Visit The Official Star Trek Shop Now!

[UPDATED] Star Trek Axanar Fan Film Sued by Paramount and CBS Over Copyright Infringement

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.51.50 AM

A potentially multi-million dollar lawsuit, including a request for injunction, has been filed against the fan film Star Trek Axanar, its creator Alec Peters, and up to 20 others working on the production by Star Trek rights holders CBS and Paramount.

[UPDATE]: Alec Peters has made an official statement in response to the lawsuit.

Yesterday (Dec 29), Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc. collectively filed suit against the successful fan film group, Star Trek Axanar. You can read the official document here.

The Suit: What does it all mean?
We’ve waded through some of the legelese in the document in hopes of explaining precisely what CBS and Paramount are seeking in damages and on what grounds. Here’s the skinny.

The Infringement. Paramount and CBS are suing for three types of copyright infringement, including standard, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement. Basically, they are suing for each and every way that Axanar violated the use of Star Trek. They are also asking that the judge make a “declaratory judgement” meaning some kind of statement as to why and how copyright was infringed in this case, for use as precedent in later proceedings.

Paramount and CBS have also asked for an injunction, meaning that any work on Axanar (set to start major production next month) would come to a stop until the suit is resolved.

The Damages. Paramount and CBS aren’t pulling any punches. The suit doesn’t state an exact amount that the plaintiffs are seeking, but it’s not hard to do the math. Under the law (the statute), Paramount and CBS are asking for $150,000 for each work infringed upon (or actual damages sustained by CBS and Paramount, whichever is higher) plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Let’s start with the first one: the statutory $150K per work. This is the bare minimum owed by Axanar should the court find in favor of Paramount and CBS. And, it could potentially add up to millions of dollars. Depending on how Paramount, CBS, and the court decide to split up the “works” of Star Trek, Axanar may be facing fines for dozens of infringements.

And, any reasonable attorneys’ fees? The lawsuit is being handled by lawyers of Loeb & Loeb, a firm with an extensive reputation in the entertainment business. Attorneys’ fees alone could add up to hundreds of thousands, depending on how drawn out this affair ends up being.

What does this mean for the fan film industry?
Plenty of Star Trek fan films exist in the world. In fact, there have never been more fan productions out there than there are currently in production today. So, why Axanar? Why now?

Star Trek fan films have been allowed, one might even say unofficially sanctioned, by CBS and Paramount. But, there has always been one very important caveat. In order to protect their legal rights, CBS and Paramount have forbidden any fan film from making any kind of profit. This includes DVD sales, ticket sales, merchandise, and anything beyond minimal payment to project staff.

So, why is Axanar being singled out? The suit spells it out (emphasis mine):

“[Axanar] have raised over $1 million so far to produce these works, including building out a studio and hiring actors, set designers, and costume designers. The Axanar works are substantially similar to and unauthorized derivative works of [Star Trek].”

Not unexpectedly, the famously unabashed Peters has taken to the internet to address the suit:

Alec Peters makes a statement on the Axanar facebook page

Not so fast.

An injunction means precisely that the Axanar team will be ‘deterred from what they are doing’. And, given that there is absolutely no legal grounds for the team to stand on (no, building Axanar Studios does not fall under fair use), Axanar is effectively dead.

There has been no word so far on any other law suits against any other Star Trek fan film groups. Although it seems that Axanar is being singled out as a particularly egregious infringement, it’s not impossible that other films could suffer as a result nor is it impossible for them to have suit brought against them.

[UPDATE] Alec Peters official statement
Alec Peters, creator of Axanar and one of the Defendants in this lawsuit, has made an official statement responding to news of the suit.

“This morning, I was greeted with news that our production company, Axanar Productions and I, personally, am being sued by CBS Studios, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation for copyright infringement of Star Trek.

First of all, I was disappointed to learn about this through an article in an industry trade. For several years, I’ve worked with a number of people at CBS on Star Trek-related projects, and I would have hoped those personal relationships would have warranted a phone call in advance of the filing of a legal complaint. Nevertheless, I know I speak for everyone at Axanar Productions when I say it is our hope that this can be worked out in a fair and amicable manner.

Axanar is a fan film. Fan films – whether related to Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, Batman or any other franchise – are labors of love that keep fans engaged, entertained, and keep favorite characters alive in the hearts of fans. Like other current fan films, AXANAR entered production based on a very long history and relationship between fandom and studios. We’re not doing anything new here.

Like all fan films, AXANAR is a love letter to a beloved franchise. For nearly 50 years, Star Trek’s devotees have been creating new Star Trek stories to share with fellow fans. That’s all we’re trying to do here.

Since the original Star Trek TV series, when the letter writing campaign by fans got NBC to greenlight a third season of Star Trek, fan support has been critical to the success of the franchise. It is the Star Trek fans themselves who are most affected here, for by suing Axanar Productions to stop making our movie and collect so-called damages, CBS and Paramount are suing the very people who have enthusiastically maintained the universe created by Gene Roddenberry so many years ago.

The fact that many of the fans involved with Axanar Productions are also industry professionals speaks volumes to the influence of Star Trek in the entertainment industry. Not surprisingly, these fans want to give something back. We’re very proud that the work we’ve done to date looks so good. That is also a reflection of the devotion of Star Trek’s fans.

Like everything related to Axanar Productions, we take this matter very seriously and remain open to discussing solutions with all parties that can be mutually beneficial.”

 


 

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Phil
December 30, 2015 12:03 pm

I’d love to be on that jury…though this will be settled long before then.

Bob
December 30, 2015 12:06 pm

I hope that the team at Axanar wins this suit. Looks to me like the suits at the studio are reacting to the fact that the trailer for “Beyond” is getting a luke warm reception at best and the fans are really looking forward to Axanar. Maybe they should actually take the hint and quit trying to make an “Everyman” kind of Trek movie and make Trek the way it should be made!

Finnigan
December 30, 2015 12:06 pm

Shame on Paramount CBS for attempting to kill something that would only help keep Trek vibrant. Shame on the Azxanar folks for not working this out with Paramount CBS at the start. This should be resolved by having both parties come to a mutual agreement where the winners are the fans who will then be hungry for more Trek. As it stands now, all of us who want to see more Trek, to include the Axanar projects, are bound to become bitter and dejected. Work this out!

DWNicolo
December 30, 2015 12:07 pm

Shame on Paramount/CBS.

Ahmed
December 30, 2015 12:08 pm

@TrekMovie.com Staff,

“Not unexpectedly, the famously unabashed Peters has taken to the internet to address the suit:

Not so fast.”

I think you guys missed a quote or something here.

Emperor Mike of the Terran Empire
December 30, 2015 12:09 pm

Wow. What they. CBS and Paramount should be doing. Is get behind them. Axanar and support them and make the fans happy and make a lot of money on the process. Not suing them and showing how greedy they are.

December 30, 2015 12:11 pm

@Ahmed: It’s an embedded facebook post. Works on every browser I’ve tested. Maybe give it a second to load? What browser/OS are you on? The facebook embed function is not famous for being super stable.

Ahmed
December 30, 2015 12:11 pm

‘Axanar’ was the most professional production of all fanfilms, hope they will reach some kind of a deal with Para & CBS.

December 30, 2015 12:13 pm

@Ahmed: Here is a direct link to the facebook post in case it won’t load for ya: https://www.facebook.com/StarTrekAxanar/posts/887198424728015

Ahmed
December 30, 2015 12:14 pm

@7. Kayla Iacovino,

Thanks, it didn’t show on Firefox but appeared on Google Chrome.

Spoctor McKirk
December 30, 2015 12:14 pm

The studio`s just jealous that the fans do a better job making Trek, and for far less money. CBS/Paramount should tread lightly…don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

December 30, 2015 12:15 pm

@Ahmed. Good to know, thanks. I’ve added the direct link to the article above.

jonboc
December 30, 2015 12:16 pm

Crowdfunding is a slippery slope. Time to see just how creative the accountants at Axanar can be.

Mike Barnett
December 30, 2015 12:19 pm

I supported Axanar by giving them some money. But it’s DOA now. The Axanar team will not win this case. Sorry to see it go.

Phil
December 30, 2015 12:26 pm

Axanar is done. Actually surprised that the industries various unions didn’t file suit against them as well – they were skating way to close to the edge for a while now, and it caught up with them.

ShadowAxis
December 30, 2015 12:26 pm

I think what people are failing to realize, is this could spell the end of the fan film industry. No more Star Trek New Voyages, no more Star Trek Continues. No more Star Trek Renegades. No more ANY fan productions. This has gone too far. Star Trek needs to somehow be forcibly removed from Paramount/CBS’s clutches.

Richard Blanchard
December 30, 2015 12:33 pm

Paramount CBS says “[Axanar] have raised over $1 million so far to produce these works, including building out a studio and hiring actors, set designers, and costume designers. The Axanar works are substantially similar to and unauthorized derivative works of [Star Trek].” What does that mean? Substantially similar to what?

It is just like any other fan story set in a period not covered by the stories aired on television or played on the big screen. Unless, Paramount/CBS has plans for the same period of time in storytelling somewhere.

Commodore Adams
December 30, 2015 12:42 pm

I can’t FUCKING BELIEVE THIS!!! Almost threw my cup of coffee against the wall. CBS lays out rules for Axanar to follow, they follow it, no prob. November 2nd CBS announces a new Star Trek show in production for January 2017 and now CBS decides to take legal action. Why? Because Axanar is NOT profiting off this? Because Axanar is good publicity for Star Trek? Because Axanar is the Star Trek fans want to see? Because Axanar is in no way taking money away from CBS?

‪#‎IstandwithAxanar‬

Patricia Scott
December 30, 2015 12:42 pm

Mmm…sounds like CBS/Paramount is trying to clear out any competition for its own Trek, slated for Pay-For-Stream in 2017…not a slick move, CBS…you alienate (no pun intended) fans, they will go elsewhere!

Yosef
December 30, 2015 12:46 pm

In the end of the day, how is Axanar different than Phase 2, Star Trek Continues, or any other production that has used Kickstarter for publicity and funding? Does this spell the end of quality fan productions? I’m curious for everyone’s thoughts on this.

Who cares
December 30, 2015 12:47 pm

Yep Axanar is dead, even if these guys had some sort of legal footing to stand on, which they don’t, they would still lose.

Now the next step for CBS/Paramount should be shutting down that thief Vic.

Pat
December 30, 2015 12:48 pm

This now proves that CBS\Paramount are scared\jealous of all the achievements and succes that the Axanar team have obtain from all the loyal Trek fans. As stated by 11 Spoctor McKirk above, they are scared of the high quality product that will come out of this project ; and on a low budget may I say. I really hope that Axanar will move forward and deliver the superb story that they have prepared for us loyal fans. If the CBS\Paramount win this one and scrap all the good work from the Axanar team, that’s it for me, I will boycott their next film and series ; probably won’t be worth looking at anyway.

Mr. AtoZ
December 30, 2015 12:49 pm

That’s it for me then, CBS/Paramount has ruined it for all of us. I won’t be watching, or buying anything Star Trek from this point on…the greed is there for everyone to see, they’ve pretty much told the fans they no longer need us. It’s their Star Trek not ours, fine then. They can have it and flush it for all I care anymore…

jas_montreal
December 30, 2015 12:49 pm

Paramount/CBS collecting all the pennies, since its pretty obvious that Star Trek Beyond and the new TV series will be flops!

Jason Austin
December 30, 2015 12:50 pm

The fans can squawk and complain all they want but not one single Star Trek fan is going to boycott any official CBS or Paramount production so CBS and Paramount will win. They know that we might not like it and will hate them for it but it won’t actually effect what matters to them– the money because while we understand who owns Star Trek, we don’t see them as one and the same. We will continue to love, watch, buy the franchise while hating those that control it.

Which is too bad, because it means we are powerless to get CBS/Paramount to change.

Tim Fisher
December 30, 2015 12:52 pm

I’m still not sure why they are being sued, unless CBS/Paramount thinks they’re going to be keeping the money instead of using it for their movie. IF they’re planning on making a profit from it, THEN I could see CBS/Paramount’s point. I sure hope this doesn’t mean they’re changing their policy towards fan projects in general!

TUP
December 30, 2015 12:55 pm

Post purgatory

TUP
December 30, 2015 12:55 pm

I cant say I blame the studios per se. But this seems awfully heavy handed given their tacit approval of such endeavors in the past.

I assume this is reflective of a renewed desire to cash in on Star Trek across multiple mediums by the studios and thus, they want to squeeze out those projects that pander to the hardcore fans while the studio looks to pursue the broader audience.

If I have a vote, I hope the studios lose simply because the precedent would be alarming.

Lancelot Narayan
December 30, 2015 1:00 pm

I think Paramount/CBS think that somebody, somewhere is making money out of this project. They have been so very generous to fan productions thus far, resulting in some terrific work, but also a lot of guff.

We don’t know the ins and outs of what has transpired here, I’m just hoping that the Axanar team have been totally transparent in their dealings with the studio.

Alec Peter’s remarks on Facebook are not helpful and are totally unprofessional.

Legate Damar
December 30, 2015 1:04 pm

It makes sense that they don’t want any amateur productions distracting from the official Star Trek Canon. After all, we are getting a movie, and a new TV series in the coming year. I never really understood why they allowed these fan productions to exist for as long as they did.

Jay
December 30, 2015 1:05 pm
#2 Bob – I seriously doubt that. Paramount is making a movie that fans want. Despite your apparent love for the amateur fan films, by comparison hardly anyone outiside the rabid Trek fan knows they even exist, much less is excited for a new one to come out. It’s amazing the delusions of graduer that so many Trek fans have. They think that the few hundred that post on blogs like this in any way compares to the tens of millions of paying movie goers that go see the films, and will go see STB. It’s clear Paramount is doing well with Star Trek. They are simply trying to protect their property. I’ve never understood why they allowed any fan films of Star Trek to be made in the first place, but I guess the logic of “if they don’t make a profit, then they aren’t a threat.” makes sense. However this fan film seems to be pushing that envelope pretty hard, and is no longer a fan film, but simply a low budget feature film being made by a studio about a franchise that they don’t hold the license to. Pretty clear cut copyright infringment. If I was a billionaire, and just loved movies, I couldn’t just decide to spend $300 million and make my own version of Star Wars for release to the public and charge tickets – or online purchases – for it. Clearly I wouldn’t have the right. Why does anyone think Axanar has the right… Read more »
Kevin J.
December 30, 2015 1:05 pm

18 Mr. AtoZ

I don’t think CBS/ Paramount ruined it for all of us… it was Axanar that did it! They used the money to make a “for profit” studio and they are paying their production staff monthly salaries. The also distinguished themselves as an “independent Star Trek Film”, not a fan film. CBS won’t and shouldn’t tolerate that.

If CBS pulls all fan films, it will be Axanar’s fault.

Jay
December 30, 2015 1:09 pm

#16 Richard – “substantialy similar” has nothing to do with the story – or time period in that story. It’s similar in that it uses the name Star Trek and has the same characters.

No one besides Paramount and CBS is allowed to make anything called Star Trek that is set in the same fictional world/universe as what we all know to be Star Trek.

The only reason apparently that they have allowed it to happen before now is that most of those have been very low budget and not made any profit. But they could have just as easily sued and shut them down if they chose. But why spend significant money to do that for something that isn’t making any money? I guess that’s the logic.

Axanar apparently went beyond whatever line that Paramount and CBS decided was ok. It’s their right to choose whatever that line is. They own the product and the license.

Who cares
December 30, 2015 1:18 pm

@18. Bye bye, you won’t be missed.

P Technobabble
December 30, 2015 1:19 pm

It’s a shame that the corporations want to come down on the Axanar project like a meteor slamming into the earth. Apart from what was, essentially, a demo for the film, the Axanar team hasn’t done anything more than show intention. Intention is not the same as actual production, is it? Why sue them for an outrageous amount of $$ (which the corporations don’t need anyway) because the producers are attempting to make a film? It seems a bit harsh to me. But it appears the corporations want to make an example of the Axanar team to prevent other such productions from happening.

KennyB
December 30, 2015 1:21 pm

I did not realize Tony Todd left the project 4 months ago. He’s tweeted today that he is NOT a fan of crowdfunding and hashtagged #tellthetruth in Axanars direction…….this looks bad folks.

Vultan
December 30, 2015 1:23 pm

I suppose the people behind Axanar could take this as a compliment. Their fan film looked too good, too professional. So much so the studio suits were worried it would be mistaken for the real thing? Well, if that’s the case, rather than sue Alec Peters, hire him!

Anyway, it’s not a good omen going into the 50th anniversary year seeing CBS/Paramount get in a legal kerfuffle with a fan production. Just work out a deal, guys, and end it before it gets nastier.

Jay
December 30, 2015 1:24 pm

#27 You got it right in your last sentence. Why? Because they have apparently decided these things are going to far and want to put a stop to it. That’s my guess.

Either way, no one has a right to make a Star Trek movie or TV show except Paramount and CBS. Just like you can’t make your own Star Wars, or James Bond, etc. production.

Techinically you can’t even make something deemed “substaintially similar” to another existing film or tv show even if you change the name.

Just because Paramount and CBS have until now decided to look the other way doesn’t mean anyone has the right to do it.

J
December 30, 2015 1:24 pm

Well, fans can at least whip up a petition to CBS/Paramount to let Axanar live on I guess

Robman007
December 30, 2015 1:30 pm

Folks should check out some tweets by Tony Todd before making any judgments. Interesting comments.

KennyB
December 30, 2015 1:32 pm

I was really looking forward to seeing the finished product but the more I read the more it seems that something not kosher may be going on. I loved prelude……but it seems they may have overstepped in a few areas. I just hope that financially everything was done properly. I hate to think people are profiting off fans donations.

Disinvited
December 30, 2015 1:34 pm

#16. Richard Blanchard – December 30, 2015

“What does that mean? Substantially similar to what?” — Richard Blanchard

I agree. The filing seems to refer to AXANAR as “AXANAR MOTION PICTURE” merely as a pretext to justify Paramount joining in on this.

Peters likely will not prevail in as far as getting his project made, but he can sure gum up their works by asking the court to rule on exactly which plaintiff has which rights upon which AXANAR supposedly infringed before awarding either of them an injunction?

Jay
December 30, 2015 1:35 pm

This isn’t because Paramount or CBS was worried that this Axanar film was good, or better than STB or would confuse people or anything like that.

The reality is that practically no one knows these things even exist.

No, the problem is that Axanar was building a full fledged production studio and producing a feature film about something that they didn’t have the licensed right to do.

Paramount and CBS simply decided that a line had been crossed. What that line is, is up to them. They probably decided that letting this go would encourage more of them, and ever increasing in budget and size. So they probably decided enough was enough and stop it before it went any further.

KennyB
December 30, 2015 1:35 pm

@32–Yup……..when one of your main actors steps away and drops hints like he is doing today it makes you wonder what is REALLY going on. Plus the fact that nobody mentioned Tony leaving……….

Robman007
December 30, 2015 1:37 pm

@33 Kenny B…

Yeah, this suit along with Mr Todds comments are painting a bad picture.

I’m not sure fans understand that the rights holders will shut something down quick if it looks like it might cause huge potential damage. A crowd funding scandal would cause the franchise damage.

Jay
December 30, 2015 1:39 pm

#34 – I don’t understand why this is so hard to understand.

You can’t make a movie/tv show that is substantially similar to a copyright work.

If I made a movie called Star Journey about a space ship from earth with Captain Dirk and his emotionless side kick from another planet Mr. Spoke, it would be substantially similar to Star Trek and would be copyright infringment.

There are many examples of this in film, literature and music.

The fact that Axanar was using the Star Trek name, and characters and fictional locations that are in Star Trek, makes this an easy case to prove substantial similarity.

Vultan
December 30, 2015 1:39 pm

#30

I don’t know how it’s changed since Disney bought Lucasfilm, but plenty of Star Wars fan productions were made with Lucas’ approval. They even provided sound effects for download and held fan film competitions.

Just depends of the size of the productions, I suppose. Axanar got too big, and a big fish can’t stand having another big-ish fish in the same pond.

(FYI, if you live in Canada, you can make your own James Bond productions now since the copyrights for some of Fleming’s books have recently expired in that country.)

Ahmed
December 30, 2015 1:39 pm

@35. Jay,

“This isn’t because Paramount or CBS was worried that this Axanar film was good, or better than STB or would confuse people or anything like that.

The reality is that practically no one knows these things even exist.”

Yeah, that must be the reason ‘Axanar’ managed to raise more than $1million on Kickstarter and Indiegogo!

NuFan
December 30, 2015 1:42 pm

Tony Todd, it’s up to you to tell us the truth! Those Axanar creeps never will!

Disinvited
December 30, 2015 1:43 pm

# 29. Vultan – December 30, 2015

” I suppose the people behind Axanar could take this as a compliment. Their fan film looked too good, too professional. So much so the studio suits were worried it would be mistaken for the real thing? Well, if that’s the case, rather than sue Alec Peters, hire him!” — Vultan

Hmmm…II does give me pause to wonder if that’s what this is: a grab to acquire sets, props, and production facilities in a settlement, that will be put into play in CBS’ new series?

wpDiscuz