The legal battle between Paramount and CBS Studios against Alec Peters and his Axanar Productions over ‘Star Trek‘ usage appears to have come to a relatively peaceful conclusion with both sides drawing back to a neutral zone…
The conflict had accelerated after Alec Peters announced in 2015 that he was to make a feature-length movie based on the fan-film that had premiered at the San Diego Comic Convention in 2014. Initially it got the support of several prominent genre names, including Trek‘s own George Takei, Deep Space Nine‘s J G Hertzler, Richard Hatch (of Battlestar Galactica fame) and Gary Graham (who some may remember from the tv version of Alien Nation and some Enterprise episodes). However Paramount and CBS, who hold the rights to Star Trek became somewhat concerned that what had started off as the kind of fan-project that big companies are often happy to tolerate/allow to proceed, was suddenly something of a juggernaut that was raising over $6000,000 in its kickstarter campaign. This was not an official project for which they had sold the rights to Axanar to make… and somewhat understandably they felt that there was a massive difference between the average fan-project and a well-funded project where people seemed to be making a profit.
Paramount/CBS scrutinised the production and story – which was set in the four year war between the Klingons and Earth as referenced, but not shown in the franchise to date (though, speculation suggests may be seen in Star Trek: Discovery as and when that airs) and decided to file a legal motion claiming a raft of copyright violations including settings and characters, and even the use of the Klingon language. This stopped the production moving forward.
Things became more confused in the last year with big-screen director J J Abrams hinting that Paramount/CBS might withdraw their objections… which didn’t happen and then Axanar Productions making the decision to counter-sue Paramount, citing ‘fair-usage’ . In May Axanar Productions issued the following statement:
“Yesterday, Axanar Productions, through its law firm Winston & Strawn, filed a response to the first amended complaint filed by CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures. The response includes a Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief that previews Axanar Productions‘ fair use defense, provides substantive background on how Alec Peters operated in good faith in his dealings with the Plaintiffs, and describes Alec’s fruitless four year struggle with CBS to obtain fan film guidelines.
Fans were divided… some felt the studio was heavy-handed given that many shorter fan-films had been allowed in the past; some felt Paramount /CBS were completely justified in defending the property they owned and others were angry at Axanar Productions and Alec Peters himself for possibly forcing Paramount into a corner where they HAD to take actions which might affect ALL fan projects going forward. This was somewhat borne out when the companies issued guidelines that some felt were restrictive than before the controversy. They can be found here: ( http://www.startrek.com/fan-films.)
As recently as December it seemed as if both parties were as far apart as ever. But on Friday came the statement that they had come to a compromise that seemed to satisfy everyone concerned.
Axanar Productions and Peters have formally agreed to acknowledge that their efforts were never officially approved by the copyright holders and that they ‘crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law.’ As a result they also agreed to make substantial alterations to the final version of Axanar before any release. They also agreed to make sure any future fan films produced by them ‘will be in full accordance with‘ the formal Guidelines for Fan Films that CBS and Paramount issued in June 2016.
In addition the joint-statement made clear that Paramount and CBS ‘continue to be big believers in fan fiction and fan creativity‘ and will allow and even encourage other fan-films to continue as long as they work within those published guidelines.
The original ‘Prelude to Axanar’ fan-film, from which Peters managed to gather the feature-sized investment, is allowed to remain on YouTube as is. It is clear just how high and professional-looking the production values were and what got it noticed…