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Trek Tuesday: The Axanar Lawsuit
January 5, 2016Posted by on
Those who know me, know that I am not the biggest fan of Star Trek fan films. It mostly boils down to the atrocious acting and, from what I have noticed, too much emphasis on what effects they can make in their computer as opposed to other storytelling devices. Normally, I wouldn’t care about the fan production known as Axanar. That is, until, I heard that CBS and Paramount are suing Axanar for copyright infringement.
Here is how I understand it. Fan films typically are given a blind eye to by CBS and Paramount’s legal department as long as they do not profit from their project. Occasionally, fan productions might get a “cease and desist” order, but usually the productions can just work around the thing that legal is objecting too and all is good.
Axanar producer Alec Peters decided to say “screw all that” and did his own thing. At first it seemed okay. He created a Kickstarter and raised about $650K in 2014. Earlier this year, he started an Indigogo asking for 1.4 million. He claimed that the earlier Kickstarter was used to building “Ares Studios” – a production workhouse to make the fan film.
This is where things start to get fishy. Beyond just seemingly misusing the funds from the earlier Kickstarter, it started to get out that there were multiple problems in the production of the actual film with Peters in charge. In addition, word got out that Peters and his girlfriend were getting salaries from their work on the Axanar. This is likely what caught CBS and Paramount’s attention. As a producer, getting a salary generating a profit – that’s a huge no-no.
Not to mention that the studio that he built was also planned to make other for-profit ventures. Fine in and of itself, but when you used copyrighted material to help get funds for it, it presents a legal problem.
So, CBS/Paramount filed a lawsuit for copyright violations. Since lawsuits take time to develop before filing, their legal teams likely were building enough of a case for some time and have enough to feel that they not only had a case, but one that could be won.
Since that time, the reaction online has been hilarious and sad. From what I have seen at sites such as Trek Today and TrekMovie (but, oddly enough, not at the TrekBBS), fans who were supportive of Axanar have decried CBS/Paramount saying they are declaring war on “fan culture” (whatever that means), or saying that they realize that Axanar is better than their upcoming Star Trek Beyond film (more on that below), so they are trying to crush the competition. Hashtag campaigns have begun as has a petition over at Change.org (because, you know, this is an important manner). Other fans have decided they will boycott the upcoming Star Trek film and all other Trek-related projects to which I say, “No, you’re not.”
Peters, meanwhile, has taken to Twitter and has loudly lost his mind tweeting such statements as “Axanar is exactly what fans want” and then shaming actor Tony Todd (who was a part of Axanar before quitting a few months ago) for his comments for Peters to “tell the truth”. Additionally, Peter’s cohort Robert Meyer Burnett (director of Free Enterprise) hasn’t helped by also taking to Twitter to have a temper tantrum. I’m guessing their legal team took the day off from advising clients what to do. Many of these tweets were later deleted, but the internet is an unforgiving place where things are copied and saved.
And then Peters decided to throw a bunch of other fan films under the bus during his Twitter rant. I’m sure those people are loving that he lumped them with him.
These fans that are defending Axanar – to they even know how copyright law works? Or how what Peters and company are doing is wrong and illegal. Maybe Peters didn’t realize what he was doing and got himself tangled in this mess. Regardless, he crossed that invisible line that CBS/Paramount set.
Paramount and CBS don’t care if a small handful of fans thing Axanar is better than Star Trek Beyond (it won’t be). Most people (and even the average Star Trek fan) don’t know that Axanar even exists or would care about it. There is absolutely no conspiracy against Star Trek fans and people who think that are deluded.
For comparison: the fan film has raised approximately 2 million dollars. Star Trek Into Darkness (which was a flop according to idiots) earned $467 million. The Star Trek Beyond teaser from Paramount’s YouTube page has had 13 millions views. The Axanar prelude off the Axanar YouTube page has a little less than 2 million.
But, clearly, despite the numbers, Axanar is what people want.
As for the actual fan film – it hasn’t been made yet. There was a “prelude” to get people interested in it (which I hate to admit that I watched due to the lawsuit). And while the short film was interesting in the fact that it was done in a documentary style, the effects were hardly up to current-day production style like they claim (it reminded me of X-Box 360 graphics – an achievement to be sure, but not what they are claiming), and the story was nothing more than a war story/battle. For some “super fans” to claim that this is what true Star Trek is seems misguided as the current film series is way more in line with the original series that this.
CBS and Paramount is absolutely in the right in defending their intellectual property. If the Axanar team didn’t do anything knowingly wrong, they wouldn’t be fanning the flames of their frothing-at-the-mouth fans. Axanar is dead. CBS/Paramount isn’t to blame. The Axanar production team is. When you don’t play ball, you don’t get to play.