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Settlement Reached In Legal Fight Over ‘Star Trek’ Fan Film

Deadline logo Deadline 1/20/2017 Ross A. Lincoln
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Set phasers to “peace.” After more than a year of legal combat over the proposed Star Trek fan film Axanar, a settlement has been reached between the filmmakers, Alec Peters and his Axanar Productions, Inc., and Paramount and CBS Studios.

In the settlement, both Axanar Productions and Peters have agreed to acknowledge that the film, and the earlier prequel short film Prelude To Axanar, “were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law.”

Axanar and Peters have also agreed to make “substantial” alterations to the final version of Axanar before any release, and to ensure that any future fan films produced by the company “will be in accordance with the “Guidelines for Fan Films” distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016.

The trouble started in 2015 after plans were announced for the feature-length Star Trek: Axanar, based on the aforementioned short film that premiered at San Diego Comic-Con 2014. The project received a much higher-than-normal level of publicity for a fan film, thanks in part to George Takei, who expressed interest and shared the project’s Kickstarter page with his social media followers. Axanar Productions subsequently raised $638,000 in funding, and announced sci-fi mainstays like Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica) and Deep Space Nine alum J. G. Hertzler as cast members.

Paramount and CBS Studios normally took little issue with fan films, which often saw participation by Trek alums. However, the size of the production, approaching legitimately professional, was a red flag. Also of concern was, apparently, the setting. Axanar takes place during “the four years war” between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets, an event mentioned during the original series but never explored in official Trek productions. Though major details are still unknown, the fervency of the Paramount/CBS response promoted still-enduring speculation that the upcoming CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery covers the same material.

Whatever the reason, Paramount and CBS Studios filed a lawsuit on December 29 of 2015, alleging numerous copyright violations including setting, characters, and the Klingon language. The lawsuit was a major sore point for Trek fans, to the point that during the promotional efforts for last summer’s Star Trek Beyond, executive producer JJ Abrams announced that Paramount would be dropping the suit as a gesture to those fans. That didn’t happen alas, and the matter looked to be headed to court as recently as the beginning of this month.

See the full statement below:

Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar’s film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law.

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.

Paramount and CBS continue to be big believers in fan fiction and fan creativity. They encourage amateur filmmakers to showcase their passion for Star Trek. Paramount and CBS will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional, amateur, and otherwise meet the Guidelines, which can be found at http://www.startrek.com/fan-films. Paramount and CBS would like Star Trek fans, with their boundless creativity and passion, to “Live Long and Prosper.”

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