Highly Illogical: Axanar sued by CBS & Paramount

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, for some of us. Axanar however got sued and dragged through daily papers over their most precious project that we’ve all looked forward to (and funded!). You’ve probably already guessed that I’m about to go on a rant over thatlawsuit, and you got it right.

Apparently, we should be thankful since Paramount and CBS tolerated Star Trek fans this far, and we should furthermore be supportive of their decision to sue the first independent Star Trek movie (that we funded!). For those not familiar with the topic, Axanar was supposed to be the first non-commercial, completely fan-made Star Trek movie, set in the same sci-fi universe 21 years prior to the first Star Trek episode.  Despite Paramount and CBS’s past precedent of allowing all fan-made videos and movies, apparently they’ve decided that being a fan of Star Trek is no good – unless it’s profiting them.

A 21 minute long teaser is already released (Prelude to Axanar, a standalone video promoting the full-length feature), and with more than 1.700.000 views thus far is evident that the interest about this awesome, fan-funded, fan-built feature-length Star Trek flick on this topic is huge – and that CBS isn’t doing themselves any favors by pissing off their fans and the internet. In a bit of digression, I personally absolutely love the ‘Wings’ documentary style of Prelude!

How avid are the fans? So avid, they’ve donated over $1 million of crowd funded resources on Kickstarter and Indiegogo who like me, yearn to take a look at this prequel and are more than willing to invest in its production.

In the official statement for investors, Alec Peters and his team behind this project underlined that even though they haven’t obtained the actual rights to use any of the Star Trek features, they still want to make a studio-quality Star Trek movie. This movie would’ve been an entirely fan-made project, but nevertheless the production team was planning on investing in a fully professional crew both in front and behind camera, solely because they wanted to ensure that Star Trek fans will have the opportunity to enjoy the quality that they are accustomed to.

However, Paramount and CBS perceived this as a violation of their intellectual property and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit, this Tuesday.

From their point of view, and as stated in the official complaint, using copyrighted elements of Star Trek, their settings, characters, etc. is a direct infringement of the Plaintiffs’ works. Even if the producers aren’t planning on actually making any profit from this feature, simply using protected intellectual property is still a violation.

Let’s not forget that CBS is already in the process of producing a new Star Trek TV series set to air on CBS streaming platform exclusively in 2017.  And let us not forget Paramount, with their new Star Trek reboot supposedly starting in July.  Are these companies feeling threatened by the quality of a fan-filmed production, or simply deciding to reverse their precedent after decades (most likely in response to feeling threatened by the production quality)?

Ironically, Axanar isn’t even competition for CBS/Paramount.  If anything, it helps them by increasing the fan base and keeping the universe current.  Axanar is being completely fan-funded, and, in respect to the copyright, completely non-profit (operating under the aforementioned precedent set by CBS/Paramount for fan films).

Ultimately, how a non-profit film infringes on Paramount/CBS’s profit margin is unclear (and probably not actually possible).  It’s evident to me that Paramount/CBS has realized a fan film is likely to be better than anything they’ve ever created or will create in the Star Trek universe and want to put a stop to it, rather than attempting to form a mutually beneficial (and possibly profitable) relationship with Axanar’s team.

My suggestion for the CBS and Paramount would be: instead of shutting down Axanar, produce a qualityseries and prove to all of us that you can handle your part of the work, or work with the Axanar team, or both. Don’t just shut down your own fan-base that is actually funding your projects as well – because we can and will boycott your productions. Word on the internet travels fast, and #istandwithaxanar – and I absolutely won’t be spending a dime on anything related to Star Trek if this lawsuit continues and encourage all Star Trek fans to do the same.

Meanwhile, Alec Peters responded to the Axnar fans yesterday, stating that he still hopes that everything will be resolved in a peaceful manner:

Like everything related to Axanar Productions, we take this matter very seriously and remain open to discussing solutions with all parties that can be mutually beneficial.

If Alec could pull an actual backing of the production companies out of this situation that would certainly be a great accomplishment and a resolution that we would all love to see. In the meantime, movie is still set to start filming in January and lets all hope that Enterprise is on its course.

Good luck and Godspeed to the Axanar team.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to speak out against this lawsuit and in favor of you guys, and of course, continue to vote with my $.

Michael Maddox is Editor-in-Chief at Fists of Heaven, and can be reached at mike [at] fistsofheaven.com

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