The magic of movies has the power to inspire viewers in a myriad of ways. Becoming enamored by a far away universe or memorable character at a young age molds a person in a certain manner, and can even influence their career choice. Many directors working in Hollywood today can point to a certain project or two that led them down the path to making their own movies, hoping to inspire a generation of youngsters with captivating stories that thrill and excite.
Star Trek is a franchise that's certainly had an impact on several viewers. For 50 years now, audiences have followed the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew on both TV and the movie theater. Original series star William Shatner believes that the property has endured that long because of the passionate fan response and the way it's resonated with so many since its inception. Producer Alec Peters and a team of professional filmmakers hoped to pay homage to Trek via the crowdsourced project, Star Trek: Axanar, but Paramount and CBS took legal action against them, citing copyright infringement. Now, Peters has filed a defense against the lawsuit.
In a press release, Axanar announced that Winston & Strawn will serve as their legal counsel in the case. The firm describes themselves as one of the leading IP (intellectual property) practices in the United States:
Valencia, CA-based Axanar Productions has engaged Winston & Strawn as legal counsel to help defend it against claims made by Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios, Inc.
Alec Peters, Executive Producer of AXANAR, a feature-length film financed through crowd funding and direct donations from fans, announced today that the company producing the film, Axanar Productions, has engaged Winston & Strawn, one of the leading IP practices in the country, to provide legal counsel in its lawsuit with CBS Studios, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation. Representing Axanar Productions and Peters will be attorneys Erin Ranahan and Andrew Jick from the firm's Los Angeles office.
When Paramount and CBS lodged their complaint, they stated that Axanar would be “using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes,” if it were to be produced and distributed. For their part, Axanar Productions maintained that they would not back down, refusing to let the lawsuit dissuade them from their objectives. They're now gearing up to take on the corporations in court, a David v. Goliath case that literally pits the studios against the fan base that helped them achieve success over a period of decades. Needless to say, there will be a lot of interest in how it turns out.
Peters has mentioned in the past that CBS has a "long history of accepting fan films," but it appears his Axanar idea hits too close to home. It's an ambitious, professionally made independent movie (not your typical fan film) with a script that has generated an enthusiastic response. Peters believes that his screenplay has probably made CBS realize "we're just making their brand that much better." In a year where Paramount is releasing Star Trek Beyond in theaters, one can understand why the studios would be keen on eliminating it. They want the focus to be on their project instead of one that in all likelihood is getting stronger buzz than Beyond (if the teaser trailer is any indication).
As fans await to see what happens, the dream will be that Peters and his team are allowed to continue working on their film. There really isn't any conceivable reason why the two can't coexist. We live in a world where Lucasfilm puts together the Star Wars Fan Film Awards, celebrating the creativity that aspiring filmmakers display while encouraging others to make their own movies. The lawsuit gives the impression that Paramount is not confident in Beyond's potential quality and want to put the kibosh on Axanar before it overshadows what they're working on. But in reality, the release of Axanar wouldn't diminish interest for Beyond that much (if at all) because Justin Lin's film will have a highly-visible marketing campaign that reaches millions. Paramount and CBS should just let Peters' vision live long and prosper.
We'll keep you updated on Star Trek: Axanar. In the meantime, Star Trek Beyond is scheduled to hit theaters July 22, 2016.
Source: Axanar Productions