Harlan Ellison Settles Lawsuit With CBS & Paramount

Back in March we reported that Harlan Ellison was suing CBS and Paramount for merchandising royalties related to his classic episode "City on the Edge of Forever." Yesterday on his site, Ellison announced the suite was "over" and that he was "pleased with the outcome" and that there would be an agreed statement coming.  


Harlan Gets Paid
Harlan’s suit alleged that CBS and Paramount owed him money for merchandise, especially the the "Crucible" trilogy of books from 2006, written by David R. George III. In a press release back in March, Ellison was clear what his goal was, noting:

It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, its about the MONEY! Pay Me!

So, apparently, that is what has happened. Harlan Ellison wrote the following on his website on Thursday


Is over. I am pleased with the outcome. An "agreed-upon statement" will be coming from me and my attorney John Carmichael, and CBS / Paramount today or in the next two-three days. It is carefully worded. Wait for it. But, at bottom, three years’ litigation is completed.

Lordy, I am tired..

No details on the settlement (and it is likely they will never be released), but as the video below shows, Harlan likes to get paid.

More Harlan
Want more Harlan? The above video is from the 2008 documentary "Dreams With Sharp Teeth", which is available on DVD. You can pick it up at Amazon. Here is a trailer, which includes a bit with Star Trek vet Ron Moore.

Buy it on Amazon, clicking the link means that TrekMovie gets paid, so Harlan would approve!


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That is great news! I am happy for everybody who is involved in this matter.


I agree with Harlan.
Hope he buys himself a nice piece of Trek memorabilia with his moolah.

Ellison rocks. That video is priceless and he is absolutely right.

Remember the Kelvin!

HAHAHA! Ellison is great.

I LOVE Harlan’s honesty!

I’m impressed that Harlan faithfully defends the rights of creative people. I’m unimpressed with his mouth and his attitude.

I didn’t watch the video, but in the past I’ve found the dude’s language too arrogant and foul. It’s not edgy and hip to swear every other word — it’s low and trashy.

This is why the new movie has been delayed. Paramount needed to clear up their legal problems with Ellison before green lighting the re-imagination of “City on the Edge of Forever” with Megan Fox as Edith Keeler.

There’s nothing edgy OR trashy about swearing.

So….no more “City on the Edge of Forever” related material…….ever?

Harlan Ellison seems to be the kind of person that I could not spend spend 2 minutes with before I hated him. Glad he got his money and all, but what a d**khead.

There are was of being tenacious without being an ass. Harlan has never been able to do that. Still, I’m glad he’s won out on this.

#8 CJS … uh oh, you used the title of the episode and the name of one of the characters without permission. No doubt the lawsuit has already been filed….

#13. But he didn’t say “Sister Edith Keeler” and the “Guardians”.

Uh, oh. Ooof!

ah yes, cordwainer bird and his lawsuit. i honestly don’t know what my opinion of him is. from what i’ve read and stuff, city on the edge of forever was drastically re-written by rodenberrry or something and so the one that we know and love isn’t realy all that much of ellison’s work. but i don’t know, i wasn’t there :)

Harlan forever, baby. Harlan FTW :)

After watching that video with Harlan, I have the following to say:

I agree with him 100% on that writers, cameramen, actors, directors all should get payed for their work. If it were up to me, i’d pay the writers and directors and actors directly out of my pocket. But instead, we are forced to pay the big companies like Paramount, Warner Bros etc, who THEN decide on how much they’re gonna pay the actors, writers etc.

What I don’t agree on, is his attitude. Watching that video, it’s quite noticeable that Harlan is a huge d–k and I would not want to spend more than 5 seconds in a room with him.

I know I’m alone here, but Ellison sounds like a money-grubbing jerk to me. I discussed this when the issue was first brought up but since then I’ve learned this is hardly new for him. He pulled a similar stunt back in the 1980s with the first Terminator film, which he alleged was based on two of his episodes for the Twlight Zone.

Note that the actual owners of the Twilight Zone never made the charge and that the episodes in question bear no more resemblance to The Terminator than any number of other generic science fiction stories about time travelers or future soldiers (they don’t, for instance, involve a time-traveling robotic assassin sent to kill a future leader). And that James Cameron has already told us where he came up with the idea (from a fever-induced nightmare).

There’s also how he treated Penny Arcade’s Gabe at a convention.

Really, Ellison’s got a pretty insufferable ego from what I can tell. Which is too bad, really. He’s done some good work (though I think he’s generally overrated).

Good Job Harlen. You made more money on an episode you supposedly hate from a series you supposedly hate.

Harlan DESERVES to get paid.

…just like Jack Kirby’s kids…


#19 Whoa now… of course, Harlan was one of the key SciFi authors who helped lead the letter campaign the first time around to keep NBC from killing the show.

Imagine if there’d only been the first season, and no second. (Okay, some of us could do without the third…)

Harlan did some good. He got in a fuss with Roddenberry. He’s not the first, nor the last, just the loudest. The sad part is, he always blamed Gene for the rewrites on City. Turns out, the rewrite part was from one of the people on the Trek staff he respected, D.C. Fontana. Of course, she was following Gene’s orders. I suspect Gene was busy, erm, hrm, hrm, with seeing to the casting of certain, erm, actresses.

Anyway… good for all parties. Plus, it means Harlan probably gave something up… maybe clearance for written works to build on Sister Edith, and also the Guardian”s” of Forever. Surely there’s not just one!


..being f**ked over CAN tend to make one a bit dick-ish…

If this means we will be seeing the Guardian of Forever again ON SCREEN in a future Star Trek movie or series then this is great news!

The Guardian of Forever will be appearing in STO, so it’s not exactly a surprise that CBS/Paramount would’ve had to make some kind of deal with Mr Greedy Ellison.

7. “It’s not edgy and hip to swear every other word — it’s low and trashy.”

You should have read the script Orci & Kurtzman wrote for Star Trek ’09. ;-) Haven’t read so many swear words in a script in a long time. Low and trashy indeed.

18. Nivenus

Perhaps, it would be harder for people to ignore your views if you put more effort into your fact checking?

The episodes in question were written for THE OUTER LIMITS tv series.

I wonder if Harlan will get extra money from future ST movies where the Guardian of Forever is featured. Any ideas?

The Guardian of Forever has been used in souvenirs like Hallmark Christmas ornaments and in things like Star Trek: The Exhibit. It’s about time that Harlan Ellison got paid his royalties.

Ok. For all of you who said and have used City on the edge of forever or The guardien or Edith Keeler then you are all in Very Bigh trouble. Im sure by now Lawsuits are on there way to you.

Oh wait. Im in trouble to. I used those words to. Oh great. Maybe i can do something with the Agoniser Booth.

21 – Um what? That sounds like something Harlan would never do.

He’s a detestable greedy whore.

H.E. to Anthony: “So, you had 2 clips, with an all-you-can-eat supply of f-bombs (a wise selection, by the way) and a dose of paranoia on the side? That means you owe me $4,565.67.”

31. jocor

And what does that make the huge multi-national conglomerate that licenced usage of Mr Ellison’s material without caring about the legalities?

Right now I’m a few hundred pounds in the red and owed about £4,000 by various parties. I tend to get pretty pee-ed off too when I don’t get paid.

Quite simply, if you own the rights to something or you appeared in something and haven’t signed those rights away, you absolutely should be paid.

Good on Harlan!

How about that? ELLISON WINS AGAIN!

Go get ’em, Harlan!

I am split on this. I agree that he deserves to be paid A LOT for City On The Edge Of Forever. But deserving does not necessarily mean he legally has it coming. If he signed a contract with Paramount and signed over the rights to the story for X amount of money back in the 1960s, then that’s it. It’s done. Paramount owns the rights, and all elements in the story.

I’m guessing that Paramount might have settled for who-knows-how-much to get rid of the nuisance of the lawsuit. But Harlan is right–in that these people –do– deserve more for what they do, and deserve better contracts and pay!

26. My mistake.

I read “TWILIGHT ZONE” for some reason (I actually did check, I just misread).


Jim Cameron freely admitted that he took ‘inspiration’ from Harlan’s stories. It was never a fact in dispute.

“All is as it was before …”

Harlan = Toady

I don’t understand how Harlan is owed money for another writer using “concepts” established in the original series canon. Does Gene Roddenberry’s heirs deserve backpay every time dilythium crystals are mentioned?

Does Harlan Ellison get any money from the Terminator franchise, or is the credit added to the first movie all he got?

I think this is the thing that bothers me the most about Ellison’s case: generally, when a writer sells a script to a property, the studio becomes sole heirs to that property and are free to use it how they see fit. I’m sure when Ellison sold the original script for City he was well paid for the time. He got money for the script and Desilu studios become owners of the property. It seems rather disingenuous to me to go back after the fact screaming over something that became far more popular than you envisioned and now try to glom on to the money train because you now feel like you’re owed even more.

Sorry Ellison… you sold the script. You signed the contract. Unless you specifically had it spelled out that you still had intellectual rights to elements of the script, they just aren’t yours anymore.

Imagine what would happen to Star Trek (or ANY long-running serial that uses multiple writers) if every author who submitted a script was allowed to own every idea from that script into perpetuity. I think the next Trek movie would be quite different as the guy who created the idea for the Klingons decides he wants a bigger cut of the pie. And the guy who imagined the Warp Drive. And the writer who coined the term “phaser.” And Heaven help us if D.C. Fontana’s estate decides that anything Vulcan-related is hers.

If this were to happen, it would be impossible for any show, not just Star Trek, to build any kind of continuity or canon. Because as soon as a show in Season 5 mentioned something another writer coined in Season 3, the Season 3 author could sue claiming he was owned royalties.

So to me this is a huge case of long-standing sour grapes. The Roddenberry/Fontana re-write of his story became hugely popular, probably moreso than he ever envisioned and now he feels like he’s owed something anytime somebody mentions the words Edith Keeler. Sorry… that’s just not the way it works.

I’m sure that Paramount settled just to get rid of this suit… but they may be opening a very dangerous can of worms. Certainly, going forward, contracts for writers will be must more stringently worded to prevent this kind of lawsuit… but one must wonder about the claims that writers of shows from days gone by are thinking about now… how they can claim another piece of the action (sorry, had to do it!)

I truly do not mean for this to be a mean or racist comment as it’s an observation but Ellison doesn’t exactly fight against the “Jews are greedy money-lovers” stereotype.

Well, it is both a mean and bigoted comment nonetheless.

Ellison and Sturgeon were by far the best writers ever associated with Star Trek.

Harlan can suck it.

I don’t see Gene Coon’s estate lining up to get his share every time Klingons are used.

Harlan Ellison is a very little man.

With the exception of Bradbury, Ellison may be America’s greatest author.

The Starlost (1973)

Episode Four: “Bored, So Bored”
by Cordwainer Bird

Devon: “Guys, we’ve been standing in front of this fakey-looking chroma key for 17 minutes, just talking about whether we should or shouldn’t move on to the next domed civilization.”

Rachel: “That’s because Toronto International Television Syndicators won’t spend more than $16.35 (Canadian) per episode. What do you want me to do about it?”

Garth: “Anything to break the monotony. I know: Touch me where I pee.”

Cordwainer Bird: “Lord, you mannequins are killing my material. Good thing I have it copyrighted, so I’ll make it up on the other end.”

Oro: “You mean anytime anyone writes something like “touch me where I pee” you get money?”

Cordwainer Bird: “Writes it, says it, thinks it, f*$%ing inscribes it in the snow! I GET PAID!”

Oro: “Touch me where I pee.”

Cordwainer Bird: “Ten bucks. U.S., not that maple syrup monopoly money with the frigid chick on it.”

Oro: “Fair enough.” (hands over some cash)

Cordwainer Bird: “This a twenty.”

Oro: “Keep it. I’ve got plans. Rachel, I want to show you something I learned between takes on Star Trek…”

Cordwainer Bird: “You ask her to “swivel me to heaven, my spaceman” and it’s another twenty. That b#@$ard Roddenberry totally wasted my love scene between Kirk and Edith.”

I enjoyed his compo-book “An Edge In Me Voice” and I probably will get that D-VD “Dreams wit’ Sharp Teeth” fur’ Christmas…


Well, sue CBS and win, good fur’ ye’…

Sue BND fur’ hidin’ in a woman’s closet whilst her husband comes home and she still be hummin’ him… Hey- I have a mouth and I must scream!
Sue Harla-quinn fur’ that gent shootin’ me in tha’ buttocks…

Wait… guess that wuz’ me own bad. Gotta’ take credit whar’ credit be due…

Oh, Ell’s best book: Mind Fields- artist Jacek Yerka…. Harlan’s story called “Susan” is truly wondrous and lovely… my favourite of his collected massive works…

Other than that… whar’s tha edge in yer voice, matey???? Arrrrr ye’ too busy debatin’ Shatner vs. Pine and can’t go oot’ and beat some inept tv execs wit’ a basey-ball bat?


Life is a messy journey. Best ta’ batter up.