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‘Star Trek’ Crowdfunded Film’s Producers Sued by CBS, Paramount

Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios have sued the makers of the upcoming crowdfunded “Star Trek” film “Axanar” for alleged copyright infringement.

Axanar Productions and Alec Peters have been named in the suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles. The project raised $638,471 on Kickstarter and another $565,531 on Indiegogo.

The producers have asserted on their web site that “Axanar” uses the intellectual property of CBS under the provision that “Axanar” is totally non-commercial.

“That means we can never charge for anything featuring their marks or intellectual property and we will never sell the movie, DVD/Blu-ray copies, T-shirts or anything which uses CBS owned marks or intellectual property,” they note.

Paramount and CBS are alleging three claims of copyright infringement in the suit: “The Axanar Works infringe plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of ‘Star Trek,’ including its settings, characters, species and themes.”

The action alleges that producers of “Axanar” have “unabashedly” taken the CBS and Paramount intellectual property to “look and feel like a true ‘Star Trek’ movie.” Paramount and CBS are seeking  an injunction along with damages for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.

Peters told Variety he’s perplexed that Paramount and CBS had filed the suit since he’s pledged that it won’t be a money-making venture.

“All the money that’s been donated goes into the production and our goal is to do good for Star Trek,” he added. “We are huge fans. They are picking a fight with the wrong guys.”

The project’s web site says the film will go into production in January. The producers posted a short film “Prelude to Axanar” on YouTube as part of their fundraising efforts.

The production company describes “Axanar” as taking place 21 years before the events of the “Where no Man Has Gone Before” episode in the original “Star Trek” television series.

“‘Axanar’ is the story of Garth of Izar, the legendary Starfleet captain who is Captain Kirk’s hero. We met Garth in the third season TOS (‘The Original Series’) episode ‘Whom the Gods Destroy.’ Kirk called Garth the role model for all future Starfleet Officers. Garth charted more planets than any other Captain and was the hero of the Battle of Axanar, the story of which is required reading at the academy.”

The first “Star Trek” episode aired in 1966 and the series ran for three years. Four other TV series have aired and Paramount has released a dozen “Star Trek” movies with “Star Trek: Beyond” due out in July.

Paramount and CBS are represented by attorneys at Loeb & Loeb. The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

UPDATE — Alec Peters has issued a more detailed response:

This morning, I was greeted with news that our production company, Axanar Productions and I, personally, am being sued by CBS Studios, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation for copyright infringement of Star Trek.

First of all, I was disappointed to learn about this through an article in an industry trade. For several years, I’ve worked with a number of people at CBS on Star Trek-related projects, and I would have hoped those personal relationships would have warranted a phone call in advance of the filing of a legal complaint. Nevertheless, I know I speak for everyone at Axanar Productions when I say it is our hope that this can be worked out in a fair and amicable manner.

Axanar is a fan film. 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.

Like all fan films, AXANAR is a love letter to a beloved franchise. For nearly 50 years, Star Trek’s devotees have been creating new Star Trek stories to share with fellow fans. That’s all we’re trying to do here.

Since the original Star Trek TV series, when the letter writing campaign by fans got NBC to greenlight a third season of Star Trek, fan support has been critical to the success of the franchise. It is the Star Trek fans themselves who are most affected here, for by suing Axanar Productions to stop making our movie and collect so-called damages, CBS and Paramount are suing the very people who have enthusiastically maintained the universe created by Gene Roddenberry so many years ago.

The fact that many of the fans involved with Axanar Productions are also industry professionals speaks volumes to the influence of Star Trek in the entertainment industry. Not surprisingly, these fans want to give something back. We’re very proud that the work we’ve done to date looks so good. That is also a reflection of the devotion of Star Trek’s fans.

Like everything related to Axanar Productions, we take this matter very seriously and remain open to discussing solutions with all parties that can be mutually beneficial

 

 

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