The Star Trek franchise has a long and storied history that goes beyond that of the screens of our TVs and the cinema. Beyond the show, there is the fandom, and beyond any fandom comes tons and tons of fan fiction. Waves of "official" Star Trek properties have come and gone - the J.J. Abrams directed reboot series being the latest iteration, with a new entry coming next month. But the fan fiction has always been there, with the most notable recent entry being Star Trek: Axanar, a planned feature length film, which raised a whopping $500,000 on crowdfunding site IndieGoGo.
Displeased that an unofficial work was being pursued at this level, Trek owners Paramount Pictures and CBS launched a copyright infringement lawsuit against the production. This hasn't been received well by much of the Star Trek fandom, who clearly have an appetite for this type of content. Even Justin Lin, director of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, and J.J. Abrams went to bat for the Axanar fan film. In an attempt to compromise, Paramount laid out a list of guidelines yesterday for legal production of fan fiction. These include a limit of a $50,000 budget and a story no longer than 30 minutes long.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit against Axanar is still ongoing. Bleeding Cool received a statement from Axanar Producer Alec Peters concerning the development. Unsurprisingly, he's none too happy:
After a review of CBS and Paramount’s announcement of their guidelines for Star Trek fan films, I’m really disappointed that this set of guidelines represents the studios’ best efforts on behalf of fans. These guidelines appear to have been tailor-made to shut down all of the major fan productions and stifle fandom. In no way can that be seen as supportive or encouraging, which is very disheartening.
While CBS and Paramount claim to want to encourage the passion of fans to produce “reasonable fan fiction”, the restrictions presented do just the opposite, willfully ignoring over forty years of fan works that helped buoy the Star Trek franchise through some very lean years and enthusiastically spread the magic of the franchise in more plentiful times.
Around the franchise’s 50th anniversary, we would have hoped CBS and Paramount would have taken this opportunity to unite with Star Trek fans in celebration of their creativity, not seek to crush it.
Despite the uncertainty of the project's legal standing, Peters makes some valid points. Star Trek has not always been a priority for its owners, despite the consistent appetite for it. Some of Paramount/CBS's demands seem reasonable, like the expectation that these fan films be non-profit affairs, and that they advertise themselves as works of fan fiction. But whether or not the restrictions placed beyond that will actually help protect the reputation of the IP is unknowable without a peer-reviewed study to back it up.
It's possible Paramount and CBS are just being touchy about fans succeeding in areas that they haven't. At a budget of half a million dollars, might Araxnar provide an experience more enjoyable to fans than the official properties? It's likely they don't want to take the risk of the comparison.
How much freedom should fans be given over their own riffs on popular material? Let us know what you think in the comments, and stay tuned to Screen Rant for updates to this development.
Star Trek Beyond opens in U.S. theaters on July 22, 2016. The new Star Trek TV show will debut on CBS in January 2017.
Source: Bleeding Cool