CBS & Paramount Finally Settle With Fan Film Axanar

from the took-'em-long-enough dept

A little over a year ago, we first wrote about the unfortunate situation in which CBS & Paramount had sued a group of people trying to make a fan film in the Star Trek universe, called Axanar. Beyond the basic legal questions, there was a bigger issue here. Paramount has actually been pretty good about allowing fan films. The difference with Axanar was that it was shaping up to be a really good fan film, with professional level actors, sets and staff. And that was what set off Paramount and CBS, who jointly hold the copyrights on Star Trek. The big question then is what's the line between a fan film... and an unauthorized derivative work? This wasn't necessarily a question in the past, but today with the ease of making films (and funding them through platforms like Kickstarter), it becomes a much bigger question.

Something of a wrench was thrown into the proceedings last May, when JJ Abrams and Justin Lin -- who are involved in the official new Star Trek films -- claimed on stage that they were quite upset with Paramount for going after Axanar, and claimed that they'd gotten word from the company that it was going to settle the lawsuit. Of course, in the intervening months, no settlement showed up, and the filings back and forth between the parties got more and more rancorous. Things were finally heading towards a trial in just a few days... but now a settlement has finally been reached.
Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar’s film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law.
That last bit is the most interesting, but not very surprising. Just before the trial, the judge in the case had ruled against Axanar, saying that they couldn't claim fair use -- which basically killed any shot they had of winning. So, with their back up against the wall, the best they could do was to come to a settlement admitting they'd gone too far and agreeing to make significant changes to the planned film:
Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the 'Guidelines for Fan Films' distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016.
While not surprising, this is unfortunate on multiple levels. First, we wrote about those "Guidelines for Fan Films" when they came out: they're awful. They basically make it close to impossible to make a decent fan film. Even worse, many of the conditions in the guidelines go directly against what's allowed under fair use.

But the reason this is most unfortunate is this: the world will now never get to see what might have been a really good film. I know that some people like to attack Techdirt and me and claim that we're somehow "anti-creator" or "anti-artist" but we're not. We believe strongly in creators and enabling the best creativity possible -- and this kind of lawsuit shuts that down. It directly kills off plans to produce what appeared to be really good content. That's a cultural loss and it's too bad. The existence of Axanar doesn't take anything away from "real" or "authorized" Star Trek films with their huge budgets, special effects and stamp of authenticity from the studios. But thanks to this lawsuit, such creative content will no longer be made. And that's sad.

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  1. icon
    JMT (profile), 22 Jan 2017 @ 3:52pm


    A corp wins, culture loses, and copyright is again used for the opposite purpose it was intended for. I'm not sure why you find that funny.

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