Axanar

Now this is an interesting turn of events.  In the past, Paramount has been quite lenient when it came to fan-made ‘Star Trek’ films, allowing and even encouraging amateur film-makers to interpret the sprawling Trek universe in their own unique ways.  But things appear to have crossed the line with the crowdfunded film ‘Axanar’ spearheaded by producer Alec Peters.  Peters and company had amassed $1 million via Kickstarter and Indiegogo, with their eye on producing a studio quality film (preceded by a short), set 21 years before the original TV series.

Here is the description of the project:

“‘Axanar’ takes place 21 years before the events of ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before,’ the first Kirk episode of the original ‘Star Trek’. ‘Axanar’ is the story of Garth of Izar, the legendary Starfleet captain who is Captain Kirk’s hero … ‘Axanar’ tells the story of Garth and his crew during the Four Years War, the war with the Klingon Empire that almost tore the Federation apart. Garth’s victory at Axanar solidified the Federation and allowed it to become the entity we know in Kirk’s time. It is the year 2245 and the war with the Klingons ends here.”

What is interesting is that Peters appears to have met with Paramount and been given permission to pursue the project so long as it didn’t make money.

But CBS and Paramount have now filed a lawsuit to snuff out ‘Axanar’.  According to the filing:

“The ‘Axanar’ Works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of ‘Star Trek’, including its settings, characters, species, and themes.”

Specifically, Paramount seems to take issue with “[the] look and feel of the planet, the characters’ costumes, their pointy ears and their distinctive hairstyle.”

"Where No Man Has Gone Before"
“Where No Man Has Gone Before”

It is not clear at this time what it was about ‘Axanar’ that infringes in a way that is worse than other fan films.  Just last month, Peters expressed “CBS has a long history of accepting fan films.  I think ‘Axanar’ has become so popular that CBS realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”  This was, of course, before the lawsuit.

The potential film makers are not going down without a fight.  A Change.org petition has been launched to garner support.  (By the time this sees print, it will most likely have met its goal of 1,000 signatures as they are just shy of that now.)

In addition, a Facebook group has been created, once again to generate support and also to provide information about the present legal situation.  You can check it out and join HERE.

Once again, it’s unclear what prompted this action when prior fan films were allowed to exist.  Some on the side of ‘Axanar’ have speculated that it has to do with the current film series which is a reboot set in a different continuity.  Since ‘Axanar’ is built on the original TV show, that may be the source of the conflict but that is just a guess at this point.

What many fans may not know is that the holders of copyrights– parent companies and so forth– are legally obligated to go after violators if they want to keep those rights.  It’s not really a choice… but once again, that doesn’t explain why they turned a blind eye to other such projects.

We’ll keep you posted if anything new develops!

What do you think?  Do fan films violate copyright?

Source: The Hollywood Reporter