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The Weird, Fun, & Miscellaneous > Paramount Must Explain 'Star Trek' in Court or Lose Ownership

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message 1: by Gary (last edited Feb 24, 2016 02:46PM) (new)

Gary | 1472 comments This is a very odd, convoluted issue, which I'm sure some folks in the Girlz group will be familiar, and others less. (I can't say I've been following it other than rather haphazardly.)
Launched in 2014, the film Prelude to Axanar covers the missions of the first Federation warship and takes place during the childhood of James T. Kirk but well away from him. The problem with all that is that it definitely shares a universe with every other Star Trek film and movie. The question becomes whether or not Star Trek is the universe or what happens within it.
Full article: https://www.inverse.com/article/11905...

What actually is Star Trek and what portion of it falls under copyright at this point? There are alternate universes in the concept itself. You can copyright things like characters, plots and actual stories, but if someone were to put together a product that didn't use any of the existing canon characters, ships, races, etc. and was set in an alternate universe, does the copyright owner of Star Trek have the right to shut it down?

The other question is: should they?

Star Trek (whatever that is) has arguably the most involved fan base in the world. Star Wars fans may want to argue the point, but unlike Star Wars, Star Trek was kept alive by fans in the first place. The legal rights of a copyright owner aside, is it a good idea to piss off the fanbase of a product so closely associated with that fanbase?

Edit: This article lays out the issues regarding the copyright violations of the Axanar project in much better detail than that first one: http://www.thewrap.com/why-star-trek-...


message 2: by J.S. (new)

J.S. Little | 45 comments Well... I think this one is pretty simple: Axanar uses a ton of elements from the Star Trek universe. If nothing else, the Klingon and Federation logos, numerous design elements (like the ship design) I imagine they mention various characters from Trek history I(haven't followed this particular fan project much). Hell, just the ship designs would probably be enough to get a judgement and injunction. I mean, unless the defense has a very novel approach, maybe some kind of weird fair use edge case, I can't imagine not getting a summary judgement against the production. Which sucks because I love Tony Todd and the bits I saw from that "Prelude" video were awesome.

Which actually works against them, I would want to see this over Frontier. So a fair use argument would face a steep battle.

It seems unlikely that a judge wouldn't see this work as competition to the official Star Trek shows/movies.

As to the question of 'should they sue'... that's a tough one. Could the damage they do to fan loyalty outweigh the value in keeping the brand limited to only the official productions? Maybe? I know a lot of fans like the production like Star Trek Continues and some of the other fan projects and this seems like Paramount could be treading on some pretty dangerous ground. Then again, a lot of the people that love the newer movies might not care about all the old stuff and might not care if Paramount smacks down someone the new fans don't care about.

"but if someone were to put together a product that didn't use any of the existing canon characters, ships, races, etc. and was set in an alternate universe, does the copyright owner of Star Trek have the right to shut it down?"

Well, no, they wouldn't, but if that were the case, there wouldn't be any question because Axanar would just be a new scifi movie and not a fan made Star Trek movie.

I guess the whole "you need to specify which elements are being infringed" might slow down Paramount lawyers for a few weeks while they make lists of everything but it is doubtful that would be too hard to do. And generally in these kind of "substantial similarity" kinds of cases, there will be lots of wrangling over what's a mise en scene element and whats protectable. I imagine the general nature of the initial complaint was just to try and scare a settlement out of the Axanar guys before the real work of producing exhibits began.


message 3: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1472 comments I think the wording of that original suit "thousands of copyrights" muddles the Paramount case. It could very well be a number of things that range up into the thousands given the logos, characters, etc. but using that kind of language does beg the question "Which ones?" pretty strongly, especially since the suit is apparently asking for $150,000 damages each.

In the thread about Ms. Kenyon suing Ms. Clare, there are links to pretty specific, even line-by-line comparisons: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

From what I understand about the Axanar project, they are making a lot of their own costumes, sets, props, etc. and characters in a way that makes me think the "thousands" claim is a bit of hyperbole. Other things described in that second article are clearly are part of the copyright.

It's really hard for me to see how a project like Axanar could actually damage Paramount's income. I'm sure it'd be possible on some levels. I read a review of the Abrams Star Trek to the short film they put out that wasn't at all flattering to that film or director... but it still grossed $385 million according to Wikipedia, so damage is going to be kind of hard to assess.

What's interesting to me, though, is how much of the "setting" can they claim as part of the copyright? Especially if that setting is so broad as to include alternate realities itself.


message 4: by J.S. (new)

J.S. Little | 45 comments Gary wrote: "What's interesting to me, though, is how much of the "setting" can they claim as part of the copyright? Especially if that setting is so broad as to include alternate realities itself. ."

Yeah, that's the most interesting question that could be taken up. And based on previous cases that I've read through, it should only be the items that are so individually distinct as to be "Star Trek". Like, the Federation, as a concept would seem pretty safely out of the realm of a copyright. But maybe a Federation, centered on Earth, with a planet called Vulcan, aliens called Klingons, Bajorans, Cardassians, Ferengi, and it being founded in the 2200's might be enough to get it classed as a protectable IP. I think that you would have to somehow try and get "The Federation" classified as a character (much like in the Batmobile case) to have a shot and protecting it.

The claims about "1000's of copyrights" would certainly need to be clarified but given all the books, video games, movies, and tv shows, I think the number of copyrights could be in the 1000's. The Defendants response is primarily to make Paramount have to go through all of them and enumerate the infringed ones, which seems reasonable.

"It's really hard for me to see how a project like Axanar could actually damage Paramount's income."
Well the primary test is only that an infringement have the possibility of causing damage by taking away buisness from any part of the exploitation of the copyright for it to be infringment, like in Rogers vs Koons, a picture of some dogs was infringed by a sculpture of the dogs with part of the reasoning being that the photographer couldn't license the picture for future uses because a sculpture already exists (and is thus hurting the earning potential of the photo). Actual damages aren't required which gives the copyright holder a lot of power since you could always claim there are unexploited rights that need to be protected even if there's no reasonable chance of that exploitation happening. Like, in Rogers, I seriously doubt that the photographer would ever want to make sculptures based on his photos, but hey, its a possibility so the court sides with protecting those possibilities.

So while Axanar probably wouldn't keep anyone from seeing the new movie or TV shows, I imagine the company would say that it's competition if they ever wanted to make a show set during the period the movie covers.


message 5: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale | 659 comments Oh no! Not ANOTHER one! *sigh* This is as full of BS as the George Lucas claim in 2009 that the expanded Universe has NEVER been canonical!


message 6: by Gary (new)

Gary | 1472 comments Wil Wheaton hates Axanar: http://wilwheaton.tumblr.com/post/141...


message 7: by Gary (last edited Jun 27, 2016 02:59PM) (new)

Gary | 1472 comments CBS/Paramount has spoken!
CBS and Paramount’s Guidelines for Avoiding Objections:

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.
There's another 9 "guidelines" but that first one seems to be getting the most attention.

#4 is also a little problematic on a few levels.

Full article: https://fococomiccon.com/2016/star-tr...

Of course, we'll have to see what they mean by "guidelines" as things press forward. In my mind, it's a weasel word meant to convey that there's a line in the sand that you shall not cross! But if you do then there's this other line in the sand... and don't cross that one! Unless we don't feel like bothering with protecting those lines in the sand. Dragging our heel across the sand twice was already exhausting....

One way or another, it seems (according to this article) that a few projects have already announced that they are shutting down.


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