It’s been a long battle for the team behind Axanar over the course of which Paramount Pictures and CBS have come across as bully boys – and it’s probably not done yet.
Last month many Star Trek enthusiasts who have been following the ups and downs of the fan film ‘Axanar’ breathed a sigh of relief as the legal proceedings instigated by Paramount Pictures and CBS against the film seemed to be coming to a peaceful resolution.
At a fan event in May writer/director of the first two instalments of the rebooted Star Trek movie franchise, JJ Abrams, announced – in reference to ‘Axanar’ – “Within the next few weeks it will be announced this is going away and fans will be able to work on their projects”. The word around the replicator (Tea, Earl Grey, Hot) was that the lawsuit would be dropped and a code of conduct would be implemented with a clear set of guidelines for fans making Star Trek fan films to follow.
Cited as being influential in this apparent U-turn by the studios was Justin Lin, director of this summer’s latest installment of the rebooted franchise Star Trek Beyond. But like a Klingon scorned it seems the big boys can’t let it lie and it looks like Paramount and CBS are still firmly in command of the ‘Starship Litigation’.
Engadget reports that: “According to the Hollywood Reporter, Axanar Productions filed paperwork seeking relief from the lawsuit just days after Abrams made his announcement, going so far as to include Abrams’ statements in their motion to dismiss. However, instead of filing an extension while they worked out the details, Paramount and CBS have filed a counterclaim indicating the lawsuit is still moving forward and included a full accounting of every single one of the fan film’s individual copyright infringements.” So Axanar’s creators may not have made it to the relative safety of the neutral zone just yet.
Despite being bogged down with this legal headache a new, and frankly very impressive, trailer was released exclusively on the Buzzfeed facebook page which was allegedly put together before the project was photon torpedoed with a cease and desist order.
There’s no denying the skill and high production quality of the project. Quite frankly the look and feel of the footage could easily be misconstrued for a bonafide, big budget Star Trek production. And indeed ‘Axanar’ has, in comparison to most fan films, a hefty budget behind it, over $1million has been raised through crowdfunding and backers this far, which takes it beyond the scope of shorts put together by most enthusiasts. There’s also no hiding the fact that it is the intention of the creators of this film to recreate, as perfectly as possible, the Star Trek universe with detailed starships, familiar theme music, characters and lore. It’s probably the fact that ‘Axanar’ replicates Star Trek so well that’s stirred the studios into legal action.
That said and done probably the most important consideration in all of this is that ‘Axanar’ is not being made for a profit. In real terms – the film is not benefiting from its likeness to Star Trek. At least not monetarily on the surface of things. Actors ARE going to be paid for their time spent making this film. Rent IS being paid for the sound stage the film is being made on. So, some – even if it’s not the filmmakers directly – are gaining monetarily from the creation of this film which leaves a great big grey area for each side to exploit.
Ultimately it seems ‘Axanar’ is a victim of its own success and the might of Paramount and CBS are in the business of protecting their property and making money. Not necessarily in that order.