Prelude to Axanar

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  • #6992

    And a few other fan film makers are weighing in:

    Vic Mignogna (Star Trek Continues) [LINK]

    “If CBS were to write me tomorrow and say, ‘OK, you know what? We are changing our stance on fan productions. You need to stop now,'” Mignogna told 1701News. “My public response would be to say the following: ‘Star Trek Continues’ is so very grateful to CBS for the privilege to have spent the last few years paying tribute to the show that we all love. And at their request, we will not be making any more. But I want to thank them for the opportunity to have done so in the first place.”

    Luckily for “Continues” and other fan productions, such a directive has not come down from the studios. And while Mignogna won’t comment directly on what’s happening with the sued production, “Star Trek: Axanar,” he has no qualms talking about what makes “Continues” different — and why he isn’t fighting for his hobby in a federal court.

    “There is no fighting it,” Mignogna said. “It is their property. People who think they have some kind of divine right to Star Trek are deluding themselves. Star Trek belongs to CBS and Paramount, and we don’t have the right to do anything with it without their permission.”

    “When I started this, many people encouraged me to launch a Kickstarter to raise money to make the first episode,” Mignogna said about the crowdfunding platform. “You know what? I didn’t feel that was ethical. I didn’t think it was right for me to ask people to give me money for something they had no proof I could do.”

    James Cawley (Star Trek: New Voyages / Phase II) [LINK]

    “I don’t rent my sets, I don’t charge for anything, and I certainly have never gotten any salary for playing Trek with my friends,” Cawley said. “If you are not in it to have fun and be at summer camp, you should not be doing a fan-film.”

    Cawley has allowed other productions to use his New York-based sets for years, but stopped the practice after “drama” he endured last fall. He didn’t get into specifics about what happened. “I am tired of the associated drama that goes with that scenario,” Cawley said.

    “I have spent far too much of my own money for many years — 15 of them to be exact — far more than I care to think about,” Cawley said. “I did it for nothing but the love of the game. If and when it ends, at least I can say I played by the rules I was given when I crossed the finish line.”

    Yep.

    #6993

    Ah geez, Axanar…just…keep digging. [LINK]

    …the defendants tackle each of the elements that Paramount and CBS are claiming are theirs to copyright.

    Take Vulcans, the famous species best known for their adherence to logic, pointy ears and “V” shaped salute. If the classic sign-off by Vulcans like Spock is “live long and prosper,” Ranahan writes that Vulcans have indeed lived long. “In Roman mythology, Vulcan is the god of fire and metalworking,” she writes. “The first known use of ‘Vulcan’ was in 1513.”

    No matter. Axanar Productions also says that the Vulcans’ appearance — specifically the “pointy ears” — “is not original to Star Trek, and has appeared in many fictional fantasy works depicting imaginary humanoid species predating Star Trek, including, but not limited to, vampires, elves, fairies, and werewolves, as well as in many animals in nature.”

    If Axanar ever gets made, I hope it’s as entertaining and full of weird twists as the lawsuit over it. *facepalm*

    #6994

    A few weeks old, but as usual, Wil Wheaton pulls no punches on his opinion… [LINK]

    A group of people raised a TON of money, saying they were going to make a Trek fan film called Axanar. Then they took that money and spent it to build a studio, which will (presumably) be used to turn a profit from other productions once Axanar’s production is completed. They also sold unlicensed coffee, using copyrighted Star Trek names, and have generally been epic douchecanoes about the whole thing.

    Most fan films, even the really polished ones, have very small budgets that rarely break USD10,000, but these people were effectively making a commercially-viable low budget (by Hollywood Standards) film, having raised over USD600,000. And they were going to invest that money into an unlicensed, copyright infringing film using Star Trek intellectual property that is owned by CBS.

    They’ve put all fan films at risk, because they exploited the passion and love that Trekkies have for Star Trek to get money, and now they’re acting like they’re innocent victims of big bad CBS. These people are not innocent victims. They are morally and ethically and legally in the wrong, and while I have a lot of problems with copyright and IP law, these guys are not the people I want to be the poster children for reforming those laws.

    I love fan fiction and fan films and headcanon and everything fans do to create their own extended universes (ST Online is a great example), and these jerks may have put all of that at risk, because they acted in bad faith from the beginning.

    They are not on your side, they are not on Star Trek’s side, they are not good people.

    Zowie. Something tells me that Wesley isn’t going to suddenly get written into Axanar now. 😆

    #6995
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    Every time I see that there’s a new post to this thread, I expect to see it definitively cancelled and a court settlement being made. I get a little dread when I click through each time, because Axanar was the least crappiest looking Trek fan film I’ve seen, and I was legitimately excited to see it completed. It’s such a shame it’ll never get finished because of all the behind the scenes garbage.

    #6996

    A lengthy analysis of the best possible ending for the Axanar case has been posted by, of all people, Film Score Monthly founder Lukas Kendall. It’s worth clicking through and reading the whole thing. [LINK]

    If there was any way to abuse CBS’ goodwill in looking the other way on the fan films, Axanar did—and then some. This is something they and their followers will dispute…but please. They raised over a million dollars in multiple efforts. They used their donor funds to lease a warehouse in Castaic (an hour north of Los Angeles) and turn it into a soundstage which they bragged would be a base for ongoing commercial ventures. They attempted to cast their film through the Hollywood agencies with professional talent. They shamelessly ran a store for bootleg Star Trek merchandise under the guise of “perks” for “donors” (like Axanar coffee—not making that up). They fostered an atmosphere—or at least did not discourage it—that Axanar was true Star Trek and the J.J. Abrams films were dogshit. They got in fights with other fan films. They built a cult of personality around the principal (what could go wrong?). Lately, they’ve taken to censoring negative comments on their official website and forums like a bad parody of a communist state.

    Personality matters, and the personality of the Axanar principal has rubbed people the wrong way. By his own admission, he paid himself a salary because Axanar is his full-time job. Sorry, but this is the opposite of what making a fan film is supposed to be. Axanar is not a hobby, it is a profession, allowing him to enjoy the lifestyle of a film producer and specifically a Star Trek film producer: adulation, creative fulfillment, travel, glamour and attention, paid for by Star Trek fans.

    If Axanar wanted, they could end this lawsuit by the time you finished reading this article. All the principal has to do is call the CBS executives (he knows them) and offer this: 1) We will wind down operations completely and 2) refund as much donor money as we can on a pro-rata basis.

    The problem is that CBS would say yes but add a third item: that the principal accepts a lifetime ban from any commercial involvement with Star Trek. We’re talking Pete-Rose-banned-from baseball. He does not go on to make a documentary about Axanar, write the memoirs of Captain Garth, sell props and sign autographs at conventions. They want him to vanish off the face of the earth. That’s how much they loathe and distrust him.

    The best way to help donors get over their disappointment that they will never see Axanar is to give them the script. I’ve read it (the final draft) and sorry…it’s not very good. It’s basically a fan film, servicing fan ideas, repetitive and shallow on any real level. But that’s beside the point. Axanar successfully made their donors think they were getting the best thing since sliced bread. When they eventually read the script, some people will still believe that. But most will go, “Oh…Okay.”

    *shakes head*

    #6997

    I’m seeing tweeted by several reputable sources, from tonight’s live unveiling of the Star Trek Beyond trailer, that both JJ Abrams and Justin Lin (ST:B director) have pressured Paramount to drop the lawsuit against Star Trek: Axanar. Will believe when seen in the form of an official announcement, but I’m frankly kinda stunned.

    #6998
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    I wonder if it has anything to do with the backlash against Paramount from people who don’t quite grasp the real issues. People who are headline skimmers and knee-jerk reactors to negative press about anything Star Trek. Sadly, uninformed dimwits are the audience Paramount is aiming for with their new Trek films, so they don’t want to upset them even if the idiots are wrong.

    #6999

    And now…Alec Peter suddenly wants everyone to abide by his rules. [LINK]

    With CBS and Paramount reportedly drafting guidelines for fan films, Axanar producer Alec Peters has reached out to at least nine fan productions for their support of rules Peters wants the studios to accept, and isn’t having much luck.

    Among the rules included in Peters’ proposal were a time-limit on fan films’ running time, an end to crowdfunding via platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, restrictions on perks that could be offered to donors and the ability to pay professional cast and crew who work on fan productions.

    Other Fan Productions

    UPDATE Following initial publication of this article, Peters told pro-Axanar blogger Dave Heagney Jr. that he contacted almost every major fan film producer seeking suggestions on guidelines. Eight joined a private Facebook chat group to discuss Peters’ first draft.

    “I just felt that all the active fan films should be able to share their thoughts together in a constructive way,” Peters said. “Most of them don’t speak to CBS, and clearly we are communicating with them regularly, so it felt like the right thing to do.“1)

    ‘You do all realize that Star Wars does not allow crowdfunding? And there is no way CBS will allow it to move forward. ’
    — Axanar producer Alec Peters to fan film producers

    Included among the group of fan producers Peters contacted was James Cawley, leader of the long-running and well known Star Trek: New Voyages, who stated in a post on Trek author Dave Galanter’s Facebook page that he rebuffed Peters’ efforts:

    And now, like clockwork, Alec is texting and trying to make nice, so we will all join him in creating guidelines to give to CBS. I politely declined and received several insults…. sigh.

    In the blog posted following AxaMonitor’s publication, Peters stated:

    “Unfortunately, James Cawley of Star Trek: New Voyages said no without even hearing a proposal. He was the only one who declined. Everyone else wanted to at least see what a set of proposed guidelines would look like.”

    The producers contacted by Peters represented larger, well-known productions as well as smaller fan films. They included:

    Todd Haberkorn of Star Trek: Continues
    John Broughton of Farragut
    John Atkin of Yorktown
    Nick Cook of Starship Intrepid
    Michael King of Starship Valiant
    Scott Johnson of Starbase Studios (who produces several small Star Trek fan films)
    Greg Lock of Star Trek Ambush
    Ryan Husk of Star Trek: Renegades

    About half participated in the Facebook group chat, Peters told the blog.

    Oh…but wait. Michael King of Starship Valiant, based in OKC, says something completely different. [LINK]

    It has been reported in several articles today that Starbase Studios is part of a group put together by Alec Peters of Axanar, to draft a set of fan film guidelines to be submitted to CBS studios as part of the lawsuit settlement. Scott Johnson, one of the studio owners, was contacted and agreed to view the proposed guidelines but never responded or submitted an opinion on them.

    The articles published this morning seems to imply that Starbase Studios, and fan productions that film at the studio, have joined Peters and Axanar in their defense against the CBS/Paramount lawsuit. The names of the individuals and groups who have agreed to preview the proposed guidelines was released without consent. It would appear the reason for releasing names is to create a false appearance of support for Peters and Axanar as a means to strengthen their negotiating position.

    FOR THE RECORD:
    Starbase Studios has tried to remain publicly neutral on the Axanar lawsuit. We are now forced to state that we are in full support of CBS and Paramount on this matter and have always been willing to comply with any statements, rulings, guidelines they may issue. We have no doubt that CBS/Paramount are the true copy write owners of the Star Trek franchise and respect their ownership of the property. We are also grateful to CBS/Paramount for allowing us to support the Star Trek franchise in our own way.

    In an effort to keep any productions filmed at the studio from overstepping bounds of fan films, we have publicly listed a set of guidelines on our website that we insist the productions follow. These guidelines were issued by a former crew member of New Voyages/Phase 2 and have served well so far but we will adapt to whatever new guidelines CBS/Paramount sees fit to issue.

    Another inaccuracy in the article states that the studio produces several fan films. The studio itself produces only one film but invites any other productions to use our sets. These other productions are not under control of the studio and although we insist they follow the set guidelines, we can not be responsible for their releases or anything added after filming at the studio is complete.

    Michael King at Starship Valiant adds this. [LINK]

    Yes, I was invited to participate in building guidelines that I felt would help the fan film community overall as a group and although the actual guidelines listed in this article were completed and forged without my input, (as I was sick during the process), I did in fact make a few suggestions as to two of the seven listed. Then I was messaged by a friend this morning and told that our “private” discussion had been made public. Apparently, someone in the group cut & pasted our discussion and shared it with another person that I personally have never heard of, to the bewilderment of myself and my good friend Scott Johnson. Honestly, I feel that the group of people in this “chat” were used and manipulated and I am not and will not be a part of any legal dealings with Paramount/CBS vs. Axanar. To this end, I am publicly stating that Starship Valiant will play by any rules that the powers that be make. I am very thankful that Valiant has been allowed to play in the trek universe. The article was printed without my consent and I was not asked to be a part of it or to be mentioned in it.

    Mr. Peters…you continue to…not impress. And what are his proposed guidelines, exactly?

    PROPOSED STAR TREK FAN FILM GUIDELINES

    1. There must be the following disclaimer at the end of each episode and in all promotional and marketing materials, on all fan production websites:

    Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan made film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted.

    2. Fan productions may not sell, or give away as perks, any item with a Star Trek mark, logos or character, including, but not limited to, the words “Star Trek,” the Enterprise insignia chevron, images of the U.S.S. Enterprise, or any Star Trek trademark.

    3. Fan Productions may not use Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or any other commercial crowdfunding platform to raise money.

    4. Fan productions may take donations, but all donations must go to the production of the fan film and may not be used to pay any of the principals.

    5. Fan Productions may pay professional cast and crew for their time working on the production.

    6. If a production uses a SAG member, it must become a SAG New Media Signatory.4)

    7. Finished fan films may be no longer than 50 minutes in length, the approximate duration of TOS episodes.

    8. Fan film makers give to CBS an unlimited, unrestricted license to use their films, or any portion thereof, in any format CBS should deem appropriate.

    Line up behind me, everyone! Even though I was trying valiantly to throw all of you under the bus a few months ago! 🙄

    It’s worth noting for the record that Paramount and CBS have not confirmed, denied, or responded to JJ Abrams’ announcement that the lawsuit is supposedly going to be settled out. JJ can say that all he likes… but it’s not legal and official at this time.

    #7000

    Funny, Paramount seems to have different ideas about the lawsuit “going away”… [LINK]

    In mid-May, during a promotional event for Star Trek Beyond, Abrams raised the hopes of many by hinting the lawsuit would be over soon.

    “Within the next few weeks it will be announced this is going away and fans will be able to work on their projects,” he said.

    So far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.

    Given that the judge had rejected a motion to dismiss, defendant Axanar Productions had a deadline to file an answer to the claims. On May 23, it did so and also filed a counterclaim seeking declaratory relief that its works are non-infringing. However, in an unusual stroke, Axanar also explicitly mentioned Abrams’ comments as well as a tweeted statement from Paramount and CBS confirming settlement discussions and indicating work on a set of fan-film guidelines.

    Now, instead of asking for an extension, Paramount and CBS have filed their own answer to the counterclaim admitting public statements, saying such statements speak for themselves, but otherwise acting as though the lawsuit is moving forward. The plaintiffs, for example, deny that the works in controversy represent a fair use of their copyrights.

    I thought all the celebrating might be just a bit premature.

    #7001
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    Oh good Lord, Anaxar was almost out of the woods, now this idiot has pretty much tanked its chances of ever getting made. Of course Anaxar treads on Paramount’s copyrights, anybody can tell that. They have the mother-effin’ NCC-1701 Enterprise in the trailer! Alex Peters is a moron of the highest order. I had really hoped I would get to see this completed movie, I can’t imagine it will see the light of day now.

    #7002

    OOPS. [LINK]

    In a massive filing in U.S. District Court on November 16, 2016, plaintiffs CBS and Paramount Pictures produced evidence of a shocking amount of personal spending by defendant Alec Peters from money fans had contributed to produce Axanar, who then altered financial documents to hide spending from donors.

    The studios asked a federal judge to grant a partial summary judgment in the Star Trek copyright infringement lawsuit against Axanar.

    Significant portions of the plaintiffs’ motion were redacted because they directly referred to documents or other evidence Axanar’s attorneys had marked Confidential, a designation the plaintiffs may contest in court.

    The redacted portions referred to exhibits being submitted to support the plaintiffs’ motion. Among the revelations:

    • Between his first and second depositions Peters appeared to have altered Axanar’s financial documents to remove personal expenses he paid for with donor funds, including “tens of thousands of dollars of restaurant bills,” gasoline, car and health insurance, auto maintenance and phone bills for himself, his girlfriend and another friend.
    • Peters raised almost $1.5 million from Star Trek fans, much of which he used to pay himself, his friends and colleagues and that he also used the funds to lease and build out a commercial studio he hoped to use to produce other Star Trek projects and rent out to other commercial productions.
    • Peters testified his intention in creating Axanar Works was to be “ridiculously accurate” to Star Trek and to “make sure every little detail adheres to canon.”

    Has this just turned the corner from “intellectual property case” to “criminal fraud case”?

    #7003
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    Wow, he’s in deep poopie this time. Hopefully the people railing against Paramount will start figuring out they’re rooting for the wrong side.

    I’ve really gotten into the ‘nerdquicksand’ that is the YouTube channel Trekyards, and they love Alex Peters. They’ve had him on their show a few times, when they came to the U.S. for a convention Peters even took them out to the Vasquez Rocks where the original episode Arena was filmed. I’m really interested in what they’ll have to say about this.

    #7004

    Holy crap. I’m surprised it’s gotten this far. It will be interesting to see what a jury made up of folks from the mashup generation will make of this…it could be a precedent-setter. [LINK]

    Paramount Pictures and CBS have scored major successes in their copyright lawsuit over Axanar, a 20-minute YouTube video and a proposed feature-length version touted as a professional-quality Star Trek fan film. But a California federal judge Wednesday stopped short of declaring the Star Trek rights holders the victors in the closely followed case, reserving for a jury the key question of whether the works would be seen by lay people as substantially similar to older Star Trek films and TV shows.

    The lawsuit was filed almost exactly a year ago after Alec Peters’ Axanar Productions aimed to raise more than $1 million on Kickstarter for a prequel to the 1960s Gene Roddenberry series. Peters’ work focused on Garth of Izar, an obscure character who appeared in a 1969 episode. Scripts were prepared for a film to be set around the Four Years War between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire.

    Last May, the case survived a motion to dismiss and began drawing attention to whether Paramount and CBS could take ownership of everything from “pointy ears” to the Klingon language, especially in light of many fan-made works that have been permitted through the years without controversy.

    “The Court thus finds that all four fair use factors weigh in favor of Plaintiffs,” sums up the judge in denying the defendants’ bid for summary judgment. “If the jury does not find subjective substantial similarity, Defendants did not infringe and fair use defense is moot. If the jury finds subjective substantial similarity, the Axanar Works are rightfully considered derivative works of the Star Trek Copyrighted Works. Rejection of Defendants’ fair use defense is consistent with copyright’s very purpose because derivatives are ‘an important economic incentive to the creation of originals.’”

    Klausner also leans toward finding Peters liable for contributory and vicarious infringement depending on what the jury decides on intrinsic similarity. However, the judge won’t grant declaratory and injunctive relief at this time until the jury has a chance to put forward its own verdict. A trial could happen sooner rather than later as the parties have already submitted evidence lists, questions to sort prospective jurors and other preparation needed for one to occur.

    Whip up some popcorn and grab a set, boys. A case about whether adhering to Star Trek canon qualifies as fair use is going to federal court.

    Wonder if anyone’ll call a certain Mr. Dixon to testify as an expert? 😆

    Joking aside, I think Peters’ goose is likely cooked, whether Axanar is ruled as fair use or not; his misappropriation of funds is difficult to hide or deny at this point. It may be that which prevents Axanar from ever getting made.

    #7005
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    I’m stunned that it’s gotten this far, honestly. The whole fair use when it comes to fan films is pretty simple – most films are funded by the people creating them, they’re essentially money sinks that true fans of the program/movie are spending their own cash and massive amounts of time to work on just for the love of that property. Peters was trying to get something out of it, money and a studio to go into TV/movie production with. And he managed to raise that money and used Star Trek as a commodity to sell. The problem is, he doesn’t own that commodity.

    I keep thinking about that Star Trek fan film from several years back from either Finland or Norway that had Kirk, Data and Worf go back to modern Finland/Norway and take over the world, build a space fleet, go into the Babylon 5 universe, and have a huge battle. The movie was available for free download, as to the notion of not making any money off somebody else’s copyright, but when they wanted to sell it on DVD they basically had to re-render all the effects and re-work it so that it didn’t violate anybody’s intellectual property. I remember the new renders were really ugly. They at least had the intelligence to alter the product so they wouldn’t get in trouble. Peters thinks that he should be free to use somebody else’s IP to make a few bucks.

    #7006

    Case: settled? 😮 Axanar LIVES? 😯 [LINK]

    The case is now ending, which probably means no one will ever get to see the several-hour-long highlight reel of episodes and movies being prepared by attorneys for CBS and Paramount for the purpose of introducing jurors to the franchise’s intricate universe.

    Instead, when Axanar comes out, it will look different.

    “Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the ‘Guidelines for Fan Films’ distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016,” states the parties’ joint announcement of a settlement.

    Creators of parodies or homages often argue they qualify as “fair use.” But a summary judgment ruling in January from Klausner took away fair use as a defense, which for Peters was the equivalent of going into battle with a starship’s shields down. What’s more, the judge found under an objective analysis that the YouTube video, dubbed Prelude to Axanar, was too congruent to Star Trek, leaving a jury to decide whether a reasonable person would find the total concept and feel of the works to be substantially similar. In other words, Peters’ best hope to avoid an adverse verdict was for jurors to look at Axanar and conclude it doesn’t feel authentically Star Trek.

    The fact that CBS and Paramount have looked the other way, maybe even encouraging past Trek fan fiction, probably wouldn’t have mattered much on the issue of liability. (It may have factored more had CBS and Paramount brought a separate claim of trademark infringement. Failing to police a mark holds consequences, and the studios’ decision to give the defendant a pass here deserves at least some notice.)

    Whatever the result of the trial, the dispute could have dragged onto an appeals court where Peters may have challenged the judge’s decision not to let him argue before a jury that Axanar is a transformative fair use of copyrighted material. Meanwhile, a humongous verdict could have driven Peters into bankruptcy with the studios having little hope of collecting. More importantly, CBS and Paramount could have suffered bad publicity from being a bullying Borg at a time when a new Star Trek is about to launch on CBS All Access, something Star Trek fans — and even Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin might not have tolerated.

    Instead, the parties have made arrangements to live long and prosper without firing their phasers at trial. Maybe, to quote one famous Vulcan, they discovered that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

    There were a lot of unprecedented things I was half expecting to happen today. This wasn’t even on the list.

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