CBS and Paramount sue Star Trek fan film, Axanar, for copyright infringement

Star Trek

Star Wars is a film that has inspired many fan films. Lucasfilm even sponsors the Star Wars Fan Film Awards, an event that celebrates Star Wars fan films. With that said, it’s pretty clear that Lucasfilm appreciates the fan film community. However, with news of CBS suing an upcoming Star Trek fan film over copyright infringement, it would seem that CBS and Paramount aren’t embracing the Stark Trek fan film community.

On Tuesday, CBS and Paramount have filed a lawsuit against Axanar, a Star Trek feature fan film. The two companies have been okay with Star Trek fan films in the past, but this one is a special case. Axanar has raised $1 million in crowdfunding (Kickstarter and Indiegogo) and has been selling merchandise. The producers and Alec Peters wanted to create a Star Trek film with high production values that can rival Hollywood films. It included actors like Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica).

Axanar synopsis: “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.”

“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,” says Peters.

The Indiegogo pitch below has Peters explaining how CBS was okay with Axanar being made as long as the producers followed the guidelines.

“CBS owns all the rights to Star Trek,” said Peters. “They graciously allowed us and others to make Star Trek films as long as we do a few things. One is we don’t make any money off of it. We can raise money through donations and use that money to fund our production, but we can’t actually at the end of the day make profit. We can’t sell anything that says Star Trek on it because that would be a violation of their copyright.”

What’s interesting is that they have been selling Axanar merchandise here referencing Star Trek locations and Klingon designs.

Peters spoke to The Wrap back in August and said that he and CBS had a meeting to ensure that he would be able to produce the feature fan film.

“CBS has a long history of accepting fan films,” Peters said. “I think Axanar has become so popular that CBS realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”

With the producers being careful to make sure they abide by the rules, it seems like they have failed since CBS and Paramount have decided to sue anyway.

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

Paramount and CBS have hired Loeb & Loeb attorneys to help them with an injuction and to collect damages from the copyright infringement. Axanar is in violation of using Klingons, Starfleet, characters like Garth of Izar, and more.

The full complaint can be read here.

Peters has told THR that he will defend the film.

“We’ve certainly been prepared for this and we certainly will defend this lawsuit,” said Peters. “There are a lot of issues surrounding a fan film. These fan films have been around for 30 years, and others have raised a lot of money.”

He mentions how Lucasfilm has given guidelines for Star Wars fans while CBS and Paramount haven’t since he thinks they are afraid “to give up some rights.”

Paramount and CBS have given THR a joint statement:

“Star Trek is a treasured franchise in which CBS and Paramount continue to produce new original content for its large universe of fans. The producers of Axanar are making a Star Trek picture they describe themselves as a fully professional independent Star Trek film. Their activity clearly violates our Star Trek copyrights, which, of course, we will continue to vigorously protect.”

This isn’t the first time a fan film got in trouble. Last year in February, Birth of a Man: A Minecraft Film was canceled due to copyright infringement. It was a Kickstarter fan film project that’s inspired by the world of Minecraft that failed due to Majong, the owner of Minecraft, stepping in.

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