As CBS/Paramount Continue Lawsuit Over Fan Film, It Releases Ridiculous & Impossible 'Fan Film Guidelines'

from the don't-count-your-eggs dept

We’ve been covering the still going lawsuit by CBS and Paramount against Axanar Productions for making a crowdfunded fan film that they claim is infringing because it’s looking pretty good. Things got a little weird last month when the producer of the latest Star Trek film, JJ Abrams, and its director, Justin Lin, basically leaked a bit of news saying that after they had gone to Paramount, the studio was going to end the lawsuit. At the time, Paramount said that it was in “settlement discussions” and that it was “also working on a set of fan film guidelines.”

We pointed out that we were concerned about what those guidelines might entail, and worried that they would undermine fair use. In the meantime, as settlement talks continued, the case moved forward. I’m still a little surprised that the two sides didn’t ask the court for more time to continue settlement talks, as that’s not that uncommon, and it’s something that a judge often is willing to grant if it looks like the two sides in a dispute can come to an agreement. But, without that, the case has continued to move forward with ongoing filings from each side.

In the meantime, however, the StarTrek.com website, run by CBS and Paramount, has now posted those “fan film guidelines” and they are absolutely ridiculous. The Axanar team sums it up nicely by saying that:

The CBS “Guidelines” for Fan Films basically make it impossible for fan films to continue as they have.

The first item, for example, completely rules out Axanar’s plan for a feature length fan film:

The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

And there’s another one that’s clearly targeted at Axanar:

The fan production must be a real ?fan? production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures? licensees.

I don’t quite see how or where that fits into fair use’s rules…

Another one clearly targeted at Axanar — which raised over a million dollars in Kickstarter and IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaigns:

CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.

That seems rather limiting.

Some of the other terms are more reasonable, but it seems clear that these guidelines are pretty specifically designed to cut off an Axanar style fan film, and seem to be trying to cut off a lot more than fair use almost certainly allows. While for the sake of the folks working on Axanar, I still hope that this settles amicably, it might be a lot nicer to have Axanar be able to win a fair use claim in court over this.

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Companies: axanar productions, cbs, paramount

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Comments on “As CBS/Paramount Continue Lawsuit Over Fan Film, It Releases Ridiculous & Impossible 'Fan Film Guidelines'”

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78 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Don’t care what anyone says, I actually agree with these rules. When you ask for one million dollars in donations online from people so you can make a movie, it stops being a fan film. Axanar was more of an independent studio movie than it was a fan film. Fan films do NOT cost one million dollars to make. Now, the Axanar prelude was a fan film. But, the Axanar Production morons decided that they wanted to see how far they could stretch fair use rights and they crossed the line.

Don’t call this main film a fan film because it doesn’t fit into that category. Otherwise, you’ll have every idiot out there making multi-million budget Star Trek films and calling it “a fan film” just to get around the “copyright law”. It’s offensive to the people who own the rights.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Roddenberry made it a point in his contracts to NOT trademark technobabble. He didn’t want to prevent the creation of (for example) a real tricorder because a fictional one was trademarked.

This doesn’t prevent trademarks on other things, like Starfleet or similar — but you can route around it by saying things like “the Fleet” instead.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Clearly this one did cost a million dollars to make, given the quality they were aiming for.

These fan film guidelines are largely divorced from any conceptions of Fair Use. Instead, it goes by the typical Hollywood notion that copyrighted cultural works have a finite maximum value and that anyone making expressions related to that work is using up some of that value. This conception of copyright utterly ignores the concept of how cultural works increase in value.

Grassroots excitement and energy is contagious. A fan film of this magnitude would’ve been a huge boost to the Star Trek franchise in terms of fan excitement.

Instead?

CBS’s management has decided to replace the enthusiasm trekkies had of red shirts and phasers and space exploration with legal threats of ruination if they become the Wrong sort of fan that has crossed the Enthusiasm line into Ungoodthink.

CBS set their phasers to kill, and they aimed it at their brand ambassadors. This will hurt their bottom line in very substantial ways when customers just stop caring so much about the franchise. After all, there’s now a line where caring too much becomes punishable by CBS. So why bother?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s offensive to the people who own the rights.

Then screw them. The idea that you can “own the rights” to culture itself is offensive on a far more fundamental level.

If Paramount said “we own Star Trek and so if you want to make a fan film, you have to pay us 5% and display a prominent notice that this is a fan work and not actually affiliated with Paramount,” that would be one thing. But saying “no, you can’t build on this, so shut the whole thing down” is crossing a line that no one should ever have the right to cross.

Vader999 says:

Re: Re:

Then you’re a fucking moron. People do this sort of thing because Paramount and CBS doesn’t make the Star Trek films the fans want made. Instead, they make Bayformers-style movies that the fans obviously hate, doubling-down with a director whose work has done nothing but piss off Trek fans.

It doesn’t matter if a fan film gets one dollar or one million. It is still a fan film if it comes out for free. Now if the Axanar team charged for people to see the movie, then it would give a good case for CBS to sue. But Axanar is free to everyone except the people making it. So no, Fair Use is on the side of the Axanar team.

If there’s going to be a large segment of people making their own Star Trek fanfilms with million-dollar donations, then let them. It’s a just cause. A protest against CBS and Paramount for not producing the kind of shit the fans want. They should get offended. They should get fucked over. If they’re that bad at caring for the needs of their fanbase and their fanbase actually makes better shit than they do? Then they not only deserve to get fucked over like this, but they deserve to lose the Star Trek license.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: A common sense solution

Has it occurred to nobody that Paramount could make money hand over fist if it invested in and enabled the distribution of this film? All they’d really need to give is their official blessing, end of problem.

When it’s all about control, however, people are more willing to shoot themselves in both feet than take a walk on the wild side.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: I don't like referring to recent studies...

And thankfully some studies regarding morality fatigue are being questions and challenged. But there’s been a survey…

People surveyed were found that they’d rather be making $40,000 in a neighborhood where everyone else makes $30,000 rather than be making $100,000 in a neighborhood where everyone else makes $110,000. If the study is accurate and the results reproducible (important caveat), this may indicate that people find it difficult to differentiate the neighborhood for the whole economy.

And there’s some line of thought that people don’t want others making money off their work, even if their doing so makes them more money.

So yeah, using one of my favorite metaphors, some of us would really rather be ruling an impoverished banana republic than middle managers in a star-spanning empire.

However, this may all be wrong if future studies and tests can provide sufficient contrary evidence. Or we can convince people to have some perspective.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What if I am a fan and I want to make a 200 million fan film with zero profits using the help of other fans? You are getting it backwards. You don’t need millions to make a good movie. But good movies may cost millions, regardless of the source. And to emphasize: if the movie is funded by fans and makes zero profit (breaks even) then what’s the problem?

Anonymous Coward says:

Jealous much CBS/Paramount? I’ll support Star Trek fan films but CBS/Paramount won’t be getting a cent from me. I’d rather watch an illegal copy of the new Star Trek movie or series if I even choose to watch it now but I won’t be paying for anything as long as they continue with the absurd rules and lawsuit just cause the fan films are better, more interesting and more in line with Roddenberry’s vision of Star Trek than the studio productions.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Didn’t you know? It’s a well known fact that if you can provide enough incentive even corpses can start creating once more, it’s just the law hasn’t quite reached that point yet and currently mostly incentivises lawyers to create legal filings. Once the tipping point is finally reached though watch out for the hordes of zombie creators and the absolute explosion of new works that will result from their rise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thing is, I lost my respect for Alec Peters when he came right out and referred to Tony Todd as an actor who doesn’t know how to read:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CXgabMoWsAIngIM.jpg

Tony Todd is an excellent actor and he’s a Star Trek Veteran. He’s appeared on Star Trek: TNG, Voyager and Deep Space Nine. He’s appeared in the second season of The Flash and I remember him from Candyman, that horror film. Alec Peters also used the bulk of the money his studio has generated to build “Area Studios”, a for-profit movie studio that seeks to profit from making movies derived from other studios IP rights.

I suggest people actually do their research, like I have done, before running off with their comments. It took me all of five minutes to find this information.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Do you have some more context for that?

It’s a bit of a dick move, but it doesn’t sound like someone “this guy is literally unable to process written language,” but rather, “this information is in plain sight; the fact that you don’t see it leads me to conclude you can’t read.” It’s the type of thing you see often in a comment thread when people respond to the OP with a criticism that is specifically addressed in the OP.

I’m not defending him for saying it; he does come across as a bit of a dick. I just don’t know why it’s worth “losing all respect” for someone.

If I lost all respect for anyone who was a bit of a dick on the Internet, I’d have no respect for anyone (including myself).

reader01 says:

All the discussion which could be made about copyright notwithstanding, there is a dimension in which Axanar stands alone.

Axanar proposed to donors and executed on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a green screen and facilities for a permanent studio operation with the stated (in official podcasts) intent to seek further business investment to make first-in-class genre movies and more Trek in the future using these facilities owned by a for profit corporation, Axanar Productions. Axanar paid its fan film staff salaries (it doesn’t matter if its not professional level, it was not coffee money). Axanar sold unlicensed Trek-IP merchandise (branded coffee, model kits), and had underway plans to sublicense a game using Trek-IP based pieces, even while stating openly they asked for studio licensing and were denied.

These business transgressions abruptly short circuit theoretical discussions about what fair use fans should have with Trek IP.

The transgressions can almost word for word be found responded to in subsequent guidelines restrictions, and in all likelihood are why Axanar was sued after decades of other fan films not committing these huge transgressions were not sued.

Finally, Axanar *demanded* guidelines while at the same time poking the bear as described above. What would *anyone* expect in these circumstances? Separate the business transgressions from fan concerns. It does no good to bury the former under discussion of the latter.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

reader01, THANK YOU. This has never been about fan films or about Paramount not allowing them. Paramount and CBS have always allowed fan films to exist, as long as they meet certain guidelines.

The only reason why Paramount elected to file a lawsuit against Alec Peters and Axanar Productions is because the minute they solicited one million dollars through social media platforms, the Star Trek: Axanar movie ceased to be a fan film and crossed over into professional film production.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

the minute they solicited one million dollars through social media platforms, the Star Trek: Axanar movie ceased to be a fan film and crossed over into professional film production.

What is magic about one million dollars? Why not 500,000? Why not 50,000? Why not 500? Why not 5 cents, since you seem to feel that paying other people to do things you want done somehow dilutes the “fan” quality of the final product?

Corporations are legal bodies developed to coordinate individual (“investor”) contributions in a common goal. In what ways does the Axanar fund raiser differ? Every single “investor” in Axanar through social media is by definition a fan. They do NOT get stock in Axanar. They don’t get future profits (dividends) from Axanar. They cannot transfer their interest in Axanar to someone else. They (presumably) get a copy of the final product, if there is one.

You are, friend, narrowing the definition of “fan film” without the permission of the rest of the fan community. Your definition would cancel the “fan” status of a production if even one person involved in it was not personally a fan. Your view is rejected by fans who have voted with their dollars to have this film made.

reader01 says:

Re: Re: Re:

Really, I think you are right to say that there is nothing magic about a million dollars simply stated as a number.

It is when you consider what was done with it that the concern may arise. Setting aside the financially smaller but legally significant other issues like selling unlicensed merchandise for a moment, Axanar put hundreds of thousands of that money into building for its for profit corporation Hollwood’s largest green screen, with stated intent to use it for non-Trek movies in the future.

So can anyone seriously believe that the “fan film unstated agreement to make no money” included doing this with money raised to make a Trek movie? Capturing hundreds of thousands of dollars of Trek derived money into a permanent asset for a for profit corporation is what this is. It isn’t anything else.

So if you consider “one million dollars” as simply an expression of the scale of the project, but you focus instead on the specifics of what was done with that money, you get into why there is a problem.

I urge you to consider the proposition. What fan film has any implicit or explicit right to do this with so very much Trek money? Its over the top.

reader01 says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If Axanar Productions had first

– formed a true, legal nonprofit corporation with proper operation that assures the assets are held in trust for the nonprofit goals rather than exploited for profit

– declared themselves to have a goal, say, to be a performing arts resource center for fan films

– gone to crowdfunding and asked for money to build a studio and operate it under these management parameters and goals

– incidentally said one of their first clients is another organization that wants to make a Trek fan film

Then you know, I believe I would agree with you.

But Axanar clearly stated they had long term business goals, intended to keep the assets to seed their for profit corporation, while selling it to crowdfunding first and foremost as funding to make a Trek film – trading on the goodwill value of the Trek IP.

Axanar repeatedly insisted that “not for profit” is defined as “has no money left after spending all incoming revenues on assets and salaries for the for profit corporation”. The IRS among others might have an issue with that, and clearly what they were trying to do was make a case that they were following the informal guidelines to “not make money” while giving the general world the impression they were equivalent to being a nonprofit. They had more than a year to actually do it, but they didn’t.

And they went on to sell Trek IP without licenses, to boot.

If you have no problem with the above, sure that’s fine, but the law says the IP owners can have a problem with it and stop the trading on the value of their IP if they wish.

I do wish Axanar had been about making a resource for fan films, instead about building a business off of the fan film loophole.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I know this is getting off-topic, but:
“not for profit” is defined as “has no money left after spending all incoming revenues on assets and salaries for the for profit corporation”.

Isn’t this what “non-profit” hospitals do all the time? They take in millions of dollars, but then spend all of it on their CEO and new “research” wings just so they don’t show a profit.
In this case, I think Peters was learning from the best.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The terms “not for profit” and “nonprofit” only have rigid definitions with the IRS.

The IRS makes the distinction like this: a “not for profit” is an organization whose main purpose is not commerce, but might make money anyway. The classic example is a hobby. A nonprofit is an organization whose main purpose is commerce, but not to actually make a profit.

Note that both a “not for profit” and a “nonprofit” are allowed to make a profit. The difference between the two (and other kinds of companies) essentially boil down to the tax ramifications if/when profit is made.

Practically speaking, there are few meaningful differences between the two.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“Note that both a “not for profit” and a “nonprofit” are allowed to make a profit.”

I left out qualifiers here that might be important — they are allowed to make a profit within limited circumstances. For example, the last time I bones up on this stuff, a “not for profit” could only show a profit two years out of any five. If it exceeded that, then it could lose its status.

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“…the minute they solicited one million dollars through social media platforms, the Star Trek: Axanar movie ceased to be a fan film and crossed over into professional film production.”

This is the arrogant attitude of old school cultural gatekeepers who are seriously butthurt that we’ve reached a point where technology has allowed true fans to make the films they want rather than hoping film studios, who are not fans, will make them.

Paramount are not suing to protect their rights, they’re suing to protect their position of power, which is being eroded by the rapidly dropping cost of high-quality movie production and the ability to effectively crowdfund.

bshock says:

Dysfunctional Human Psychology

Whenever I read about copyright disputes like this, I always think back to studies regarding how so many people are willing to screw themselves over in order to prevent others from even small amounts of profit.

I can’t quote the specific study I’m thinking of off the top of my head, but it generally involved asking people something like whether they’d rather receive a salary of $40k/year if all of their neighbors made only $30k/year, or whether they’d rather receive $100k/year if their neighbors received $110k/year. (Ballpark numbers; as I said, I don’t have the specifics.)

While relative compensation can definitely be important when it comes to something society-wide like cost of products and services, this study focused on a narrow perceived social area for the respondents.

Copyright issues aside, it seems that Paramount is willing to lose out on a huge amount of valuable, free publicity for their Star Trek franchise, simply because someone else might make a little profit from it. I would say this seems like typically short-sighted MBA behavior if it wasn’t so consistent with humans as a species.

Of course, the usual pro-Copyright answer to this kind of situation is usually filtered through creators of franchises, who lament that fans or other creators might somehow damage or deface their creations. (J.K. Rowling is a famous example.) Clearly Paramount can’t trot out this thin excuse, but even if it could, the real answer to unpleasant alternative fan products is simple and beneficial to society as a whole: create new, better-made, more authentic stories that wash the typically weak fan productions out of public consciousness.

But that’s another problem in this case: even a short preview like “Prelude To Axanar” was ridiculously superior to any Star Trek Paramount has issued in over a decade. It has to be more than a little embarrassing to anyone responsible for shepherding this franchise.

reader01 says:

Re: Dysfunctional Human Psychology

Well I think a broader business context can address your question.

The situation isn’t really as simple as “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Imagine every one of the top 50 movie franchises and TV shows had 20 “fan film” studios putting out additional stories for those franchises, and soliciting “donations” for it.

This would lead to the stories being worn out in consumers’ minds (dilution of commercial value to the IP holder), and significant diversion of revenues into the “fan” productions.

Don’t think it can happen? How many spam email senders write to you? How many companies write apps for phones? Not 10. Not even a million. There is vast capacity for the world to exploit an economic opportunity in the electronic realm.

The entertainment business is one of the main revenue streams in the world. If it allows a barn door like the one Axanar pried open to remain open, this is exactly what will happen.

So while a small increment of fan films may seem safe, wholesale freedom of “professional independent [franchise] production companies” collecting money directly from franchise fans is a whole different thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dysfunctional Human Psychology

This would lead to the stories being worn out in consumers’ minds (dilution of commercial value to the IP holder), and significant diversion of revenues into the “fan” productions.

If the “fan” productions are better than the corporate initiator’s production, then so be it. The stories would not get worn out in consumers minds. It would create a greater market.

The only dilution that actually occurs is copyright holders long term destruction of cultural artefacts.

As someone who has intimate knowledge of IP “theft”, I have come to the conclusion that copyright is the least effective way of engendering the distribution and recognition of authorship. Resting on one’s laurel’s says one thing only – you are useless as a creator of works and if someone else does a better job, then kudos to the someone else.

reader01 says:

Re: Re: Re: Dysfunctional Human Psychology

Well, sure, one would like better work to be more visible to consumers of that work.

But third party consumers of works do not have the legal authority to declare “so be it” dismissal of copyright privileges for the originators of a creative work.

If the new works were sufficiently creative, then sure I would agree that it might complement rather than wear out the original works.

But the reality is that if economic opportunity is left on the table wrt/ a hot entertainment property, it won’t be the creatives who fill the gap, so much as the producers of the mediocre, the flashy, whatever can grab some eyeballs and clickstream revenue.

There needs to be some solution that finds a place for creatives to flourish without their space being taken over by a thousand Axanar green screen minings of the space.

If you know what that could be, then after a bit I would hope that the ever evolving world of new media might have some takers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Dysfunctional Human Psychology

But the reality is that if economic opportunity is left on the table wrt/ a hot entertainment property, it won’t be the creatives who fill the gap, so much as the producers of the mediocre, the flashy, whatever can grab some eyeballs and clickstream revenue

So, the existing studios are quite capable of mining and idea until the carcass has been sucked dry and the dust has blown away on the winds. Further, where is it written down than economic opportunities should be limited to entrenched businesses?

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Why is everyone using the argument that “Paramount needs free advertising”. That isn’t hat this is about. it’s all about Axanar Productions wanting to be greedy, and make a small fortune using money that was donated for a Star Trek film and making themselves wealthy in the process by using someone else’s IP rights. Axanar simply is in a losing position and the courts will end up finding for Paramount.

I find it hilarious that JJ Abrams got suckered into defending these idiots.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Fact is, Axanar took the money that was donated to fund the movie and used it to finance the building of their movie studio. That money should have been used to fund the money, not fund the building of your movie studio. Alec Peters will probably end up getting sued by every person who donated to the production of this movie.

No wonder Tony Todd left the project, because there was no accountability regarding the finances for the movie, most likely, because Peters used the bulk of that money to establish the movie studio. Peters also makes reference that they would be producing even more Star Trek movies?

Just who the fuck does Peters think he is? The Peters Paramount Movie Studios?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Let's tack on a few 'exceptions' to the law shall we?

Declaring that the work can only be so long, and only in certain formats?

Declaring that no-one involved is allowed to be paid for their involvement?

Declaring that no-one with any actual skill in the field is allowed to be involved?

Declaring that the amount raised to create a work can only reach a certain limit(and I guarantee that if someone was able to make an amazing work for less that limit would be shrunk accordingly) before any fundraising must be stopped, essentially telling people they are not allowed to fund work beyond a limit?

The rules handed out by Paramount can basically be summed up in a single line:

Any fan creation is not allowed to be good enough to compete with the ‘official’ version.

Paramount’s ‘guidelines’ are essentially an attempt to make sure that no fan creation is good enough to compete with the ‘official’ product, as well as being an attempt to re-write Fair Use by placing limits that flat out aren’t there.

reader01 says:

Re: Let's tack on a few 'exceptions' to the law shall we?

This all assumes that budget, length, and presence of professionals skilled in working with large budgets and long form are required to create quality.

WRITERS who do not rely on pewpew are what is required to create quality.

Yes, the length restriction does block direct competition. But why should an IP holder allow direct competition at all?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Let's tack on a few 'exceptions' to the law shall we?

This all assumes that budget, length, and presence of professionals skilled in working with large budgets and long form are required to create quality.

Not really, as while a decent budget(and the ability of fans to be able to fund a project past a certain point), skilled people involved and the ability to create a work that’s longer than some arbitrary cut-off point isn’t necessarily required for a quality piece, they certainly help. Only so much you can do if you don’t have the skills and/or experience in the field, you’re only allowed so much time to work with and you can only spend so much to make something.

Yes, the length restriction does block direct competition. But why should an IP holder allow direct competition at all?

To which my counter-question would be ‘Why should they be allowed to block competition, direct or not?’ So long as a work falls under fair use I don’t see why the original creator(or in this and many other cases the owner of the rights, rather than the creator of the work) should be allowed any veto power. If someone comes up with something new that’s better than their version that may suck for them, but it certainly is a boost to the public who get a new work to enjoy.

Tyraid says:

CBS Rules

Axanar aside, these rules effectively shut down every Star Trek fan production, including Tim Russ’s Renegades and even kills Michael Dorn’s chances to film The Worf Chronicles. (If he made a pilot, it wouldn’t be allowed to be uploaded on the internet due to these rules).

And it kills even the very fan productions that CBS themselves have praised like Phase II and Continues. Who are the people who helped the production staff on Enterprise when they were filming the TOS Defiant Bridge. Some thanks…

Then there is the rules saying Trek Alumni or Professionals can’t be associated with these fan productions. They are Star Trek fans as well and they aren’t allowed to have fun themselves? It’s thanks to their engagement with the fan community that kept Star Trek alive! Not to mention it effectively kills non-Trek actors from even having fun, for instance James Crowley (who pretty much started the Trek Fan series) is an actor, so with these rules he wouldn’t even be allowed to even be involved!

Honestly CBS, this is just going too far. I understand you wanting to protect your property, but come on. Use that clause of you allowing yourself to change the rules and loosen the grip.

reader01 says:

Re: CBS Rules

Please direct all of your discontent at Alec Peters and Axanar Productions.

Fan films almost unanimously hold him accountable for the draconian restrictions.

If you feel that these productions were a beautiful thing that deserved preservation, why wouldn’t you give complete credit to their analysis of the cause?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: CBS Rules

Umm, no. That’s like someone saying ‘Don’t make me hit you’ and then blaming the one that got hit, rather than the one who actually threw the punch. Paramount is the one who created the absurd ‘guidelines’, if anyone’s to blame it’s them as they could have easily done differently, unless you care to argue that they literally had no other choice in their response.

G Thompson (profile) says:

I’m surprised that none of you have remembered one basic thing about these ‘guidelines’.

They are NOT legally enforceable since there is NO contract to abide by these so called ‘rules’ and only a court can say whether fair use has been breached or not.

This is both a PR exercise and petulant intimidation tactic by Paramount s that they can point to these guidelines and say to the world at large.. “Oh but we had these guidelines that these fans agreed to – by silence or whatever uniquely wrong in law thing they think of saying – so we require obedience”.

reader01 says:

Re: Re:

That’s not making a lot of sense.

The guidelines are not a substitute to be enforced in place of copyright law, or specifically, for fair use exemptions within copyright law, as you seem to be suggesting.

They are a statement that CBS/Paramount will overlook copyright enforcement within certain parameters — essentially, a nonrequired extension over and above fair use, for works that do not qualify for the fair use exemption.

These are not some sort of taking away of fair use. As you pointed out, you can still go to court and win your fair use case.

freedomfan (profile) says:

End the ridiculous length of this sort of IP ownership !

Limit ownership of various characters and so on to 20ish years and be done with it. This certainly would not resolve the whole issue, but it would ameliorate much of it immensely. After that time is up, the characters are public domain. This notion that various characters are owned by this or that entity for what has essentially become multiple human lifespans is ridiculous. Create a cool/popular character or setting and the creator and his licensees have a couple decades to make their money on it. After that, they had better hope that they have done a good enough job that people are convinced they can do it better than others can (which might be the case).

The claims of movie studios and other licensees that they couldn’t make films or other content featuring the characters that fans love is nonsense. The difference is that both those studios and others would be able to create that content. They would have to compete in terms of cost and quality. That’s really what they don’t want.

I heard this “the end of licensing would be the end of the character” argument over and over when the various licensing agreements meant that Warner / DC Comics gets another basically unending years of exclusive licensing of Superman. The company line was that, without those deals, they couldn’t put out Superman comics and would not be able to make Superman movies. Of course, that is kryptonian baloney. They could perfectly well continue to publish Superman comics and produce Superman movies without exclusivity. They would just be competing with others who could also put out their own Superman comics and movies. The threat (and the lie) is that without the exclusive licensing, Superman would disappear. But, the reality is that Superman fans would likely have way more Superman content without those licensing deals, just not all from Warner / DC. And, quite frankly, lots of the non-Warner stuff would likely be better.

G Thompson (profile) says:

> for works that do not qualify for the fair use exemption.

and that right there is why the guidelines are bogus. They are creating specificity of what they say is or isn’t fair use, when in fact most of these guidelines where they restrict based on arbitrary figures and other caveats. “though must not go above xyz amount etc etc” are absolutely allowed under current fair use in certain circumstances, and unless legislation states otherwise can ONLY found by a court.

They are trying to create a arbitration/tribunal structure where they are the trier of facts first and foremost and no one shall do what they do not want. Paramount nor fans do NOT have a contract with each other, though thinking more, Paramount here might find themselves estopped if they go after a supposed fan based work that actually meets with these guidelines though is absolutely not fair use.

Guidelines are a waste of space/paper/air unless they are enforceable. These are not enforceable and therefore I stand by what I called them. A PR exercise and a Petulant ego trip.

reader01 says:

Re: Re:

The attorneys for Axanar stated that their main argument would be that Axanar would fall under fair use.

If they could win that, then yes, I could see the guidelines as something that might conflict with some hypothetical expanded definition of fair use.

But really, Axanar has probably undermined its legal credibility to the point that they could never win in court. That’s just a personal opinion, but look at all the financial shenanigans on the table that argue against any purist intent to have simply exercised fair use. A jury would look at intent, as I understand it.

And Axanar was the one who pushed the limits wildly on these financial issues, all the time protesting that “no one would give them guidelines”.

So the idea of “unfairness wrt/ [hypothetical changes to] fair use” really seems to be a lost cause for Trek fans for the moment.

What the future brings, who knows.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not talking about Axanar or whether they have a fair use argument or not in their current action, I’m instead talking about the future real and not hypothetical ramifications this will have on fans (or anyone really) to produce works that Paramount deign to state are NOT fair use do to their arbitrary ruleset.

It’s intimidatory and setting themselves up as the arbiter of what can and cannot be allowed for those without the wherewithal to understand how much bullshit (legally and otherwise) is inherent in the guidelines as presented.

They are trying to preempt by intimidation, propoganda, and “social conscience of the fan base towards the work – ‘can no-one think of the work'” or anyone doing anything they deign unlawful beforehand.

What has or is about to happen to Axanar is irrelevant with these guidelines because these guidelines are for EVERYONE to either kowtow or be outcasts form the community of fans that supposedly paramount think they control. Oh and if paramount do this, they wont be the last Publisher/Owner.

reader01 says:

Everyone with any interest or opinion about Axanar should listen to this new interview with Christian Gossett, the director of Prelude to Axanar, as he explains his view of how the Axanar project evolved into where it is today.

Respect for the high quality of the Prelude should be sufficient motivation to not dismiss his views without personally hearing him out.

It is not a diatribe. It is worth the time.

href=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/K1m7SSOQC6o”Interview on June 23 2016 with Christian Gossett

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Affairs like this one make me want to consider the whole "Cats In Space" solution

When Newmindspace got their massive (non-profit) lightsaber duel poo-pooed by Disney (an event Lucas let them do for seven years without a blink), they found a solution by adding in face-painted whiskers and calling them catblades for their Cats In Space tour.

I’m reminded of Chimamanda Adichie’s concept that the cure for prejudice and stereotyping is more and diverse tales. A handful of stories showing (say) stereotypical angry Muslim terrorists will present as less bigoted when there are twenty more stories showing other kinds of Muslims (or other kinds of terrorists, or even other kinds of anger).

When franchises inform popular culture, strict legal control of them becomes a chilling effect on what narratives we can exchange with each other, which presents a perverse effect contrary to the Constitutional intent of copyright. Talking about Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise are useful devices for communication much the way that Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and Brer Bear were useful in tribal Africa. And Paramount’s control, in tying up these narrative devices, chills the stories that people want to tell with them.

This raises a question for which there is no agency, no voice of advocacy: How does allowing Paramount and CBS to continue to lock down the Star Trek franchise serve the people of the United states? No one is asking this question.

My fear is that IP maximalism will continue to push us towards a world with less culture. Possibly to an extreme where a few rich moguls are the only ones allowed to make media or tell stories. (And there will be a fierce black market since no-one else can legally publish.) Considering that Paramount claimed ownership of space action-adventure as a genre, it might actually attempt to litigate against any other small project in that genre that might see some success just because they can.

Maybe we need to start making creative commons franchises, to allow anyone who’s not a big Hollywood mogul to be able to tell a myth using figures and tropes that other people can relate to. Other than modernizing mostly-public-domain franchises, a la House.

Every time someone copyrights a story or a character or an idea, that is one less story that the rest of us cannot tell without paid permission. Who speaks for the trees? Who speaks for the trees?

LAB (profile) says:

4.the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

I think the creation of a derivative work, using a budget inferior to a major motion picture studio, using lessor know actors and sub par special effects could easily dilute and or turn off a new fan of this multi million dollar franchise. Selling unlicensed merchandise, I’m sure, did not sway CBS/Paramount into viewing this remotely as fair use.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "[A shoddy fanwork] could easily dilute and or turn off a new fan of this multi million dollar franchise."

I will assure you that the last two official productions turned this fan off from the multi-million dollar franchise.

I’d say It’s been deteriorating since Voyager in which the the themes of Socratic speculations and social challenges was diluted with a hefty dose of Lost In Space whimsy.

But Abrams contributions reduced the series down to basic space opera. We’re no longer exploring strange new worlds and civilizations and raising questions that challenge our social presumptions, but just shooting space-banditos this time, and space-in’juns last time.

I’d rather see for Star Trek what we have for Robin Hood, a dozen or so different interpretations where the quality is considered a reflection not on the quality of the franchise, but the choices of the developer.

Andrew Allen says:

“must not include … depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity”

So no drugs means no sick bay and no hypo-sprays, depending on your definition of drugs.

Does no alcohol mean no synthehol? At the very least that illegal Romulan ale is truly illegal now.

No harmful activity rules out any fights with the Klingons. Firing a phasor is awfully harmful. So is punching out a Klingon for calling the Enterprise a garbage scow. I wonder if wearing uniforms that set you apart from the rest of society and carrying weapons will be considered harmful by the people who wrote these rules?

No illegal activity would rule out the time Kirk stole a starship. It would rule out that time (in the new timeline) that he stole that classic car as a kit. It would probably rule out cheating on the Kobayashi Maru simulation.

Mark Thorsby says:

Axanar law suit

While I understand the various arguments regarding the lawsuit and the probable likelihood that Axanar productions may have committed a violation of copy-right law under a traditional legal lens, I believe that Axanar should be allowed to make their film under different grounds.

It seems to me that one could make the defense that CBS no longer owns the full rights to Star Trek because the existence of Star Trek has a history of partially depending on the roll-playing fans. The fact that Star Trek conventions across the globe have created a space where fans are invited to ‘live’ in the Star Trek world demonstrates that legal expectation of fans to imagine the star trek world in their own forms of expression. The history of fan support for Star Trek is well documented and historic in its nature. Eventually the Star Trek franchise became an enormous success, but that success historically came as the result of fan activity. I think one could make the rather (radical) legal argument, that because of those circumstances, and the fostering support of the Star Trek franchise ownership, that the studio had, in effect, granted to Star Trek creatorship rights to fans under the provision of not profiting or competing with the studio. Today technology has allowed wide spread use of free speech. We all have the technological capacity to inform an entire world of people at a professional level for little cost.

We are entering a new era of copyright in which eventually all forms of created expression regardless of their duplicability, will be protected forms of free speech. #Kropotkin

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