, Paramount and CBS noted that Peters and the other Axanar producers are describing The Axanar Works as “A fully professional independent Star Trek film. Their activity clearly violates our Star Trek copyrights, which, of course, we will continue to vigorously protect.”
The Star Trek lawsuit was only filed last week, so it remains to be seen what the next move for each party might be.
(Feature image by NBC Television (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)