Star Trek is gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and both CBS and Paramount Pictures are ensuring that they have the upper hand when it comes to capitalizing on the franchise’s birthday. In this case, that includes going after the producers of a Star Trek fan film, entitled Prelude to Axanar. CBS and Paramount have filed a joint lawsuit, complaining that the crowd-funded fan film too closely resembles a Star Trek film, violating the copyright that gives exclusive rights to CBS and Paramount.
CBS And Paramount Bring A Legal Battle To Prelude To Anaxar
Having reached their funding goal for Prelude to Axanar, producers of the project had planned to go into production in January, but the sudden news of the lawsuit has put a halt to those plans. The lawsuit claims that the film too closely resembles a Star Trek property. The lawsuit specifies that Axanar “infringe plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes.”
The lawsuit further states that the film’s producers have used such elements in ways to give Prelude to Axanar the look and feel of a Star Trek movie. CBS and Paramount are seeking damages for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement, according to the suit filed in federal court in Los Angeles. The complaint names both Axanar Productions and Alec Peters, who functions as both actor and producer on the project, as defendants.
Star Trek has been shared jointly by CBS and Paramount since Gene Roddenberry created the original 1966 series. That original series first aired on CBS, and was filmed by Desilu Productions. The rebooting of the franchise with The Next Generation and the ensuing spinoffs were all produced by Paramount. Since production on Star Trek: Enterprise ended, rights have reverted back to CBS.
Axanar Productions Asserts Their Fan Film Is Free Of Any Rights Infringements
Even before a lawsuit was brought to producers of the film, legal trouble was anticipated, and the production company posted a disclaimer on their official website. The statement admits to using intellectual properties owned by CBS, but also states that they are free to do so, providing it is done on a completely non-commercial way.
“That means we can never charge for anything featuring their marks or intellectual property and we will never sell the movie, DVD/Blu-ray copies, T-shirts, or anything which uses CBS owned marks or intellectual property.”
Prelude to Axanar is somewhat of a prequel to a third season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, entitled “Whom Gods Destroy.” That episode focuses on Garth of Izar, a legendary Starfleet captain and personal hero to Captain James Kirk. While Garth is recognized for having explored more planets than any other captain, it is his heroic feats at the Battle of Axanar for which he is decorated. Kirk mentions that his acts in that battle are still required reading at the Academy over 20 years later.
Prelude to Axanar tells the story of that war, known in the film as the Four Years War. It relates the battles between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The war was as much political as it was a military operation, and would have torn the Federation apart if Garth hadn’t achieved victory, according to the Axanar Productions site. As a result of that triumph, the Federation survived to become the great institution known in the time of The Original Series.
It seems that CBS and Paramount may be looking to make an example out of Axanar Productions and Alec Peters, considering the recent announcement of CBS’ plans for a new Star Trek series. It really is a shame, considering the great lengths to which Gene Roddenberry went to show that there’s enough room in the universe for everyone’s vision. That message seems to have been lost.
[Image by Axanar Productions]