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CBS, Paramount Say Axanar Lawsuit Isn’t Over, Move on to Discovery

Exterior of U.S. Courthouse, Central District of California, Los Angeles. Source: https://flic.kr/p/6iVEdB. Edited: Cropped; logo overlaid.

Despite the announcement by JJ Abrams that Paramount and CBS would be seeking to end the lawsuit brought against Star Trek fan film Axanar and its creator Alec Peters, the studios are pushing on with the suit, which has moved on to the discovery phase. In a statement, the studios confirmed that the legal action against Axanar and Peters “remains pending”.

CBS and Paramount Pictures filed on June 15, 2016 their Answer to the counterclaim filed by Axanar’s attorneys, denying the copyright lawsuit is done, despite the protests of producer J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin.

The counterclaim was filed by Axanar and Peters and is essentially a suit by the defendants against the plaintiffs, reversing roles and with its own timetable. This means that, while CBS and Paramount originally brought suit against Axanar, Axanar turned around and sued them right back.

In the studios’ Answer, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Loeb & Loeb, responded directly to the counterclaim, denying many of the allegations therein.

The answer was filed 21 days after the counterclaim was served on the plaintiffs by Axanar attorneys Winston & Strawn, who have the opportunity to respond before the case was to continue into discovery.

The Counterclaim

In their counterclaim, the defendants, producer Alec Peters and his Axanar Productions alleged they have:

  • “A real and reasonable apprehension” they face additional litigation if they proceed with Axanar.
  • Put Axanar on hold until the studios provide “necessary guidance” to prevent the defendants increasing their liability.
  • Grounds for a declaratory judgment that Prelude to Axanar, the Axanar screenplays, its “Vulcan Scene,” and any other alleged infringing works are not “substantially similar” to Star Trek, or constitute fair use under copyright law.

The Studios’ Response

In their eight-page response, CBS and Paramount generally denied Axanar’s claims, especially challenging Axanar’s assertion that “until this lawsuit, Plaintiffs, or any predecessor claiming to own copyrights in the Star Trek universe, had never filed a lawsuit against any Star Trek fan in connection with that fan’s efforts to contribute to the wealth of Star Trek fan fiction that currently exists.” Instead, the plaintiffs replied:

[The studios] admit that they have not sued with respect to all uses of the Star Trek Copyrighted Works, but deny that they have not previously sued to enforce their intellectual property rights in the Star Trek Copyrighted Works.

Tolerated Use
The plaintiffs disputed Peters’ claim that given his “extensive history with CBS,” he believed he was “operating within the tolerated realm of Star Trek fan fiction,” and that he “reached out to CBS on multiple occasions in an effort to seek guidelines about the production.” Instead, they stated:

[The plaintiffs] deny that Defendant Alec Peters “reached out to CBS” on multiple occasions, admit that Defendant Alec Peters spoke to [CBS officials] Bill Burke and to John Van Citters, but state that Mr. Peters was never given permission to use Star Trek Copyrighted Works, nor was he provided with “guidelines” regarding ways in which he could use Plaintiffs’ intellectual property for his Star Trek film projects, for either commercial or non-commercial use, nor was he told that his use of such Star Trek Copyrighted Works would be tolerated.

The studios also denied Peters’ version of his August 2015 meeting with CBS officials, from which he claimed he received no warning he had “gone too far,” despite his “years … of contributions in support of both CBS and Paramount.”

Instead, the plaintiffs denied that they did not “‘express any concerns’ to Peters prior to this lawsuit.”

Overstatement
In the counterclaim, Peters described his previous association with CBS as his “expertise” regarding Star Trek props and costumes, “recognized by CBS when they hired him to sell the assets of the Star Trek Experience [sic],” volunteering to help CBS cataloging its Star Trek prop and costume archive and donating his warehouse to house some objects.

Instead, the plaintiffs minimized their experience with Peters: “[We] admit that CBS Consumer Products Inc. worked in the past in a limited capacity with a company with which Alec Peters was involved,” otherwise lacking information to substantiate his other claims.

Abrams-Lin Intercession
On May 20, 2016, Star Trek producer Abrams claimed the case was “going away … within the next few weeks,” by which Axanar claimed Abrams and Lin had “publicly renounced” the suit.

Instead, the plaintiffs stated that while Abrams’ and Lin’s public statements “speak for themselves,” otherwise the plaintiffs denied Abrams and Lin had renounced the suit.

With regard to its “uncertainty as to how Axanar may proceed with its film,” the plaintiffs stated “their [legal] action remains pending.”

Relief

Axanar also sought the following as relief from the court:

  • Declaration that the Axanar works do not infringe on Star Trek copyrights.
  • Defendants’ Attorneys’ fees and costs.
  • Additional relief the court finds “just, proper, and equitable.”

In reply, the plaintiffs generally denied Axanar’s fair use defense under copyright law and denied the defendants “are entitled to any relief whatsoever.”

Next Steps

Axanar’s attorneys have the opportunity to file a response to the plaintiffs’ pleading as the case formally moves into discovery.

In the meantime, settlement talks are said to be continuing between the parties. If successfully concluded, the two sides could each drop their complaint and counterclaim. Otherwise, the case continues on its schedule toward trial in January 2017.

This article is cross posted at Axamonitor.

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Emperor Mike of the Terran Empire

I think it’s time to bring in the Big Gun’s. Samuel T Cogley. He can get this Resolved.

Just Another Salt Vampire

Unfortunately he won’t be available for another 300 years or so.

lol

Emperor Mike of the Terran Empire Today 8:07 pm

Ha!

Rumors of the settlement are greatly exaggerated…..

Seriously, guys, if you are settling, hammer out the details and move on…

Peters — you should have shut up and let Paramount come up the guidelines.

Peters has already tried throwing the rest of the fan productions under the bus to save his ass. I want to see him smacked down hard to get him out of all our faces. If he gets Continues or New Voyages shut down, I will go after him myself.

Peters isn’t worth the trouble Al.

He’s absolutely worth the trouble to shut down, because if you don’t, he’ll be back, ruining more people’s lives and suckering more (or more of the same) lemmings.

Am not understanding why at least RMB wasn’t listed as a Doe in the original suit, he shouldn’t weasel out of this either.

kmart,

Re: He’s absolutely worth the trouble to shut down

Does this mean that while you wouldn’t return your recently purchased blu-ray of THE WRATH OF KHAN DIRECTOR’S CUT because of the Sulu glitch that you will be returning it because Peters’ smiling mug contaminates it in the “Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics” feature?

kmart,

Re: Does

The reason RMB wasn’t listed is the same reason the other Does weren’t: CBS/Paramount let the May 25th deadline come and go without naming them.

axamonitor.com/doku.php?id=does

The suspected Doe, RMB, and the others are in the clear in regards to this lawsuit.

I think Mr Peters is doing a great job defending all Star Trek fan films againt the corporate greed of Paramount/CBS.

New Voyages is already shut down. James Cawley called it quits a few weeks ago. It’s done. Calwey’s group was to be paramount in the production of Axanar, but Cawley (citing “politics” and “joylessness”) closed up shop. In other words, Alex Peters made things so miserable that they shut down.

The lawsuit is already killing the fandom. NV/P2 is gone.

That’s funny. When I met Brandon Stacy and Robert Withrow at Wonderfest on June 5 they were talking about the impending release of “Torment of Destiny”as well as plans to film another episode

New voyages isn’t done. Stop your propaganda

Alex Peters needs to just SHUT UP already. He’s ruining things for fan productions everywhere with his unwarranted arrogance, dishonest statements, waste of court time, and pocketing of donated funds.

Thank you for saying it Dandru! I agree very much.

Whats with all the hate? Mr Peters made an awesome fan film. Did he pay himself? Of course. In our world you can not life without money. I guarantee you that the other crowdfunded fan films paid their people too.

I think its great that Axanar was honest enough and told everybody how the funds were used. You can learn a bit from Mr Peters about decency.

Olsen, you can also learn, apparently, what it’s like when you don’t KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT from Alec Peters. It seemed as though Paramount/CBS top brass acknowledged JJ/Lim’s comments in the beginning but he couldn’t leave well enough alone! He went for broke and filed a countersuit. Now, this whole thing about “it’s part of the legal process” they brought about was absolute bogus! CBS/Paramount expressed interest in dropping back and, like a bird of prey, Alec fired all weapons and restarted the whole mess AGAIN!

As a result, they alienated James Cawley, Alec’s production partner who was contributing generously to Axanar, and the politics of the whole business forced Cawley to END New Voyages/Phase II. So NVP2 is GONE thanks to this lawsuit.

The hate is justified.

I am sorry that New Voyages is ending, I liked it. But to make a direct connection to Mr. Peters seems wrong. Why should he keep his mouth shut? He is a free man living in the country of freedom and everything he said concerned the future of his project. Maybe Mr Cawley did not agree with his views but that is no reason to say Mr Peters destroyed New Voyages. So far Mr Peters has done nothing illegal or morally wrong, so I just don’t get the witch hunt on many sites.

To me personally Mr Peters made a very cool Star Trek fan film and couragesly defends his own rights against media conglomerates. We should thank him for fighting the fight for all future fan filmers.

“So far Mr Peters has done nothing illegal” – He sold branded Star Trek merchandise (the ground coffee) without a licensing agreement from CBS and Paramount. That is copyright infringement, which is quite illegal. I would also argue it is morally wrong to attempt to profit from bootleg sales (of the aforementioned coffee).

Rob,

The coffee was NOT “branded” STAR TREK and even if it had been, branding is covered solely by Trademark law which neither CBS nor Paramount found merited pursuing in their lawsuit.

For it to infringe on the limited monopoly granted filmed works by copyright law, the Axanar that it was actually named would have had to have been described pictorially or in verbiage on screen in enough detail that the courts would declare it to be readily identified as “character” as the court recently declared The Batmobile. Barring that, names and titles are not copyrightable. It is an interesting aspect of copyright law that while the Axanar Coffee is not evidence of a copyright limited monopoly violation in and of itself, if the court finds that Peters other acts of film production are, indeed, a violation of CBS’ Garth character and his story’s copyrights then the court can use the coffee labelled AXANAR’s existence as a contributing act to increase the penalties.

It is also morally wrong to offer as fact an opinion that someone is guilty of breaking laws, which you yourself clearly do not understand, before he’s had his day in court.

Jesus I thought this was over?????? Way to go Lin and Abrams, must have egg on your faces but at least you tried.

This has gotten ridiculous. For something that cost around the same of a commercial to make and will be thrown up on Youtube. Maybe they can work out a deal any proceeds the film gets from YT viewings will shared with Paramount/CBS or something. Or just drop the production and move on.

Axanar are the ones who haven’t dropped the countersuit.

Thanks for posting that link Vanguard! Anyone and everyone speculating about this case should read that article you linked to, as it clearly spells out what’s at play here. Essentially, things still look good for an amicable settlement here, whilst both sides have merely been sticking to procedural rules. So, everyone’s essentially making sure they’ve collectively covered their backsides legally, before making nice with each other, per the established procedures and rules of the California court system.

Axanar have filed a counterclaim — not a countersuit.

“Counterclaim:
Definition: A claim for relief filed against an opposing party after the original claim is filed. Most commonly, a claim by the defendant against the plaintiff.”

source: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/counterclaim

A counterclaim is procedural within an action. A countersuit would be a separate action.

Dave Olden,

The source of your definition is “… a small research, engineering, and editorial group housed at the Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY … Founded in 1992, ”

Here’s what the oldest publishing house in the world that’s been publishing free on-line dictionaries since 1995 has to say about your claim that counter-suit has a meaning apart from counterclaim:

“a legal claim that you make as a reaction to a claim made against you
(Definition of counter-suit from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)”

source: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/counter-suit

Contrary to what you assert, it appears to be a synonym.

Thank you, Disinvited, for providing a counterclaim to my proposed definition.

Now where’s a lawyer when we need one….?

“Counterclaim:
A claim by a defendant opposing the claim of the plaintiff and seeking some relief from the plaintiff for the defendant.

A counterclaim contains assertions that the defendant could have made by starting a lawsuit if the plaintiff had not already begun the action. It is governed by many of the same rules that regulate the claims made by a plaintiff except that it is a part of the answer that the defendant produces in response to the plaintiff’s complaint. In general a counterclaim must contain facts sufficient to support the granting of relief to the defendant if the facts are proved to be true…”

Source: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/counterclaim

Think of a counterclaim as analogous to a rebuttal in a debate, and a countersuit as analogous to beginning another debate entirely. In a countersuit, the defendant becomes the new plaintiff, initiating the action.

I think that this is the case of being, if you excuse the expression, in the middle of a pissing contest.

Contrary to the ignorance being espoused here in the comment section, from a legal perspective the Axanar side HAD NO CHOICE BUT to counter, as the court was unflinching regardless of the announcement JJ made. How else was the Axanar legal team suppose to proceed, if not with a strong legal defense?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160527/01543034561/star-trek-fan-film-axanar-lawyers-tell-court-about-jj-abrams-claims-paramount-dropping-suit-express-confusion.shtml

They should have proceeded by stopping production, admitting their wrongdoing and refunding all donor money.

@Torchwood, A-yup.

@Marja and @Torchwood…A-nope.

Do yourselves a favor and read Vanguard’s link, as it pretty clearly explains that both contesting sides were simply following legally established procedural rules.

Vanguard’s link for ya two again, since either you missed it the first time or perhaps reading is hard for you two: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160527/01543034561/star-trek-fan-film-axanar-lawyers-tell-court-about-jj-abrams-claims-paramount-dropping-suit-express-confusion.shtml

…And Peters was the one who played fast-and-loose with a property that doesn’t belong to him. Why do you think Axanar is the focus point in all this, compared to other productions?

IP law and copyright law is not black and white. As you can see from the lawsuit Paramount does not even know what they own in copyright and what they do not. (Klingon language, pointy ears,…) Do not give giant coporations like Paramount more than they deserve. Figtht for your own rights.

Smart a$$ jerk (Methos)

That’s BS, Vanguard! They had every choice! They had a solid defense when they released their initial answer to the court and CBS/Paramount choked! While the judge was still going to hear this circus show just to see where it would go, the plaintiffs had no ground to stand on. This whole “part of the legal process” thing about the countersuit is smoke!

Immediately after the JJ announcement, CBS and Paramount acknowledged the withdraw of the lawsuit and also acknowledged the beginning of settlement talks. Apparently, it was Alec Peters who wasn’t having it and he pressed on with the dang countersuit in the first place!

Because of this, James Cawley shut down Star Trek New Voayes/Phase II, citing “joylessness” and “politicial problems.” The Cawley Group was to be involved in the production of Axanar in a major way.

It’s a simple case of unqualified armchair lawyering (on your end) versus keeping track of how things are reported and how things are actually turning up (those who invested in Axanar in the beginning). Unless you are a qualified lawyer, AND unless you are involved with this case, calling people “ignorant” because they’re calling it like they see it is the real case of ignorance on here that I see.

“lawsuit is going away”

So sayeth the JJ Abrams and Justin Lin fanboys. Big f–ng liars, the pair of them! That just nailed it for me. Not a dime for Beyond, or CBS All Access. F–k em! And f–k the JJ fanboys too!

Is anyone surprised by this? It’s not the first time that JJ has flat out lied to the fans.

Funny how people like you seems to care more about JJ than about Peters, who started this entire mess by playing fast and loose with a property the is owned by CBS/Paramount.

oh well… I guess Beyond will have to make $500 million without you. lol

You’re deluding yourself if you think Beyond will make anything close to 500 million. But good luck. I hope it tanks, and the JJverse is finally killed off for good.

Two thoughts about this. First, it must be strange to be a genre fan who feels obliged to sh*t on the writing of Simon Pegg. (Have you really never seen Spaced?)

More to the point, while the last movie was a bummer, tonally, and that hurt the box office in North America, Into Darkness still did almost 470m global… That’s not far off 500 in the first place and this one will not be a bummer. It’s clearly meant to be a rousing, anniversary-appropriate caper with a big happy ending. It’s designed to make both longtime fans and casual audience members feel the warm & fuzzies for the big five-oh. It’s gonna do more than 500. If it gets what it wants and replicates the reception of the 25th anniversary movie, it might do quite a bit more than 500.

And you’re deluding yourself if you think that.

We’ll find out sometime after July 22nd which one of us is right. I’ll let you know.

The previous 2 did in total sales, so not very delusional to think this will.

Abrams and Lin said this purely for marketing purposes. They don’t want the ongoing litigation to taint the opening. My guess is they hoped that the lawsuit would stall until the movie was released, but the law has its own time table unfortunately.

You should add “IMO” to your statements. We don’t know anything behind the scenes, on way or another.

This is getting old.

Peters’s “years of contributions” … what, making money from auctioning Trek props and costumes??

So, was this JJ lying again for the benefit of his movie, as with the Khan denial during the STID promotion?

I’m not sure what to make of this.

…Or it could be the case that Peters, who came out with his so-called “guidelines” after JJ’s announcement, pooched the deal, thanks to his ego. What’s with your obsession with Abrams anyway, considering that it was Lin who was the point man on the effort to end this fracas?

Suggesting guidelines as a fan film creator is the right thing to do. All fan film should propose guideline, so that in the end they make sense for everybody.

It’s not “obsessive” to consider that it was JJ who made the announcement. Go back and watch the announcement again. Lin doesn’t say a word. It’s all JJ.

dswynne, yeah I agree with this. I think it has everything to do with Peters, who can’t keep his stupid trap shut, and nothing to do with JJ. Lim and JJ had current information when they made their announcement. If Peters hadn’t filed the countersuit (Vanguard’s link provides a timeline that just doesn’t fit the events that followed the announcement), this WOULD have been going away.

Remember, folks…

JJ announced.
CBS/Paramount acknowledged.
Settlement talks began.
Alec proposed guidelines that CBS rejected.
Alec COUNTERSUES! This was NOT “part of the legal process” – this was reactionary because Peters didn’t get his way when CBS said “try again” to the guidelines!!

As a result, Star Trek Phase II/New Voyages shut down. James Cawley was Peters’ partner in production on Axanar. Cawley didn’t cite the lawsuit directly, but blamed “joylessness” and “politics.”

You hit this one on the head!

Cygnus-X1,

Speaking of Khan, I’d love to be in court when Peter’s team responds to this:

““[We] admit that CBS Consumer Products Inc. worked in the past in a limited capacity with a company with which Alec Peters was involved.” – CBS/Paramount

With:

“You mean the SAME Alec Peters who appeared prominently on your company’s recently remastered Blu-ray of THE WRATH OF KHAN DIRECTOR’S CUT (See: Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics) which your company just released?”

Interesting….

My understanding is that both parties have until May 2017 to resolve this, come to an agreement/settlement, otherwise it goes to Court. If this suit does end up in Court, then, if I were the Judge, I would be slapping a whopping great fine on both parties for not sorting the problems out before then and for wasting the Court’s time.

The Judge threw out Axanar’s countersuit as having no legal standing. However, Paramount/CBS’s original suit was not thrown out. That should tell everyone something relevant and important for a start.

As I said a few weeks ago, Alec Peters has nothing to gloat about. As far as people here claiming that JJ Abrams lied, what about what Peters also said at the time? Are you trying to tell me that Peters knew less about this lawsuit than Abrams did, given that Abrams is neither suing nor being sued?

Keachick,

Re:The Judge threw out Axanar’s countersuit as having no legal standing.

Reread the article and Axamonitor’s coverage. The judge did no such thing.

In other words – if Alec Peters hadn’t filed the countersuit (I knew Peters’ words about “this is normal in a lawsuit” was pure BS), JJ would’ve been right – this WOULD HAVE BEEN going away. Peters just couldn’t leave well enough alone, and now because of HIM (and NO ONE ELSE BUT Alec Peters…)

Renegades is in danger and may be shutting down
New Voyages/Phase II IS shut down
Star Trek Continues remains in uncertainty
Star Trek Intrepid hasn’t shot anything since the lawsuit
Star Trek Horizon got a C&D “suggestion”

And everyone else is too small for Paramount to really care about… but they will soon enough.

Which translates into: If Alec Peters had KEPT HIS DAMN MOUTH SHUT, this lawsuit WOULD have been going away. But the greedy tyrant just wants more! He’s KILLING the fandom and it needs to stop, NOW!

I hope CBS/Paramount DESTROYS him! It’ll be a quick swift end to all this madness!

Destory him? You should target your crazy rage at CBS/Paramount for shutting down fan films or is a company to inpersonal to be a target for your hate?

Listen to yourself. Because one man says his words and defends his own rights the whole fandom collapses? Than its a fandom build on sand. The “grey” situation all fan films were in had to end sometimes because if was a fricking mess.

Blame and destroy Paramount for suing fans, not giving out guidelines, protecting a 50 year old ip with an iron fist, forcing fan films out of business with C&D.

“Forcing fan films out of business”!? The whole problem is that fan films should not be in “business” to begin with. Paramount & CBS are in the right here. Peters is the one who didn’t have enough sense to know when to take his hand out of the cookie jar.

HIS rights? He has none when going this particular route with another’s IP. Add to that every other dirty trick he has pulled in the auction biz and you have a repeat offender mentality that when fused with delusional entitlement, makes for one massive transporter accident of a personality disorder.

Oh look, more JJ / Paramount lies and inaccuracies. Not surprised.

wpDiscuz