Things in the world of Trek aren’t exactly rosy.
Crowdfunded fan film Star Trek: Axanar, which raised more than $1 million via Kickstarter and Indiegogo, has hit a major bump in the road. Despite the entire enterprise (no pun intended) being a not-for-profit operation, it seems Paramount and CBS, who hold the rights to the various Trek franchises, aren’t happy about a film of this scale that has managed to pull in a good few science fiction luminaries. In fact, they’re sueing the producers.
Star Trek: Axanar is a project headed up by producer, writer and actor Alec Peters. The intention is to tell the story of the Battle of Axanar, the concluding battle of the Four Years’ War between the Federation and the Klingon Empire in the 2240s. And if the mockumentary film Prelude to Axanar is anything to go by, it would be epic. Not only do the effects and design look like excellent bridges between classic Trek and the ‘JJ-verse’ ships, but the acting talent pulled in is fantastic. Star Trek stalwarts JG Hertzler and Gary Graham have been cast, along with Candyman and Chuck star Tony Todd and Battlestar Galactica’s Richard Hatch as Klingon commander Karn. And maybe this is where the project fell foul of Paramount’s legal department.
Law firm Loeb & Loeb filed papers last Friday (yes, Christmas Day!) in California Federal Court for an injunction against production on Axanar and for the awarding of damages for “direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement”. Apparently this ranges from copyrighted words and phrases like Klingon, Vulcan and Starfleet, to the use of pointy ears and bobbed hairstyles worn by Vulcans over the years. Peters has stated that he is prepared to fight the lawsuit, and that he actually first heard about it in a film industry bulletin. Despite everything, he is hopeful for a compromise resolution:
“Fan films – whether related to Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, Batman or any other franchise – are labors of love that keep fans engaged, entertained, and keep favorite characters alive in the hearts of fans. Like other current fan films, Axanar entered production based on a very long history and relationship between fandom and studios. We’re not doing anything new here.”
In a joint statement released earlier on 30 December, Paramount and CBS said:
“Star Trek is a treasured franchise in which CBS and Paramount continue to produce new original content for its large universe of fans. The producers of Axanar are making a Star Trek picture they describe themselves as a fully professional independent Star Trek film. Their activity clearly violates our Star Trek copyrights, which, of course, we will continue to vigorously protect.”
There’s been fan films before, of course. Some have told inventive storylines and featured cast members from various Trek incarnations reprising their roles. Graham and Hertzler have appeared in a couple before. But it’s maybe the sheer size and scope of what Axanar is trying to do that has seen it appear on the lawyer’s radar. Either way, the timing seems a little strange. Here’s hoping this gets sorted out.
Read the actual complaint here