From The Hollywood Reporter:
Later this year, Star Trek will celebrate its 50th birthday. Before that happens, though, Paramount and CBS are being challenged to provide more ownership information about their franchise as well as discuss the nuances of the multiple television series and the many films that have resulted from Captain James T. Kirk’s original five-year mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.
This is happening because Alec Peters and other Star Trek fans put in motion a studio-quality film titled Axanar with money raised from Kickstarter. In reaction, Paramount and CBS brought a lawsuit in December alleging that the producers of this crowdfunded movie were “using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes.”
But according to a court filing on Monday by the defendants, that’s nowhere near enough to survive dismissal.
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 such as 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.”
. . . .
There are other cases, though, that stand for the proposition that since expression and not ideas are what’s copyrightable, plaintiffs shouldn’t be allowed to sue before a court can actually see the allegedly infringing work in question.
Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter and thanks to Chris for the tip.
PG notes that the owners of Hollywood franchises have never hesitated to stretch copyright and trademark laws to sometimes ridiculous dimensions.
This case raises an interesting issue about whether a given tv/movie/literary property can become so sprawling that the boundaries of protection become difficult or impossible to define with specificity. Absent use of specific Star Trek elements, what’s a Star Trek movie and what is just another space opera that uses tropes found in Star Trek as well as dozens of other science fiction books and movies that predate Star Trek?