Prelude to Axanar

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  • #1389
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    I’m shocked that you didn’t list this one, Earl.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/194429923/star-trek-axanar

    Talk about impressive. The special effects are amazing considering it’s a fan film, and they’ve got some high caliber sci-fi actors involved with this. Although Richard Hatch’s Shatner-like speech pauses are a little odd, to be honest.

    This also half way, sorta-kinda, explains why Federation starships like the USS Kelvin have “pop-up” phaser banks in the saucer section, and later ships didn’t. Those types of ships must have been built during the Klingon war, and maybe that kind of thing wasn’t necessary with newer ships later on. I guess. It would explain why J.J. Abram’s stupid Star Wars inspired weapon designs that were nothing like previous Star Trek weaponry was used during that time period and not later. Maybe.

    #6978

    I’d been meaning to say something about it. It’s a damned impressive project; it’s my understanding they’re shooting on the Phase II sets. (Why didn’t they book time on the OKC soundstage? 😉 )

    #6979
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    How is this one progressing? I don’t keep up with such things, I thought you’d know more. I also assume that they made their crowdfunding goal. Any idea when it might come out?

    #6980

    No idea; I’ll be surprised if they shoot anything before the end of this year.

    #6981

    Great, there’s already a (figurative) ambulance-chasing copyright attorney who thinks Axanar should be axed. Fortunately, Paramount doesn’t seem to be listening. [LINK]

    Studios have historically been lax toward films made by fans, even benefiting from the added attention they garner for their properties. “CBS has a long history of accepting fan films,” Peters said. “I think ‘Axanar’ has become so popular that CBS realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”

    Previous Kickstarter- and Indiegogo-funded fan films include “Star Trek: Of Gods and Men,” which generated $150,000 in donations in 2006 and “Star Trek: Renegades,” which drew a collective $375,000 from both platforms in 2014. “Axanar” has generated more than twice those productions combined, allowing Peters’ team to lease a warehouse in Valencia, California, for three years and build a set to make their movie “as compelling as the studio films.”

    While the filmmakers of “Star Trek: Axanar” appear confident that they’re operating in safe copyright territory, attorney Lincoln Bandlow, a partner at Fox Rothschild, LLP, insists otherwise. “If it’s based on characters or other protectable elements of the ‘Star Trek’ work, then what they are doing is a derivative work and that’s a copyright infringement that is highly unlikely to be a protected fair use,” he said.

    He added: “Just because there are a lot of these fan versions being done doesn’t make it legal.”

    I like the little lick that Alec Peters gets in at the end: the fan films are servicing an aging audience segment which the studios who hold the IP rights no longer have any interest in addressing.

    #6982

    Okay, big game-changer: Paramount and CBS are suing the principals behind Axanar, according to Hollywood Reporter.

    Also, Star Trek Renegades has disappeared from Youtube; the trailers are still there, but the full episode is no longer available.

    With a new series in the works, is this where fan films smack into the force field? Or is it just the fact that Axanar raised a million bucks in crowdfunding? Where is the line in the sand? Can fan series like Valiant and Farragut get by because they’re not claiming to be the further adventures of Kirk and Spock? Or is anyone safe?

    Is this going to become a studio-vs.-fans debacle like Paramount suing fansites off the web back in ’96?

    #6983

    David Gerrold (executive producer of Star Trek Phase II/New Voyages) weighs in on Facebook. [LINK]

    David Gerrold
    5 hrs ·

    So let me talk about the lawsuit against Axanar, by CBS and Paramount.

    I will qualify my remarks by saying I have no dog in this particular fight, I am only a knowledgeable observer.

    I’ve known several people in the Paramount legal department, most of whom were honorable. I also have known several fan film productions, most of whom were not only honorable but enthusiastic about Star Trek in a way that should embarrass some of the people who were paid to produce actual episodes of the series.

    That said, I think the lawsuit was filed without sufficient consideration of the situation.

    Fans have been making Star Trek fan films — and crowdfunding them — for fifteen years. There’s Star Trek New Voyages, Star Trek Farragut, Star Trek Renegads, Star Trek Continues, and probably a few others I’m unaware of. These are all recreations of the original series, with fan actors playing Kirk, Spock, McCoy et al. These are all filmed on recreations of the original series bridge and corridors and other sets. They are filmed with replicas of props, costumes, makeup, and set design. They are such accurate recreations of the original series that bootleggers overseas have sold copies of the episodes as if they are the real thing.

    All of the fan film productions operate under the same general guideline — have fun, but you’re not allowed to make a profit. So all of the fan film productions are freely available on YouTube.

    Part of the reason so many professionals, like myself, have participated in fan productions is the desire to make and see more Star Trek. Those who were too young (or not born yet) to participate in the original series, have come to the fan productions as an opportunity to be a part of the magic.

    All of this has to be seen as a measure of the kind of enthusiasm that Star Trek fans have and that should be available to any new Star Trek movie or TV series.

    Now, Axanar — Axanar is not a recreation of the original series. It’s about a battle referred to in passing, in only one episode of the original series. It’s about a minor character in one episode and how he became a Starfleet legend. It does not take place on the Enterprise. It does not use any of the characters of the original series. Its closest relationship to the original series is that it takes place in the same universe, many years before Kirk and Spock.

    Now … I am not a lawyer and I have not been approached by either side to function as either a consultant or an expert witness (although, if this ever goes to trial, I expect I will be called in) — but, if Axanar represents an infringement on the copyrights of Paramount and CBS, then so does Star Trek New Voyages, Star Trek Farragut, Star Trek Renegades, and Star Trek Continues. And whoever else.

    Based on the number of views that all these separate iterations have earned worldwide — possibly more than a hundred million — Paramount and CBS could file for damages of a billion dollars.

    And the resulting fannish firestorm would go on for years.

    As I have heard the story, the first New Voyages episode was a private adventure, never intended for internet distribution. But one of the participants did upload it to YouTube — and shortly thereafter, James Cawley received a call from Paramount legal, the gist of which was: “Have fun, but don’t sell tickets, don’t sell copies, don’t make a profit.”

    Now, that was smart, it recognized fannish enthusiasm — but at the same time, it planted the seeds for today’s situation, because it created a de facto license for all Star Trek fan films.

    Which brings us to the lawsuit against Axanar. The lawyers have to prove two things:

    1) That this fan film represents a significant usage of Paramount/CBS’s property.

    and

    2) Axanar is a profit-making enterprise. (Ohell, it isn’t even THE Enterprise.)

    Both will be hard to prove, especially the latter, because of all the fan films, Axanar has been the most transparent with its fund-raising and its accounting.

    There is a third point that would likely be made in such a court case:

    If Axanar represents a threat to the copyright, why haven’t Paramount and CBS taken steps to shut down New Voyages, Farragut, Renegades, and Continues? What makes Axanar different? What makes Axanar a threat?

    Paramount/CBS’s response would likely be that Axanar represents a professional level of production. Well, yes — but so does New Voyages. (I can’t speak for any of the others on that, although I do know that many professionals have been involved with Continues and Renegades.)

    There is a way out of this mess — and if people on all sides of this are smart — it could be resolved in a matter of days.

    Lucasfilm is the model. They created an award for fan films and even arranged licensing and distribution.

    Paramount/CBS should do the same. There are people at CBS who would love to put out a DVD or Blu-ray distribution of Star Trek fan films, but have so far been unable to get approval for the idea. But it’s a good idea. An official distribution of fan films would generate money for both the copyright owners and for the filmmakers to use in future efforts. The fan-films would be officially licensed as fan productions.

    To make this work, the studio would have to hire a qualified liaison to work with various fan films to make sure that they follow appropriate guidelines and in return would receive the blessings of legal distribution and protection.

    By keeping the fan films in a specific licensed venue, a kind of voluntary garden, Paramount and CBS would benefit from the good publicity of being seen to promote and foster great fan efforts — the fans would benefit from having a specific legal venue for their individual productions.

    Yes, there would be a lot of paperwork to be settled — and I expect the cooperation of various Guilds might be necessary as well — but the goal here is to produce a win-win situation for everyone, but especially for the fans.

    Because if it weren’t for the fans and their loyalty for the past 49 years, there wouldn’t have been a franchise in the first place.

    Feel free to share.

    I really do think he’s hit the nail on the head: this is about nothing but the fact that Axanar has raised a million bucks that, by definition, isn’t a million bucks sitting in CBS and Paramount’s coffers.

    Until they sue for it all.

    #6984
    ubikuberalles
    ubikuberalles
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    Sounds like this might be some kind of squeeze play by CBS to secure licensing rights to that and maybe other fan productions.

    Unless, of course, the CBS lawyers are a bunch of money grubbing, short sighted, controlling idiots.

    #6985

    Or maybe Alec Peters has been the idiot all along. This interview with him is just infuriating. [LINK]

    “We violate CBS copyright less than any other fan film,” he said. “‘Star Trek Continues’ and ‘Star Trek: New Voyages’ violate more than we do.”

    “Axanar,” Peters said, doesn’t call itself “Star Trek” anymore, nor does it use iconic characters like Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

    “We don’t use the chevron,” he added. “We don’t use the uniforms you’re used to seeing. We don’t use (the Original Series) bridge or sets. Those two productions (‘Continues’ and ‘New Voyages’) are entirely copyright infringement.”

    Translation: if I can’t make my show, I want to divert as much negative attention to these other guys so they can’t do it either. [kicks rocks] Thanks for throwing everyone else under the bus, Alec.

    But I think the real issue at contention is likely to be this:

    Whether or not it violates what Peters said was CBS’ directive to not make money, one of the larger criticisms coming from fans was the fact that Peters revealed he collected a $38,000 salary from the “Axanar” crowdfunding. However, Peters defended that move.

    “I’m not volunteering my time,” he said. “I can’t do this for free. If I make minimum wage, I’m lucky. The fans who donate? They understand. They don’t have any problem with me paying myself.”

    In fact, those that seem to have the problem, according to Peters, are those who are not donors.

    “The donors, for the most part, are the ones who get it,” he said. “They see the work we put into it, they feel the love on a daily basis from us. Unfortunately, you have a lot of people who have never been in business, and they have a problem with Alec paying himself.”

    Is earning a salary the same as profit? It’s actually a non-starter, Marteny said.

    “There is no requirement to make any money with copyright infringement,” she said. “Making a profit has nothing to do with whether you are infringing someone else’s work. It has to do with damages and liability.”

    That changes everything. Vic Mignogna and James Cawley have day jobs. Sure, they have investment angels, crowdfunding, and pros on their staffs as well, but they are not paying their own bills in addition to the production’s costs from the crowdfunding. Of course the people who have a problem with Peters making a salary from Axanar are non-donors: they see what’s happening and know better than to throw their money in the hole.

    What amazes me about all this is that Peters is, or has been, a lawyer himself. He should have seen this coming, and should have known where the line in the sand was that couldn’t be crossed. And most importantly …he should know when to shut up.

    I loved Prelude to Axanar and thought it was the best thing since sliced tribble toast, and would actually love to see the story continued in that “History Channel” format. But I’m not willing to support Peters if he’s going to throw his “take my ball and go home” tantrum and try to drag every other fan production into the legal pit that he’s dug for himself. I’ll sacrifice Axanar if the other productions, including the ones being made by my friends over in OKC, can continue.

    I’ll bet a large supreme pizza that Peters will realize that the interview in the above linked article is incredibly damaging to his case, and it “disappears” quickly, hence the extensive quoting on my part.

    #6986
    ubikuberalles
    ubikuberalles
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    If I make minimum wage, I’m lucky.

    Unless he’s putting in a ton of overtime, $38K is NOT minimum wage. It comes to $19/hr if he is working a normal 40 hours/week.

    #6987

    No kidding. I apparently need to restart Jump Cut City and crowdfund it.

    #6988

    Oh dear. One of my absolute favorite actors-who-shows-up-in-everything weighs in on why he jumped ship. I didn’t realize he left – he was one of the high points of Prelude to Axanar. [LINK]

    Actor Tony Todd portrayed Admiral Ramirez in the short film, Prelude to Axanar, and was slated to reprise the role in the full-length follow-up, Axanar. He is well-known for his roles in Candyman and various roles in the Star Trek franchise.

    Todd left Axanar in September 2015,1) though his departure from the project was not publicly acknowledged by Axanar producer Alec Peters for several months, even though Todd’s photo remained a prominent part of Axanar’s ongoing Indiegogo campaign.

    Eventually, Axanar fan Michael Perles asked Peters: “Please explain to us why Tony Todd left the project several months ago.”2) Peters claimed Todd left over a money dispute, and a diminished role:

    Because he wanted $15,000 a day and we wouldn’t pay it. And FYI, we have only begun casting. No one is signed to be in Axanar. Tony Todd would’ve had a tiny role, and so it has been written as another character.3)

    Back in December, Todd replied on Twitter to Peter’s claims on Twitter:

    @TonyTodd54
    @StarTrekAxanar since you made this personal my quote is far above 15k a day. I could no longer waste my time. #movingforward
    3:02 PM – 30 Dec 2015

    @Tony Todd54
    Wish #Startrekfans all the best, but, There’ are reasons I withdrew from #Axanar beyond #creativedifferences #Tellthetruth
    11:45 AM – 30 Dec 2015

    @TonyTodd54
    #Startrekfans I left 3 months ago. No longer supportive of #Crowdfunding no accountability
    12:09 PM – 30 Dec 2015

    @TonyTodd54
    if u know me im not intimidated easily. My issues came long before lawsuit. #Axanar should’ve been completed long ago.
    12:11 PM – 30 Dec 2015

    @TonyTodd54
    … Mr. Peters was never forthcoming about my leaving.
    2:40 PM – 30 Dec 2015

    @TonyTodd54
    learned time ago only as good as weakest link. Couldn’t perform w a lead [Peters was originally slated to play the lead] w dubious acting talents.
    2:59 PM – 30 Dec 2015

    In the MORTIS interview, Todd also revealed he is on the casting “short list” for CBS’ new Star Trek series, due to premiere in 2017.

    If you’ve watched any sci-fi at all, you’ve probably seen Tony Todd – Worf’s brother on TNG and DS9, Captain Anderson in Babylon 5: A Call To Arms…hell, I think the only thing he hasn’t done is Doctor Who, and the BBC damn well needs to fix that.

    I am supremely happy at the notion of Tony Todd being in the new CBS Star Trek series in any capacity. He’s just a fantastic actor. And I can’t afford him for even one day. 😆

    #6989

    And the counterarguments are…kinda weak. [LINK]

    The first thing that the defendants request is more specificity about which of the “thousands” of copyrights relating to Star Trek episodes and films are being infringed — and how.

    Taking issue with a complaint that lumps the entire Star Trek universe together, the dismissal motion points out that the original series featured a certain adventure aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise — one involving fictitious species like the Vulcans and the Klingons — whereas The Next Generation had new captain (Jean-Luc Picard) and “revealed a universe with previously unexplored dimensions.”

    The defendants also nod to new characters, sets and plots in Voyager and Deep Space Nine and the various films (including the upcoming series and film) to arrive at the argument that Paramount and CBS aren’t doing an adequate job recognizing the vast differences between the films and television episodes nor meeting minimum pleading standards. Producers of the crowdfunded film argue they shouldn’t be left guessing about what they’ve infringed nor should they be required to sift through each movie and TV episode to determine the claims against them.

    “Plaintiffs do not allege that Defendants are engaged in wholesale copying of each Star Trek motion picture and television episode, or even that Defendants lift substantial material from each of Plaintiffs’ alleged works,” states the motion. “Plaintiffs’ conclusory allegations do little to put Defendants on adequate notice of the claims against them.”

    The lawsuit is also being challenged on a second ground.

    The defendants want Paramount and CBS to do a much better job explaining their ownership claims over the Star Trek franchise which first showed on NBC, and eventually became tangled in the Sumner Redstone media empire. Paramount took control of Star Trek from Lucille Ball’s Desilu in the late 1960s. A couple decades later, Paramount was acquired by Viacom, which then merged with CBS, which then separated from each other. Copyright registrations and assignments now govern ownership on a broad level, but defendants demand more information about who-owns-what.

    “Which Plaintiff owns which alleged copyrights is critical to Defendants’ investigation into Plaintiffs’ claims, as it could be that the only works that Plaintiffs are actually alleging Defendants infringed are owned by one Plaintiff as opposed to the other,” states the motion. “Plaintiffs’ joint ownership allegation is not plausible in light of the contradicting information in the Complaint regarding assignment, presenting another ground upon which dismissal is proper.”

    The claim that Axanar has to be finished before it can be sued over is kinda bizarre. “We have to finish the movie before you even know what you’re suing over!” Um…no they don’t. They’ve put enough information out there, including an already-filmed scene with Gary Graham reprising the character he played on Enterprise, that we’ve got a good idea where they’re going.

    #6990
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    Sigh. This just proves that we can’t have nice things.

    I still say that Paramount should just take over this production and use it as a training course for their technical people before they launch a new series. They can make it into a made-for-TV movie, kind of what Babylon 5 used to do with specials like Thirdspace. If it works out and does well in the ratings, they can keep putting these small budget movies out based on significant moments in Federation history.

    #6991

    For someone who is an attorney himself, Peter seems not to realize that there comes a time to shut the hell up: his interview with 1701news, quoted earlier in this thread…has now joined the evidence against him. 🙄 [LINK]

    CBS/Paramount failed to win extra time to answer the motion, and instead elected to file an amended complaint, which was made public late Friday night. Besides listing specific copyright registrations for various episodes and characters, Grossman also explained the Star Trek ownership structure CBS and Paramount share.

    “CBS owns United States copyrights in the Star Trek television series, and Paramount owns the United States copyrights in the Star Trek motion pictures,” Grossman explained in a single paragraph of the lengthy amended complaint.

    Ranahan’s other major complaint in her motion to dismiss had to do with the fact that the main production, “Star Trek: Axanar,” had yet to be filmed. Because of that, filing against that production when a script wasn’t even finished was premature, and could be tantamount to “prior restraint.”

    In his amended complaint, Grossman focused more on what has been produced and released, and less on the planned feature film. However, he did share a screenshot from the official Axanar Facebook page from Aug. 15 with Peters, writer Bill Hunt and director Robert Meyer Burnett displaying what they describe as a “fully revised and locked” script. Grossman also pointed out that the post referred to it as “the best Star Trek movie script ever.”

    Grossman also included other pieces of information that was collected after the original suit was filed, including the interview Peters did with 1701News on Feb. 1, where he told reporter John Kirk that “we violate CBS copyright less than any other fan film,” and providing a link to Kirk’s story.

    Now…the ferocity with which Peters is shooting himself in the foot is remarkable. Though I wonder if all of this isn’t also perhaps a pre-emptive reaction to the now-nearly-inescapable fact that the next “official” movie is in trouble?

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