On the eve of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary last year, fans of the long-running science fiction franchise were treated to some good news as well as a little bit of bad. A new movie, Star Trek Beyond, was released to positive reviews in July, and with it the promise of a fourth film. Then that same month, the title and premise of a new TV series, Star Trek Discovery, was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con. While we’re still waiting on the exact airdate of what will be the first Star Trek series in almost 12 years, shooting begins next week, and so its debut shouldn’t be too far off.
However, Paramount and CBS taking an interest in the franchise again has also come at a price. For decades now, fan productions have in a way kept the series alive in-between movies and TV shows. The first fan films were made in the ’60s, but lately it’s become much easier and cheaper to create something that looks almost official – and therein lies the problem. In 2014, a fan-made feature film called Star Trek: Axanar raised $1.13 million on Kickstarter, attracting the attention of the studios. Then just as production was getting underway, CBS and Paramount Pictures filed a copyright lawsuit stating that Axanar contained “innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes.”
The lawsuit in late 2015 was followed last year by a new list of fan film guidelines for any non-official Star Trek productions, which the Axanar staff fought back against while they awaited a jury trial scheduled for the 31st of this month. Now according to The Wrap, Paramount Pictures, CBS Studios and producer Alec Peters and his Axanar Productions have instead finally settled the lawsuit rather than go to trial. As part of the settlement, Peters has agreed to make “substantial changes” to Axanar and any future Star Trek fan films produced by him or his company so that they follow the guidelines distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016.
The studios also released a statement supporting fan films (if they abide by the rules):
“Paramount and CBS continue to be big believers in fan fiction and fan creativity. They encourage amateur filmmakers to showcase their passion for Star Trek. Paramount and CBS will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional, amateur, and otherwise meet the Guidelines, which can be found at http://www.startrek.com/fan-films. Paramount and CBS would like Star Trek fans, with their boundless creativity and passion, to ‘Live Long and Prosper.’”
For all intents and purposes, the Axanar team lost the lawsuit, since they’ll still be required to abide by the guidelines. They can continue to show their prequel film Prelude to Axanar on YouTube, as long as it’s commercial free and doesn’t make any money. And the upcoming feature film, which is still in production, can also be released on YouTube, but only as two 15-minute segments without ads as stated in the rules. Most importantly, any props used in the film must be bought through official sources if available, and there also can’t be professional actors in the movies.
These last two guidelines are sure to put a damper on the production of Axanar, since official merchandise will take more money out of the budget and well-known actors were a part of the original cast. They can also only use a maximum of $50,000 to produce the film. While some may say Paramount and CBS’ rules are too strict, Star Trek is their franchise, and they have a right to make sure no one is making money off their product and that no derivatives reflect poorly on their brand. The settlement ensures that fan films remain just that: amateur and created by the fans.
Source: The Wrap