from the set-phasers-on-dumb dept
When it comes to passionate fan-bases, it's kind of hard to match Star Trek fans. This is a group of fans that fuel much of the cosplaying and fan-creating that goes on to this day. CBS, owners of the Star Trek copyrights, has had something of a complicated relationship with these fans, flip-flopping between allowing this community to foster a wider appreciation of the franchise while occasionally clamping down on them. In the past, it has seemed clear that CBS' chief criteria for deciding when to go legal on fan-made works boils down to two factors: is there money involved and just how professional is the fan-creation going to be?
That trend appears to be ongoing, with the news that, once again, CBS is shutting down a fan-made Star Trek work, which thought it enjoyed the network's support, after it was clear that the fan-movie was probably going to be good.
Axanar, the subject of a lawsuit filed on Friday in California federal court, is no ordinary Star Trek film. The forthcoming feature film (preceded by a short film) is the source of more than $1 million in crowdfunding on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The producers led by Alec Peters aim to make a studio-quality film. As the pitch to investors put it, "While some may call it a 'fan film' as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew--many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself--who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see."Unfortunately, the lawyers over at CBS apparently don't see it that way. CBS is asking for an injunction on the film and damages for copyright infringement. This flies in the face of all of the amateur Star Trek films and shows that have been allowed to exist. The primary differentiation here certainly seems to be one of quality, with those working on the film touting their experience and know-how.
By August, Peters was giving interviews expressing confidence that the project would survive any legal heat. He spoke to The Wrap that month and reported having a meeting with CBS. He says he was told the film couldn't make money — and evidently, he took that to be a good sign. "CBS has a long history of accepting fan films,” Peters told the entertainment site. “I think Axanar has become so popular that CBS realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”
But why should that matter to CBS? To be clear, CBS is within its rights to shut this down, but given that it has seen value, or at least a lack of harm, in allowing other fan-made works to exist, why should a quality fan-made film suddenly be a threat? If anything, as Peters noted, allowing fans to grow the universe, to participate in its creation and foster new and deeper fandom should only benefit the Star Trek franchise. Upping the quality of that creation would, it seems, benefit the franchise even more.
Instead, this comes off as another ham-fisted smackdown of a fan-created film that, given the support it received, was something Trek fans were looking forward to.