Local producer settles Star Trek lawsuit with Paramount, CBS

By Patrick Mullen

Last update: Friday, January 20th, 2017

Valencia-based producers of a Star Trek themed fan film settled a lawsuit filed by owners of the science fiction franchise’s intellectual property.

The crowdsource-funded film and a planned sequel expand on a story line from the original 1960s NBC television series created by Gene Roddenbury.

In late 2015, Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios sued Axanar Productions and its owner, Alec Peters, over the short film, “Prelude to Axanar.”

According to a joint announcement of the settlement, “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.”

In early January, U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled in favor of Paramount and CBS, and said “the Axanar Works have objective substantial similarity to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works.” The settlement means the case won’t go to a jury trial.

As part of the settlement, “Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation.” They also said that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will abide by fan film guidelines that CBS and Paramount released last June.

Paramount and CBS will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional, amateur, and otherwise meet those guidelines.

The settlement allows Axanar to split the planned feature film into two fifteen-minute segments, and to show them and “Prelude to Axanar” commercial-free on YouTube.

Peters first produced the documentary-style “Prelude to Axanar” by raising $101,000 in a crowdfunding campaign. It first appeared on YouTube in 2014

Peters is an unabashed Star Trek fan. When the lawsuit was filed,  he said that independent fan film made for non-commercial purposes were part of a long and rich relationship between fans and studios.

He plays Captain Elvar Garth in “Prelude to Axanar” and played Garth of Izar in two episodes of the fan-based web series “Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.”  He has also written for the Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction Blog and in 2008 created Propworx Inc., which sells costumes and set pieces through high-end auctions for the movie and TV industry.

In a separate statement, Axanar said it was pleased to resolve the lawsuit. “We have expressed our desire to address the concerns of the studios, and our willingness to make necessary changes, as long as we could reasonably meet our commitments to Axanar’s over 14,000 donors, fans and supporters. We are now able to do exactly that.”

In its fan guidelines, CBS and Paramount said they are “big believers in reasonable fan fiction and fan creativity” within certain limits.

Productions must be less than 15 minutes for a single story with no more than two segments. Additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes are not allowed. The name “Star Trek” can’t be in the title, and productions must be subtitled “a Star Trek Fan Production.”

Content must be original, props must be licensed merchandise, fundraising can’t exceed $50,000, and producers can’t charge for viewing or sell ads.

Fan videos can’t include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity.

 

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Local producer settles Star Trek lawsuit with Paramount, CBS

Alec Peters with some of his science fiction memorabilia

Valencia-based producers of a Star Trek themed fan film settled a lawsuit filed by owners of the science fiction franchise’s intellectual property.

The crowdsource-funded film and a planned sequel expand on a story line from the original 1960s NBC television series created by Gene Roddenbury.

In late 2015, Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios sued Axanar Productions and its owner, Alec Peters, over the short film, “Prelude to Axanar.”

According to a joint announcement of the settlement, “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.”

In early January, U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled in favor of Paramount and CBS, and said “the Axanar Works have objective substantial similarity to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works.” The settlement means the case won’t go to a jury trial.

As part of the settlement, “Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation.” They also said that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will abide by fan film guidelines that CBS and Paramount released last June.

Paramount and CBS will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional, amateur, and otherwise meet those guidelines.

The settlement allows Axanar to split the planned feature film into two fifteen-minute segments, and to show them and “Prelude to Axanar” commercial-free on YouTube.

Peters first produced the documentary-style “Prelude to Axanar” by raising $101,000 in a crowdfunding campaign. It first appeared on YouTube in 2014

Peters is an unabashed Star Trek fan. When the lawsuit was filed,  he said that independent fan film made for non-commercial purposes were part of a long and rich relationship between fans and studios.

He plays Captain Elvar Garth in “Prelude to Axanar” and played Garth of Izar in two episodes of the fan-based web series “Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.”  He has also written for the Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction Blog and in 2008 created Propworx Inc., which sells costumes and set pieces through high-end auctions for the movie and TV industry.

In a separate statement, Axanar said it was pleased to resolve the lawsuit. “We have expressed our desire to address the concerns of the studios, and our willingness to make necessary changes, as long as we could reasonably meet our commitments to Axanar’s over 14,000 donors, fans and supporters. We are now able to do exactly that.”

In its fan guidelines, CBS and Paramount said they are “big believers in reasonable fan fiction and fan creativity” within certain limits.

Productions must be less than 15 minutes for a single story with no more than two segments. Additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes are not allowed. The name “Star Trek” can’t be in the title, and productions must be subtitled “a Star Trek Fan Production.”

Content must be original, props must be licensed merchandise, fundraising can’t exceed $50,000, and producers can’t charge for viewing or sell ads.

Fan videos can’t include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity.

 

About the author

Patrick Mullen

Patrick Mullen

Patrick Mullen grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., and moved to Santa Clarita from Cleveland in 2016. He covered the business side of health care for 15 years.