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Official Star Trek Fan Film Rules Released By CBS and Paramount

30 June 2016

From SlashFilm:

Recently, there was a bit of an uproar surrounding a Star Trek fan film, Axanar. The producers behind Axanar raised around a million dollars. Shortly after funding was acquired, this labor of love was hit with a lawsuit by CBS and Paramount. J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin urged Paramount to drop the lawsuit, which they haven’t yet, but Abrams insisted the studio will do so soon.Now, if you’re a Trek fan and want to make your own fan film but you’re not terribly interested in getting sued, then you should probably read CBS and Paramount’s Star Trek fan film rules.

. . . .

Here’s a portion of the list, which you can read all of at Star Trek.com:

1. The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.

3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.

4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.

5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.

Link to the rest at SlashFilm and thanks to Gordon for the tip.


29 Comments to “Official Star Trek Fan Film Rules Released By CBS and Paramount”

  1. Reality Observer

    Some of these look like quite reasonable defenses of their multi-billion dollar IP property.

    Some of the others, though, look like slaps in the face for the very kind of people that made it a multi-billion dollar IP property – instead of losing it in space…

    • I’m wondering if 2 and 4 might be negotiable. Specifically, the part of 2 that says plain typeface, because it seems that as long as “FAN MADE” is prominently displayed the conditions are satisfied as far as eliminating the possibility of audience confusion.

      I’m not sure about number 4, it seems to say they can’t cosplay. At a con I went to a lot of cosplayers said they made their costumes, and I’m not clear on why the fan production can’t just make them, too. I can see prohibiting making bootleg items and passing them off as genuine. But fans making their own props and costumes for their fan movie shouldn’t be a problem.

      • I read the opposite on 4 homemade cosplay isn’t “commercially-available.” I understand that as don’t buy knockoffs. Either make it yourself or buy the real thing.

        • Making it yourself would be an imitation.

          • Exactly. Growing up there was a Star Trek store a few towns over. Their commercials advertised Star Trek costumes, which I assume were properly licensed. I’m reading number 4 to mean that because these licensed costumes exist, cosplayers cannot therefore make their own. By extension, neither can the fan movies.

  2. CDS and Paramount, I see litigation in your future.

    • Felix J. Torres

      There already is litigation in their present.

      These rules (and yes, some are silly and draconian) are merely a statement of how low an infraction they are willing to go after. Officially. Doesn’t mean they *will* go after every last one. More likely, they’ll keep on looking the other way on the real fan stuff like cosplay and student projects.

      A lot of this is pure intimidation. But it is necessary, to an extent. Trademarks have to be defended. And some of these derivatives have long ago crossed the line.


      Basically they’re saying: “Don’t even think of making money off us.”

      • “Don’t even think of making money off us.” – but also, “Don’t even think of lowering our quality as perceived by fans of the actual Star Trek.”

        Okay, it was a cheesy show. And I have never been a big fan – they are kind of silly in a lot of episodes – but they are a recognizable ‘thing.’

        I agree they have to defend their trademark – or it will become ‘aspirin.’

        Maybe they should try Kindle Worlds.

        • “Don’t even think of making money off us.” – but also, “Don’t even think of lowering our quality as perceived by fans of the actual Star Trek.”

          The quality issue is part of the problem. Several of the fan productions have been much better quality than recent TV episodes and movies.

          • That by itself won’t divert money from the IP owners’ stream.

            I watched a Star WARS fan production with lovely production values on Youtube, done with Italian actors – individual pieces were gorgeous, but their writers were boring, and I quickly stopped watching.

            It is HARD to produce something that is really good.

            • Actually, it could, which is why the CBS/Paramount is pursuing the matter.

              • Felix J. Torres

                It already has.
                It is crowd funded so people are paying up-front for Axanar.

                What I want to see is what happens to that money (most of which may already be spent) when Paramount shuts them down. Do they keep the stuff they bought and deliver nothing to the fans, dumping the blame on Paramount?

                • What I want to see is what happens to that money (most of which may already be spent) when Paramount shuts them down. Do they keep the stuff they bought and deliver nothing to the fans, dumping the blame on Paramount?

                  Kickstarter isn’t a pre-order system. Backing any Kickstarter project is a gamble. “Buyer beware” doesn’t even apply as you aren’t buying anything.

                  For Axanar, backers were hoping for drama, comedy, tragedy, and shoot-’em-ups. They got it. Not exactly as expected, but it has been entertaining.

                • Felix J. Torres

                  Most of the successful kickstarters I’ve seen offer supporters *something* in return: early access, discounts at release time, trinkets, something…

                  And in some cases the money gets returned if the project doesn’t come to fruition though some clearly state there will be no refunds.

          • So?
            Paramount bought STAR TREK fair and square.
            It’s their privilege to run the franchise into the ground.

            Which they have.
            Started the day they cancelled DS9.

            • I wasn’t arguing the legalities, Felix. But most of what’s going on isn’t really about TM infringement.

              Part of what prompted the crackdown was the blowback from fans against the official movie ST: Into Darkness and the fan enthusiasm over Axanar. It made CBS/Paramount execs look bad, so they retaliated.

              Before Axanar, there’re roughly ten years worth of different fan-made ST series on YouTube: Continues, Phase II, New Voyages, etc. CBS/Paramount didn’t say a word about these, including the episodes/movies that past ST actors appeared on as their ST characters. Axanar upped the ante by (1) having a script that was much better than TWoK/ID and (2) going semi-pro. That combination was when CBS/Paramount execs freaked.

              Now legally, should/will CBS/Parmount win if they continue the lawsuit? Yes, they should and they probably will. But at what real cost? I’m not a big fan of J.J. Abrams (he has great story beginnings, but his endings suck), but he’s a smart enough businessperson that he understands the value of goodwill and good publicity. Personally, I think the CBS/Paramount legal team could have handled this quickly and quietly, instead turning it into a circus that makes the corporation look like bullies.

              P.S. Glad someone besides me appreciated DS9.

              • Should CBS/Paramount win because it is their property? Yeah.

                Should CBS/Paramount win on the merits of their suit? Good grief, no. It’s like watching the Keystone Cops practicing law while wearing clown shoes.

                • As Felix pointed out above, CBS/Paramount does own the ST IP. While I agree the drafting of the complaint leaves something to be desired, what exactly is the Axanar producers’ defense?

                • @ Suzan

                  “… what exactly is the Axanar producers’ defense?”

                  Part of it could be all the ST things done up to this point which CBS/Paramount did ‘not’ stomp into the ground.

                  Like a cop ticketing a car he didn’t like for speeding when the car was doing the same speed as all the other cars on that road that day. The cop looks the fool when there’s proof he was cherry-picking, just as CBS/Paramount looks the fool in this.

                  If I were CBS/Paramount, I’d be more worried about too much bad press turning all those die-hard ST fans off CBS/Paramount supported stuff and boycotting CBS/Paramount for shooting down the ones actually doing what the fans think is good ST.

                • Felix J. Torres

                  Nothing that will hold up in court.

                  The big issue here, fan perceptions aside, is that the Axanar people are essentially building a production company/movie studio using STAR TREK IP and other people’s money. Rescinded money they would not be getting if they weren’t doing a “STAR TREK” story.

                  Their ethics suck rivets.

                  The other issue here for Paramount is that STAR TREK isn’t a money mint like Star Wars or Marvel. Or even DC.

                  Half the movies have been critically panned and even the successful ones have been one week wonders, a lot like teen slasher pics.

                  It’s self-inflicted, yes; they don’t really have a vision for the franchise other than milk it for all they can and even when they strike gold they don’t recognize it. The franchise attracts talented people but the management folks tend to scare them more often than not, which is why we’ll over have the great SF on TV (and a lot of non-SF) over the last two decades has come from Star Trek refugees. Moore, Berman, Echevarria… the list goes on.

                  But none of that puts STAR TREK in the public domain.

                  So the fans may gripe and overlook the Axanar hijinks but any clear-eyed look at it will show that, however badly Paramount may present their case, Axanar is a for-profit, unlicensed derivative of their IP. This case should have been open and shut. Just as the case against STAR TREK CONTINUES is open and shut. But it seems Paramount isn’t even hiring good enough lawyers to make the unlicensed derivative case effectively.

                  A mess.
                  No good guys here. Just slime and incompetence.

                  Keystone cops is being kind, really.

                • Felix J. Torres

                  Stupid auto-corrupt kicked in again: not “rescinded money”: crowd-funded money.

          • Ah, that’s just sad. That the fans are doing it better than the people with multimillion dollar budgets, I mean.

            Bioware, which makes videogames, has (had?) a standing offer to let people apply for a job by submitting games they made using Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights toolset. At one point Bioware even elevated at least one of the fan-created modules by selling it as an expansion pack. I’d bet those toolsets increased their candidate pool for new game designers.

            Star Trek being a sandbox property, I’m surprised Paramount isn’t using the fan movies the same way. They could hold contests and festivals for “the best fan-made Star Trek movie” or whatever.

            Shoot, they could even have the fans pay to enter the festival or contest, and pay for scene kits: “For $$$ you get the captain’s chair, the PADD, and a decanter of Aldebaran whiskey. Go.”

            Ah well. It occurs to me there are probably more people trying to break into movies than video games. Maybe Paramount doesn’t need to worry about recruiting for a franchise.

  3. It’s Paramount/CBS’s playground and they can set what rules they like (within the law). No problem with that.

    I will point out that every notable Star Trek fan film to date is afoul of at least two of rules 1, 4, and 5. The same rules probably scupper the vast majority of future fan films.

    It’s interesting to note that a fan film on YouTube would have wider distribution than the new series on CBS’s premium service. The reverse of years ago when fan films were distributed on tape at conventions and the official product was on broadcast television.

    • Actually, I think most of the fan films to date violate every single rule, not just 1, 4 and 5. I think it’s the rare exception that isn’t. So this is basically Paramount saying, “The Star Trek fan film as you currently know it is a thing of the past.”

      • Felix J. Torres

        Good point.
        Until the Axanar guys got Paramount riled up they were letting folks get away with murder.
        They probably didn’t realize how much money those videos rake in via YouTube.

  4. The guy in charge of Axanar has been using the crowdfunded money to pay himself ongoing wages and to build a soundstage for future for-profit ventures as well as other things that aren’t to do with the film. Which is probably why Paramount decided to go at them.


  5. Gotta side with Paramount in this one. In fact, if I owned the property I’d probably forbid the fan fiction nonsense altogether. It’s usually just bad and doesn’t reflect well on your intellectual property. Look at that piece of fan fiction called Fifty Shades of Gray.

  6. I have to admit my concern is more with ethics than with pure IP law. If someone comes out with a book or show, creates a little universe (no pun intended) where their characters interact, I think that “universe” should be theirs to control.

    I can see a limit on control if/where you are talking about pure fan fiction i.e. created for fun and enjoyment. I don’t view it as threatening the original, and generally, if someone sees a crap version they think “well it’s fan fiction”.

    But I see total control where the derivative work becomes commercially viable — either a fan fiction story, book, or film. If they are within the fan fiction world, I think one can argue almost “fair use” as there is no commercial benefit; start selling tickets or stories or soliciting donations, and it rises to a commercial venture built on someone else’s creation. To me, that is a giant no no. Even if IP law doesn’t always cover it, it should be blockable.

    But just look at all the t-shirt shops popping up all over FB with totally pirated logos and designs that are complete knockoffs of commercial properties. Hard to stop, once the genie is out of the bottle.


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