Tag Archives: Crisis of Infinite Star Treks

Axanar Lawsuit: The Counterclaim and the Road Ahead

This is the 22nd entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

So, with the last post all about fan film guidelines, I know many of you were probably thinking, “What about Axanar’s counterclaim and that stuff?”

Okay, fine, enough with the fan guidelines. Aren't you going to follow up about the Axanar counter-claim?

I should say so. I don’t hang around Starbase 11 just to talk about fan film guidelines.

As I hoped, Janet Gershen-Siegel over at the G and T Show did a detailed overview of Axanar’s counterclaim which, if you want to want to really get into legal details, is well worth your time.

Here are some my takeaways as a non-lawyer/non-legal journalist:

Axanar’s lawyers (aka The Defense) are defending their client — as they should
The counterclaim, occasionally referred to as a countersuit, is what in legal terms is called a compulsory counterclaim. In game terms, it’s a card that, if you don’t play in your defense at a certain point, you can’t play. So why not play it? Lawyers, as a rule, need to provide the best defense (or offense) they can for their clients. Even as settlement talks are continuing, you may continue to play the game.

The Defense is not entirely successful in addressing the complaint
In other words, part of the Defense’s response is to admit as little wrongdoing as possible (in this case copyright infringement). There’s a lot of little maneuvers they use that are really quite interesting and remind me why lawyers are the wacky subject matter experts of law that they are. At the same time, you can only defend that which is defensible, and the fact is Axanar has been trying to make a Star Trek film. For example, when you claim that the title of the work is not Star Trek: Axanar and your Kickstarter for Axanar is called “Star Trek: Axanar,” there’s not much to your claim it’s not Star Trek. Not only that, many details of the complaint are statements by the defendant on social media, so the defense has to say, “Um, yes, that is publicly available” evidently hoping by not saying that the detail of the complaint is proof of copyright infringement, that somehow it won’t be.

The Defense’s attempts at affirmative defense will almost certainly not land a hit
These ripostes (c’mon, I got use my fencing terminology somewhere) appear to be a legal way to say “okay, whatever wrongdoing we might have done –which we don’t admit to anyway– the plantiffs are totally off base and/or not as wrong a doing because of X, Y, Z. Also, take THAT.”

If I counted correctly, there are 14 different affirmative defenses — and for those of us playing the “learn more about the legal arts” home game, almost every one is a new legal term, though some like “Fair Use” are ones with which I’m reasonably familiar. Again, I applaud the ingenuity of The Defense in trying a variety of ripostes. It sounds like they’re doing what they can.

Nevertheless, of those 14 ripostes, it looks like only one or two might merit some consideration before being rejected. Most can and will be rejected outright.

Now, having all read this, you may notice that Janet Gershen-Siegel does not appear to be siding with Axanar. If true, I don’t think that means her analysis is inaccurate, but I’d welcome any additional legal analysis of the counterclaim that comes to different conclusions.  I’d especially like that as, hey, I wanted to see Star Trek: Axanar get made, which seems increasingly unlikely even with a settlement. Unfortunately, the analysis appears to validate my conclusion that goes back to the Ides of March: Axanar can’t win this lawsuit.

That’s the bottom line. I do not think one needs to have any animus against Alec Peters or Axanar to reasonably conclude that the Court will side with the IP owners in this case. I haven’t seen legal precedents cited where IP owners losing cases like this.

In fact, one legal precedent from 1998 has been raised down in the rabbit hole. It involves a publishing company wanting to publish a book relating to a corporation’s IP. The corporation had not bothered to enforce their copyright for decades, but was being enforced in this case. Here, read about it in the New York Times.

Notice anything about the case of Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Carol Pub Group that sounds even slightly similar? A long-time Star Trek fan pointing to non-enforcement of copyright in something like 100 instances over decades?

And what did the court say? They sided with Paramount.

So in other words, in a case that’s not only similar to Axanar, but actually deals with Star Trek IP itself, the court sided with the corporation that owns the IP.

The defense that bears a striking resemblance to Axanar lost their case.

There’s next to no chance the judge isn’t aware of this legal precedent and absolutely zero chance CBS/Paramount won’t bring it up, which leaves The Defense to explain how this legal precedent doesn’t apply.

And I have no doubt The Defense knows too. Axanar can’t win the lawsuit.

Which leaves us back with the best option being to settle — and probably settle on CBS/Paramount’s terms.

How long The Defense waits to settle (and how strongly CBS/Paramount insists on their own terms) depends greatly on the court schedule. Luckily, some of the folks over at the CBS/Paramount vs. Axanar forum came up with some graphics.

Other_AxanarLawsuit_timeline

You’ll see we’re coming up to June 8th where additional defendants, known as “Does” will have to be named or be dropped from the lawsuit (this amounts to a card the Plaintiffs have to play or lose).

There is much speculation about which Does will be named and what their defense lawyers will do. We’ll also know what CBS/Paramount thinks of the counterclaim above by Monday, June 13th.

I’ll save further speculation and observations for others or when I get more information. For now, I mainly wanted to write this post for friends and fellow filmmakers who wanted to know the Axanar lawsuit timeline and how nigh impossible it will be for Axanar to win the case should it go to trial.

I know they’re not going to admit that. That’s playing a card they don’t have to. But they’re going to settle. It’s just a question of when.

(Thanks to Jody Wheeler and Janet Gershen-Siegel for pointing out some of the legal links)

UPDATE, 2016-06-09: It looks like there will not be a Day of the Does as many Axa-watchers thought there would be (okay, I’ll speak for myself, but I don’t think I’m alone). I expect there might be more to look into by the end of next week and Monday’s expected response from CBS/Paramount to Axanar’s counterclaim.

Awaiting New Orders from Starfleet Command (i.e. CBS and Paramount)

This is the 21st entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

In April, Marc Perton over at Newsweek wrote a really good article about the Axanar lawsuit which, as much as anything, led me down the rabbit hole because that’s where I first learned of discord within the Star Trek fan and fan film community.  Then things got depressing. Suffice to say, I originally thought the lawsuit filed by CBS and Paramount against a Star Trek fan film production last December was an unhappy David vs. Goliath story involving corporations crushing fan fervor. Instead, I found the corporations are not exactly the bad guys in this matter (though they are still good at crushing).

Well, in any case, Mr. Perton back to comment on all the fun we’ve had in the past week with JJ Abrams’ announcement of the lawsuit “going away.” Specifically, he delves into the double-edged sword that is official fan film guidelines.

If you just want an excellent overview of what’s going on with, including the pros and cons of having fan film guidelines, I highly recommend you read that article. As I’ll get into, I think having some form of guidelines is a good idea and a long time coming, regardless of how people might feel about Axanar.

And strong feelings about Axanar abound, as a draft of Axanar’s proposed fan film guidelines has surfaced on the Interwebs this past week, prompting much analysis and hand-wringing. The G and T Show’s Shanna Gilkeson does a nice job of trying to sum up some more fannish concerns. If you are intrigued by learning what the those proposed guidelines are and you want to know more about the rigorous (and some might say rancorous) debate down in the fannish depths of the Briar Patch/Rabbit Hole, read on.

(If you’re not ready for that kind of real-life intrigue, go back and watch a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode that deals with intrigue. I suggest “Necessary Evil” as an excellent aperitif.)

So, again, the link above is to Axamonitor’s reporting of a draft of fan film guidelines. This information comes in part from a blog entry about creating the guidelines and engaging the fellow fan film producers. If you’re reading these posts now, it may not be obvious, but at one point, the fan productions involved were kept anonymous by Axamonitor. Then when furor about the leaked guidelines arose, and over the course of the weekend, the participants (or non-participants, see the Axanar published list) were discussed.

As you might imagine, multiple discussions have exploded over at the CBS/Paramount vs Axanar Facebook forum. Not only that, but many Star Trek fan productions have responded that they are absolutely not on board with Axanar or its guidelines. I was going to try and list all the tally of the responses from the fan film producers, but since I started writing this post, Axamonitor has published a list.

Remember: many many people really, really dislike Alec Peters or at least his actions.  These actions include Peters having bad things to say about other fan productions (as reported in the first Newsweek article). For Peters to be the face of the Star Trek fan community, especially the Star Trek fan film community regarding fan film guidelines, triggers their outrage meters. As I mentioned in my earlier, depressing post, I understand why several individuals feel the way they do about Alec Peters and Axanar — and in many cases, the feeling appears mutual. Know that if you explore these parts of the rabbit hole, it gets quite personal with invective thrown from both camps. While I don’t consider myself neutral, I also don’t feel the need to join forces flinging invective. In fact, I think I may feel closest to what the producers of Starship Melbourne said:

“I’ve never gone on record to bash anyone, I’ve nothing against Mr Peters, nor his production. But it seems as if every time there is some calming of the storm, something associated with him kicks the hornets nest. It’s hard to tell what’s the truth because nothing adds up. He does not speak for any of us in Melbourne.”

Now, that’s just one production. But the fact remains that over a dozen fan film productions –including the majority that Alec Peters reached out to in order to comment on the proposed guidelines– have not only officially distanced themselves from Alec Peters and the proposed guidelines, but also have firmly sided with the intellectual property (IP) owners: CBS and Paramount. That has led to the following image being used as many a person’s profile picture:

The Eye of CBS and P for Paramount. IP. It's a joke, ya Vulcan!

The Eye of CBS and P for Paramount. Eye, P. IP.         It’s a joke, ya Vulcan!

So, anyway, some people are angry just at fan film guidelines being flung about, because they’re meant to be drafts discussed in relative private as detailed here.

I understand the idea of wanting to have consensus and wanting to present the Napoleonic juggernaut that is the CBS/Paramount legal team with some form of formidable coalition, but really, that wasn’t going to happen given the aforementioned discord in the fan film community. And this was evidently a discussion to the fan film community on Facebook, not exactly known as a bastion of privacy. I understand wanting to point out that draft guidelines are draft, but when you’re introducing guidelines to be discussed by a community of members who don’t work for you on a forum that defaults towards openness, I can’t see how that’s “telling tales out of school.” Also, I squeezed the Charmin while I was typing this, so perhaps I am not to be trusted.

But seriously, when the overwhelming majority of the fan productions you reached out to publicly state that they want no part of you or your guidelines, the main problem is not that the draft guidelines were leaked.

Rounding out the weekend was a post from Mike Bawden, the PR director for Axanar. In it he muses about how the Star Trek fan film community is sadly toxic, that CBS and Paramount can no longer ignore the “sandbox” of fan film productions, and that there should be something more than guidelines with accountability being a key principle.

Naturally, critics of Axanar point to Axanar being one of the reasons the community is toxic, that Axanar has made the sandbox more of a litter box, and that the unofficial guidelines were perfect until Axanar came along.

But here’s a twist: I don’t entirely agree. In fact, I agree with a lot of what Mike Bawden had to say in his post.

Dude, you went there?

Dude, you went there?

Yes I did, Cap. And have a Snickers. You haven’t been yourself recently.

I like the idea of CBS/Paramount providing “more than guidelines” because I want this to be a way in which they actively engage with fans versus passively allowing people to express their fandom.

I like the idea of licenses, though that’s a whole huge discussion about how they are to be properly non-commercial and not an administrative burden.

And I absolutely think there needs to be discussion within the fan and fan film (and fan of fan film) community about what the guidelines might be. Yes, Star Trek fan film producers may have the loudest voices on this score for good reason: they and their productions are directly on the line. But they are supported by thousands of other fans, so why ignore good ideas from people who want to see good fan productions? (This speaks also to Mike Bawden’s mention of “super-fans” and why Mike Bawden can raise good ideas along with everyone else).

As I previously mentioned, I am not a fan film producer, but I have produced and continue to produce and cast indie films and web series — and in my experience, I much prefer to deal with official guidelines than unofficial “understandings.”

In fact, not having any official guidelines is one of the reasons I haven’t done fan films. I salute all those people who have gone ahead and made Star Trek fan films in such a risky environment — and it’s precisely because those fun fan films could be taken away that I want there to be official guidelines.

I want that because I’ve been faced with something similar as an indie film producer.

You young whipper-snappers may not remember the ancient days before 2005, but back in the day, the film actors’ union SAG (now merged and called SAG-AFTRA) did not have the low budget agreements they have now. They’ve also made great strides with the New Media agreement. Heck, they didn’t even have the snazzy website they have now where you can easily download all sorts of documents and get the ball rolling.

These agreements are not without their headaches — not in the least that they add paperwork. However, between the Short Film agreement and the New Media agreement you have two vehicles that allow you to work with professional, SAG-AFTRA actors –including actors who appeared in official Star Trek series– for free.

Yes, for free.

That’s because for the SAG-AFTRA short film agreement, the student film agreement, and the New Media agreement, compensation may be both negotiated and deferred. This deferred salary must still adhere to Federal and State minimum wage laws, and they are employees, not independent contractors, so that overtime kicks in after 8 hours, but that can all be deferred.

Yes, things get a bit more complex, but basically, if you are a non-commercial project, you can enter in this agreement in good faith, not expecting to ever make money and therefore not pay the cast — you just have a legal agreement to pay the cast if certain conditions are met (generally getting distribution where SAG-AFTRA commercial agreements usually apply).

This is not theoretical nor is it some loophole of which SAG-AFTRA is somehow unaware.

Every year, hundreds of short films are made with SAG-AFTRA actors for competitions like the 48 Hour Film Project. Technically, the actors are receiving “deferred pay,” but effectively they receive no pay. Ever.

Every year, hundreds of student films are made with SAG-AFTRA actors who do not expect nor will ever get money for their participation. Hopefully they get a great acting experience with an up-and-coming filmmaker and the student film gets into a bunch of festivals, but only in rare exceptions would it ever get into a situation where revenue is earned on the film. Hence, the actors receive no pay.

It is the order of things.

It is the order of things.

This is expected. This is accepted.

The reason SAG-AFTRA offers these contracts is because they function as essentially “research & development” films: films that simply aren’t going to get onto the distribution channels where big money is. (By the way, Actor’s Equity, the union for professional stage actors, has “codes” and “plans” which are similar). If you read the low budget and deferred pay agreements closely, you’ll see that they all roll back to the “basic” SAG-AFTRA agreements if revenue occurs. In other words, in the odd event that your student film suddenly gets a distribution deal with Netflix, your web series gets onto Hulu, or your indie feature is going to be featured on IFC, then the actors get paid what they’re usually due.

But effectively, you’re getting a talented actor “for free.”

Note that “for free” doesn’t mean that’s there’s no cost to you, the fan film producer. Besides treating them well on set, having decent food, and decent hours, you might need to spring for their transportation costs, putting them up in a decent hotel, and paying for other incidentals. Basically, you’re making sure that the only thing the professional actor has to give you is their time — and the implicit arrangement is that this is their time well spent on something they’ll find fun and/or rewarding.

And, of course, the professional actor has to agree to this arrangement. They don’t have to. This is their union simply giving them a formal, kosher way to perform in less-than-commercial projects.

Do I love the SAG-AFTRA agreements? Not particularly. Who wants to do more paperwork if they don’t have to? But I love that, if I follow a set of publicly available and official rules, I can always work with professional actors who want to work with me.

Frankly, it always boggles me when I encounter indie filmmakers who go to enormous lengths to avoid following the rules, but still want to use union actors. (especially in our area, where our local SAG-AFTRA office is quite friendly).

So while I know people have been very happy with the unofficial Star Trek guidelines, I also know all the uncertainty we filmmakers had before we had improved SAG-AFTRA guidelines and agreements.

And that’s why I say the current unofficial Star Trek fan film guidelines are not perfect. Because at any time, any of the these fan productions could go away due to CBS and Paramount having a bad day. Some fan films are suspending production as I type because of the current uncertainty.

And you can say it’s all Axanar’s fault, but that doesn’t matter: because we have every reason to believe that when CBS/Paramount says fan film guidelines are coming that guidelines are, in fact coming. For better or worse, the old way is going away. Don’t you want to talk about what would work for you or not?

(Incidentally, this appears to be a point on which Axanar and Axamonitor agree, at least in part: Mike Bawden wrote of the fan community discussing guidelines in his post and Carlos Pedraza wrote about guideline discussion in a post this past week).

You remember seeing “all rights reserved” next to some copyrights? Well here CBS and Paramount are offering the fans a way where all rights are not reserved all of the time. They don’t have to do this. Look at what the fan productions said above. So many mentioned how thankful they were to CBS and Paramount for being allowed to play in the sandbox. You don’t need to throw those thanks away when you’re talking about how you might want to play in the sandbox.

So talk. Please. Believe me: they may not be receptive to any guidelines you give them, but they’re likely to be more receptive before they issue guidelines than after. And since the worst case scenario is you never get to do another Star Trek fan film, is it really bad to discuss what your best case scenario to make a Star Trek fan film might be?

Please let me know about these fannish confabs in the comments or other channels (for those of you who know them). I will update this post about good forums where the conversation is going on. There doesn’t have to unity. There should be discussion. Keep it polite. Keep it positive. And as CBS and Paramount are corporations, but they’re staffed by humans. Some of them even want to engage with fans.

And that brings us back, briefly to Axanar, Alec Peters, and the draft guidelines kerfuffle. In the best possible scenario, it sounds like Alec Peters felt Axanar had a unique channel to speak to the humans at these corporations, and perhaps help focus some communication from theStar Trek fan film community. The community has decided otherwise. In fact, they’ve effectively said, “no.” You gotta Vulcan up and accept that.

And I need to accept, based on reading the fan production statements above that perhaps there won’t be that fannish conclave about guidelines. It could be that everyone has decided to wait. Wait for Starfleet Command to issue orders to its fleet of fan productions.

I can only hope when the order is given, it’s, “Warp speed.”

Let’s Get Back to Boldly Going

This is the 20th entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

So, after Sunday’s somewhat somber, but cathartic post, I wanted to get back to the fun part of Star Trek. I mean, eventually, we’ll have to end the whole Crisis series. Right? Right?

Yes, I know Axanar Productions responded to CBS/Paramount’s complaint yesterday which they talk about here and you can read further about at 1701 News here. Unlike people freaking about this ‘countersuit,’ I’m given to understand this is de rigueur for lawsuits, even ones going through settlement talks.

I’m sure I’ll have opportunities to get back to that legal drama, but today let’s focus on everyone’s favorite 50-year old Space Opera. (Not 50+ years).

In preparing the aforementioned somber piece last week, I didn’t feel I had time for what I really wanted to talk about: the teaser trailer for the 2017 Star Trek TV series, and the second trailer for Star Trek Beyond.

And of course, anything I say won’t be as exhaustive as what I’m sure a hundred YouTube trailer reaction videos might be, but I suppose if you’ve gone as far as 19 entries of this series, perhaps you’ll willing to go a bit farther.

All right, but don't mix pop culture too much.

All right, but don’t mix pop culture too much.

No promises. So first up, the TV show teaser:

This is what I’d call a “save the date” kind of teaser. It really doesn’t give us the tone of the TV show or movie, it just lets us know it’s coming. It seems these are more prevalent these days, perhaps as entertainment conglomerates want to craft their buzz delivery with ever-increasing care. Perhaps they want us to keep some space in our fannish hearts, so we won’t forget them come January.

Whatever the case, it’s nice to see they’re saying is new heroes, villians, etc. Why, it might even be hopeful. Based on some of the people involved, I’m optimistic.

Okay, now onto the second Star Trek Beyond trailer:

Oh, so much better than the first one.

Now, my wife (that’s not Mrs. Columbo) either didn’t see or forgot the original Beyond trailer, so she picked up on the action-y action with a side order of action in this one. However, having already resigned myself to a seriously action-y Big Screen Star Trek (which isn’t that out of character for the franchise — let’s be honest), I still wanted some thoughtful moments.

And I got ’em. The teaser trailer for me was “Hey kidz, join us on this outer space romp!” I suddenly realized what a friend of mine felt when he was confronted with “Hip” Bugs Bunny.

Y u no like NuTrek, bro?

Y u no like NuTrek, bro?

But with this trailer, I got the thoughtful seasoning I’ve seen in Trek movies. There’s the idea of humanity grappling with the immensity of outer space from the very cool shot of the Enterprise going through the warp bubble to the megastructure. And there’s the idea of finding one’s place in said massive space as Kirk wonders if his whole career amounts to anything. And there’s the sense of family, of what you owe your ship and your crew and what it might take to survive. And the honey-smoke voice of Shohreh Aghdashloo doesn’t hurt matters. Plus, Jaylah is clearly from Farscape. And who doesn’t like Farscape?

These people certainly appreciate Farscape

These people certainly appreciate Farscape

Exactly. But more than Farscape, that felt like some good classic Trek themes… amid the destruction of the Enterprise…. again. So it’s still action, egg, action, action, bacon, and action, but it’s not action, action, action, action, action, baked beans, action, action, action. At least I hope not.

And in the early months of this year, I was reminded that both the director and one of the writers (perhaps both writers) are very into Star Trek and are arguably engaged to execute it well.

Simon Pegg, lest you forget, has written entertaining films before — ones that have been able to synthesize genres. And he’s a tremendous Sci-Fi nut and his co-writer, Doug Jung, has been the creator of some well-regarded drama.

Justin Lin, whose films I have not seen, also promises to bring an interesting perspective on the Star Trek franchise — at least that’s what I got out of this profile in Wired. Star Trek has a special place in his heart. Hey, I never would have thought Lord of the Rings held such a special place in Peter Jackson’s heart. We all contain multitudes, it’s how the multitudes are applied and this isn’t the creative team’s first rodeo.

So here’s hoping there’s some damn fine adventuring come July.

UPDATE, 2016-05-31: I meant to fit io9’s breakdown of the Star Trek Beyond Trailer as an example of people being far more in-depth than I’ll plan to, but I forgot, so ya got it here. It’s fun.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: For the World Wide Web is Hollow and I Have Touched The Pie

This is the 19th entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks. I’m not saying this is the most depressing entry, but well, read on.

I want to tell you a story.

It’s not a particularly happy story, but it’s a true story. It’s my story and yet I feel it is many a fan’s story: one marked first by excitement, giddy anticipation, fear, shock, and then horror and disgust.

Then, at the end, pie.

But more on the pie later.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this series, all the way back to November 2015. The first announcement of a new Star Trek series and cautious optimism.

Then the fast and furious action trailer for Star Trek Beyond in December and the realization of the cold equations with how Paramount will likely be making Star Trek films.

Then the Axanar lawsuit and the feeling that Big Business was, in a familiar narrative, trampling on the passion of the little guy rather than trying to figure out how to harness said passion.

Because of the implications for fan productions and use of intellectual property (IP), I continued to follow the case. I had given a nominal amount to Axanar’s IndieGoGo campaign after seeing Prelude to Axanar as it seemed a worthy fan cause, so I certainly wanted to see the resulting fan feature.

But in hindsight, I think I might have sensed some things were a bit weird. Why was Axanar singled out? After reading a Newsweek article that mentioned some discord in the fan community, I stumbled across a passionate editorial to take a stand in the Axanar case, I had a bad feeling. Still, as I’ve observed bad blood in office politics, there’s rarely advantage to get involved if you don’t have to. And I’m not a fan film producer, so I didn’t have to, right?

Then came the judge’s ruling on Axanar’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. I read it with my usual excitement, amped up now because of the amicus brief regarding Klingon. And something didn’t sit right. That initial pull away from the Briar Patch seemed premature. What was going on down the rabbit hole? What truths were down there.

And like Chekov and his gun, I had to find out.

Shouldn't it be "his phaser?"

Shouldn’t it be “his phaser?”

No, not him. I mean Anton.

Sheesh. Modernist.

Sheesh. Modernist.

NO! Not Yelchin. Stop being such Star Trek fans for crying out loud.

Fine, theater nerd.

Fine, theater nerd.

That’s the one. Gotta love that depressing Russian sonofabitch.

So yeah, Anton Chekhov’s gun had to go off, and so I went down the rabbit hole.

As Sam Beckett might say, “Oh, boy.”

My first entry into this world of people-far-more-into-following-the-Axanar-lawsuit-than-I landed on the inevitable Facebook group of CBS vs Axanar: a group that wanted to be a spot to talk about the lawsuit… and apparently liked pie.

The part about the pie confused me. But more on that later.

I was shocked and actually noted the difference between posts there and posts on the Axanar Facebook group were like visiting two different worlds (Eminiar 7 and Vendikar, perhaps? Ya gotta keep the Trek references going).

What I got in response was multiple people saying that they did not hate Axanar Productions, nor its head Alec Peters. Instead, I received a number of nuanced, thoughtful replies of how they were not hating on the person, but being disgusted by the behavior.

I was pointed to and found many additional articles indicating behavior that raises many questions about the conduct of Axanar Productions in terms of how it’s been handling someone else’s IP and about the conduct of Alec Peters and others in handling other people.

For those interested, I recommend checking out 1701 News and its rather exhaustive archive about Axanar-related articles.

There’s also Axamonitor, I site/wiki created solely to follow the case, provide context to rumors, and follow up on allegations.

And naturally, there has been talk of these matters on Reddit, like the suggestion Axanar Productions has used the fan donations to prep a for-profit studio over and above trying to make a fan film.

Oh, did that get your attention? Here’s someone who was evidently paying closer attention than I was back in January talking about why they are not comfortable with what Axanar is up to.

And here’s someone who originally tried to help out as a fellow fan film creator, and was asked to do something unethical.

There's a 'but' in there, isn't there?

There’s a ‘but’ behind this, isn’t there?

Yes. Yes, there is. Because even with all these questions, I’m certain some of these concerns could (and have) been dismissed as here-say. Some matters are speculation. Some are matters specifically denied by Axanar Productions. I don’t know Alec Peters personally, nor any of the Axanar team.

And on one level, doesn’t that make this a fan version of office politics?

Perhaps. And if I were more of a neutral lawyer type, I would say that –or not even have written this post at all– but I’m not neutral.

This doesn’t mean I’m joining in any attacks on Axanar (though from reading some comments, it sounds like simply writing this post, I am a ‘hater’). I have no personal beef with Alec Peters or Axanar Productions. Perhaps I’d even enjoy a Romulan Ale with them in other circumstances.

But if you can read all those articles and not feel that Axanar and co. have done some –at the very, very least– bone-headed things, I have a Ferengi that wants to sell you the planet Earth.

I mentioned office politics and I try to avoid them as much as possible, but I also try to avoid the office Machiavellis: those who scheme and add to strife.

Because, you see, even if I don’t know which side is right, when one side says, “Here is my issue with several sober details laid out and why I feel wronged.”

And the other side says, “CBS/Paramount SUCKS! Axanar Trek is TRU TREK! HATERS!”

Well, I don’t need to pick sides, but I know who to avoid at the water cooler.

And really, there’s something quite loathsome about some of the comments I’ve read in this trip down the rabbit hole. I know the David vs. Goliath story is compelling. I know. I latched onto that narrative too as you might recall from my January post which essentially launched this whole series (previously, it was just a couple posts about Star Trek).

But at the same time, I absolutely, positively believe in the rights of intellectual property owners (as I’ve said before). Fans don’t own the IP. They can attempt to sway it, they can pledge devotion to it, or even abandon it, but they can never own it.

So that’s why stuff like this irks me no end:

From http://www.sci-fest.com/#!short-films/m7wwv for an event on Saturday, May 21st.

From http://www.sci-fest.com/#!short-films/m7wwv for an event on Saturday, May 21st.

Seriously, WTF?!?

(That’s hoW‘s That Fandom?, by the way).

You’re the subject of a lawsuit for stealing someone else’s property, and you let someone advertise your film like that? (Lord forbid Axanar provided the copy).

People have said they stand with Axanar and some have said they stand with CBS.

I stand with Star Trek.

I enjoy many of the fan films, and think they should continue as a side of Star Trek we don’t always see — and as a great outlet for the fans (and not coincidentally, a good way for CBS/Paramount to engage with said fans). I don’t like the idea that someone might be trying to profit off someone else’s IP. That’s not right.

Now, at this point in my post (I started it on May 14th and figured I’d be able to post it Friday, May 20th), I originally proposed two solutions, both predicated on the thought that the lawsuit was still pending.

The first solution was in case Alec Peters and Axanar Productions have been acting in good faith for the most part — and mistakes and mean-spirited comments were the result of idiocy, which, while enraging, is usually not a crime.

In that case, the solution would be to settle with CBS/Paramount. Settle and hopefully fulfill the promise to fans in making the film.

The second solution was in case Axanar Productions has not been acting in good faith and that some or all of the accusations of greed and general Ferengi-like avarice were accurate. In that case, my hope was that, yes, let them be crushed in the court. Let their misdeeds become known, but let CBS/Paramount create official guidelines for fan films. Further, let them use such guidelines to deepen their relationship and engagement with fans.

With this weekend’s bombshell announcement that “the lawsuit was going away” that changes matters. It looks like there will be some sort of settlement (no, the lawsuit wasn’t “dropped” as has been reported) and CBS/Paramount will be releasing some guidelines.

First off, context.  Janet Gershen-Siegel did everyone a solid with her breakdown of the ruling on the motion to dismiss, and she does a good job here explaining what this bombshell announcement mean… so far.

There’s also a piece on 1701 News reporting on statements people have made. Axanar Productions has also responded, as mentioned in the 1701 piece.

I mention these two sites because, unlike the slew of brief articles that I have seen friends post, they actually understand that CBS/Paramount has not dropped the lawsuit. After the judge’s ruling, why would CBS/Paramount? This simply puts them in a stronger position to settle.

And while I’m glad to hear there will likely be a settlement, there’s now rampant speculation as to whether that will mean an Axanar film, if the new fan film guidelines will be too restrictive (e.g. in the “be careful what you wish for” category), and if we’ll ever get a solid answer as to what Axanar was intending and what they did or didn’t do.  I assume legal discovery does not necessarily happen with a settlement the same way it might if you’re going to trial.

Regardless, I hope there are answers soon. Answers on the settlement. Answers on the film guidelines. But don’t think this is a victory of David over Goliath. It’s not that simple. Again, maybe some of the Axanar actions can be credited to idiocy, but too many people have pointed to too many stories to make me believe them entirely blameless.

Uncovering all of this has left a very bad taste in my mouth for fandom and crowdfunding and vitriol spewed on the Internets.

And I’m not sure if justice or Star Trek will be well served.

When I mentioned that having all these details come to light was edifying, but depressing, the CBS vs. Axanar group responded.

“That’s why we have pie.”

pies_many

I guess that will have to do.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: Klingons are so Derivative

This is the 18th entry in an ongoing series about Star Trek fandom and its future called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks. Since “18” seems a good “age of ascension,” Worf would probably approve of this being more about Klingon.

For those wondering from my post last week, I did go down the rabbit hole of fan news, commentary, and the stew of social media regarding the Axanar lawsuit… and the full report of that sobering experience will be coming out later this week. Hopefully before an expected Star Trek Beyond trailer, so I can just enjoy that.

In the meantime, let’s return to the Klingon language.

Mike Masnick at TechDirt does a good job summarizing some of the legal moves in the Axanar lawsuit in terms of how it relates to copyrighting the Klingon language.

The one thing I would say is that I do find it a serious topic, because if a court rules that Klingon can be copyrighted, it sets a disturbing precedent for corporations’ ability to own a language itself. And speaking of ownership, when something has been open source and developed for decades, but suddenly can be protected via copyright, what does that mean for open source? (I elaborate on that hypothetical here).

Now interestingly, since I’ve been digging deeper into the coverage of the Axanar lawsuit, that topic has come up. Many observers who have been looking into the Axanar case far closer than I argue that the Klingon language is not open source and is still entirely owned by CBS/Paramount despite the existence of the Klingon Language Institute, stage plays in Klingon, continued development in Klingon and so on. Their point is that these can all be deemed derivative works and CBS/Paramount has allowed them to exist because they have been done, by and large, as non-commercial endeavors.

So let me put this back into my hypothetical scenario of the General Dynamics invented language (GDIL). The argument here is that General Dynamics never released control of its language. A group of engineers found the language to be really useful and fun to expand upon and wanted to create their own training videos using the language for building wells in developing nations or whatnot. General Dynamics said, “sure, here’s a license to do that good work for non-commercial ends.” And so the GDIL Institute was born, a proper non-profit corporation obeying the laws of Pennsylvania officially licensed by General Dynamics to work on GDIL.

The original “father of GDIL” –the linguist who formally constructed the language and its rules– would continue to help the GDIL Institute to expand the language because the language originally was not too much about building wells and irrigation, and so GDIL developed. However, at all times, GDIL was developed as licensed by General Dynamics for non-commercial use. If at some point in the future, the leaders of the GDIL Institute behaved like schmucks or were trying to monetize GDIL in a way that General Dynamics disapproved of, that license would be revoked. Everything the GDIL Institute did was a derivative work allowed by General Dynamics.

That’s the argument as I understand it and it does make sense. It may even be legal. The point that I still get stuck on, and I think this is because of my studies in linguistics, is that I firmly believe that a true language cannot be proprietary by its very nature.

A language is not simply a story. It is not simply song lyrics. It is not even an information delivery mechanism like some computer code might be deemed to be. A fully realized language is a framework not only giving one the ability to communicate, but to think and ponder about the world around them. That’s why it’s so important to preserve so many of the thousands of human languages we have because they preserve ways of thinking. That’s why invented languages are so interesting and worth study and development.

Sure, you can and courts will make rulings on the use of language (e.g. the whole ‘crying fire in a theater’ thing), but it’s an entirely other matter to say someone can own a language. Languages are different.

There may be no legal precedence for this assertion, just as fans aren’t legally granted an automatic right to make fan films even though the capability is there.

I guess we’ll see. Even though it’s gone in this case (for now), I’m thinking it will come up again soon.

Update (2016-05-18, later in the PM):
I also put this update in the Corbomite post from last week, but Janet Gershen-Siegel has an entertaining and exhaustive article that goes over a lot of the legal specifics including speaking to the amicus brief about Klingon. For now, all this is academic.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: Not Exactly the The Corbomite Maneuver

This is the 17th entry in an ongoing series about Star Trek fandom and its future called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks. Based on today’s updates, I’ll be writing about this through Spring 2017. Who woulda thunk it?

While this amounts to legal maneuvers around the Axanar Lawsuit, a judge issued a ruling on Monday that will allow the lawsuit to move forward. Essentially, it’s a rejection of Axanar’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but there’s some other interesting language bundled into the ruling.

Megan Geuss’s piece in Ars Technica mentions some of the main points. Axanar Productions was attempting a tactical delay by saying CBS/Paramount was jumping the gun in the suit in suing a work that didn’t exist yet. The judge pointed to Axanar’s own assertions of an existing script (whoops!). As judges before him, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner clearly enjoys his role, managing to work in “live long and prosper” in the ruling language.

Eriq Garner in The Hollywood Reporter goes into greater depth. I need to re-read the full opinion, but there’s some interesting indicators of where this case is going to go.

One of the big things I noted was how the judge pointed out that it’s not that CBS/Paramount are saying they own pointy ears or gold uniform shirts or spaceships, but that all of these together can constitute a reasonable understanding that intellectual property (IP) is being infringed.

So for instance, if we were to film a scene with tiny, furry-footed people talking to tall people with pointy ears and the the tall people with pointy ears were talking in a language that is clearly a form of Elvish that J.R.R. Tolkien invented, then the Tolkien estate may reasonably infer we are infringing on their copyrights.

Speaking of language, it looks like the Klingon language has been deemed not part of this case, so no ruling will be made on who owns the language, so the Klingon Language Institute and productions of Shakespeare in the original Klingon can continue for now.

On the other hand, the judge did note that raising a lot of money based on someone else’s IP is something The Court can weigh on, so the eventual ruling will, almost certainly, impact Star Trek fan films and other fan productions.

The Axanar legal team will be responding to this ruling in about two weeks, so you can expect another post by then (if not before).

The trial date itself is now going to be January 31st, 2017, so between that and taking in the new Star Trek TV series, I think I’m basically committed to writing about this for 9 more months at least.

I hope this doesn’t turn into a five-year mission.

Update (2016-05-11, later in the PM):
After reading more of Monday’s ruling, I am puzzled by Axanar Productions’ decision not to move forward with production of the film.

On the one hand, I can understand why they won’t from a legal perspective. Part of their defense is essentially, “We haven’t violated any copyrights yet.” Therefore, if they have the movie in hand, they would clearly be violating at least some of what CBS/Paramount says they’re violating. The fact that countless other fan productions are in the same boat may not matter because other said production companies or individuals are not named in the lawsuit.

However, that goes to my main point of confusion: Axanar was never going to win this lawsuit. There’s no question of whether they’re violating copyright, there’s simply a question of CBS/Paramount being inconsistent in enforcement. I know that matters for trademarks and service marks (e.g., a “generic trademark“), but I have no idea how that applies for copyright. I seriously doubt Axanar’s legal team can find CBS/Paramount’s legal team has flubbed any procedural tasks and would think that would not be enough to throw the case out (i.e., “You forgot to use an Oxford comma in the filing: DENIED” will not happen).

So that means the best Axanar can hope for is a favorable settlement, based on the whole David vs. Goliath PR aspect of it all… buoyed by the support of a friendly fan community.

Well, as I discovered the other week, the fan and fan production community is not entirely friendly, and they may have just cause to perceive Axanar has not been acting in good faith.

This is troubling, gentle reader. Right now, I’m thinking it’s more of a Star Trek: The Next Generation ‘mindwarp’ episode and not the growing realization I’m watching Star Trek V unfold, but it looks like I need to go down the rabbit hole to do some research.

I suppose I should ask the for the Prophets to guide me or at least hope they look out for Bjorns as they do Bajorans.

Update (2016-05-18):
Janet Gershen-Siegel has an entertaining and exhaustive article that goes over a lot of the legal specifics of the case. Much of this connects to what my concerns have been earlier about Axanar needing to settle because it doesn’t have a strong case. But thankfully, it also goes over issues with the Klingon language and how it’s off the table.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: A Klingon Language Hypothetical Scenario

I would say that it’s inconceivable that this is the 16th entry in an ongoing series on Star Trek’s future and fandom, but then you might say I don’t know what the word ‘inconceivable’ means.

The Axanar lawsuit has gotten additional press since Friday. Peter Decherney in Forbes has an excellent article going into both the legal issues and the corporate strategy. Perhaps because of this, some lawyers I know have been sharing links on social media.

I mentioned to one of them that, while I was sure CBS/Paramount can easily lay claim to some or even a lot of the intellectual property (IP) of Star Trek, I didn’t see how they could claim ownership of a language. The best I could guess was that the CBS/Paramount legal team felt that the language was invented as a work for hire and so therefore any and all copyrights belonged to CBS/Paramount.

One lawyer mentioned that it wasn’t a work-for-hire issue at all. The question was whether an invented language can be owned by anyone… or if it’s simply in the public domain. Then they added, “That will be $650, please.”

Ah, lawyer humor.

Now based on my admittedly rusty studies of linguistics and geek knowledge regarding the development of the Klingon language, I would not think an invented language could be owned by anyone. However, this caused me to concoct a hypothetical scenario which I’ll share here.

First, I should mention that –in our discussion– Esperanto came up as a prime example of a constructed language. However, the inventor wanted the language to be spread freely so it could be used as a universal “auxiliary” language.

So let’s say a definite for-profit corporation like General Dynamics decides they want to invent their own language for training films distributed across the globe. They decide a special invented language will be easier for their worldwide engineers to learn than learning English and misunderstanding English idioms. (This, incidentally, is one of the arguments for Esperanto and other ‘universal’ languages as many of you are no doubt aware). So linguists are contacted, a language is constructed, and the work-for-hire completed.

The General Dynamics language proves to be very popular among engineers outside the original General Dynamics project for which it was invented. General Dynamics has no problem with this. General Dynamics also has no problem with a non-profit language institute being created to promote and build upon this invented language — even charging money to teach classes in learning the invented language. The original inventor of the language is regularly consulted about the language and new points of grammar usage and vocabulary are defined without any input from General Dynamics.

These activities –the teaching of the language and the expansion of the language– go on for at least TWO DECADES. Now General Dynamics says they control the language and no one can use it without their say so. I don’t think General Dynamics has a case. The language is no longer proprietary nor have they tried to make it so.

Now I am not a lawyer (though I have played one in instructional videos), but as someone who’s studied language, I think this makes sense.

Real lawyers are welcome to chime in.

Update: 2016-05-18:
While lawyers haven’t chimed in per se, many observers of the Axanar case have chimed in during my search down the rabbit hole, so I have a new blog post about their argument that Klingon is owned by CBS/Paramount and all these new additions to the Klingon language amount to derivative works.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: Being a P’tach about the Klingon Language

Would you believe this is the 15th entry in an ongoing series on Star Trek’s future and fandom? Don Adams would.

Eriq Gardner wrote a good article in the Hollywood Reporter yesterday about a recent amicus brief filed in relation to the CBS/Paramount lawsuit against the Axanar fan film.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in this blog series, I absolutely believe that CBS/Paramount has real and legally binding ownership of Star Trek intellectual property (IP). For non-fans, this may sound like common sense, but for some fans, they seem to need to be reminded of this fact.

However, when it comes to the Klingon language, that’s work-for-hire they’ve given out free to the world to build and improve upon in a way languages naturally grow. Languages naturally want to be open-source anyway, much to the chagrin of Grammar Police everywhere.

So I won’t be surprised is CBS/Paramount finds a way to rein in what they see as Axanar Productions’ excesses in producing their fan film(s), but I will be surprised if there’s a ruling that curtails study and development of Klingon. I’m aware of trademark erosion, where brand names like Kleenex and Xerox become generic terms for facial tissue and copying respectively. This seems more in the copyright realm, so I don’t know what legal precedents may apply.

But again, as I mentioned in Letting Go of the Canon, the mere mortals have fire. Trying to copyright an entire language, even though it is a constructed one, appears unprecedented. Will the lawyers attempt to relate this to a computer code? I used the term “open-source” above and that might give some guidance to how people can and cannot make “derivative works” to this original “work-for-hire.” (Okay, so originally it was, “Hey James Doohan, can you help us out for a minute?” if Klingon origin stories are correct).

I may have to bug some lawyers I know on this one.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: The Briar Patch

This is the 14th entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks. I’m not sure if this is a lucky number or not.

Michael Hinman’s passionate article shows a side I haven’t really delved into too much, not being a fan film producer. The not-so-nice comments by Axanar’s Alec Peters I first read about in the excellent Newsweek article I expounded about at length last week are touched on here. And apparently there are also some concerns about how Axanar Productions has been spending its crowdfunded funds.

Alas, I fear this is getting into more into inside baseball (or perhaps inside Parrises squares, I’m not sure). Many of the articles I see are either from established media outlets (e.g. Hollywood Reporter, Newsweek) or pro-Axanar, so I found it important to mention this other perspective, especially as I had assumed all the fan productions were a coalition.

At the same time, trying to keep up with all the feelings and factions within the Star Trek fan community seems like going down a rabbit hole (see title above) where I don’t have anything at stake — at least not compared to fan producers.

I hope Star Trek fan films continue to flourish — and that CBS/Paramount finds a framework to allow it. I firmly believe both they and fans will profit by it.

I’m sure there’s a Rule of Acquisition in there somewhere.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: Of Paramount and Puppets

This is the 13th of the ongoing series about Star Trek’s future and its fandom. I’m as surprised as anyone it keeps going, but hey, that’s why tagging is so handy (or click on Crisis of Infinite Star Treks).

So, a pair of links today. The first is an article by Marc Perton that appeared this afternoon in Newsweek. If you haven’t been following this story for months like some of us nuts, it does a splendid job of catching you up. However, even as one of those nuts who has been following the story, well, he’s a reporter. He does some fine dispassionate reporting uncovering aspects of the story I wasn’t aware of, so I feel you’re getting a fair primer of Star Trek fan films and Axanar by reading it.

That said, I do hope he does a follow-up, because his “3rd party observer” approach allows a better look at one of the greyer areas of the case. I’m referring here to the suggestion that Axanar is being targeting because of its quality, that it’s a victim of its own success in emulating “true” Star Trek so well.

And Axanar looking so good –so professional– is by design. Alec Peters and the Axanar crew want it to look good. However, I think Perton touches on the fact that Peters and company really do not want this to be a cute curio that’s the result of hobbyists. Like many an ardent fan before them, they want a seat at the IP table. Previously, fans haven’t had that chance unless a studio hands them the keys to the IP kingdom, as they did for Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings and reportedly have done for Justin Lin of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond (i.e. both of them are avowed fans of the IP they then get to direct movies of).

But in our modern age of sophisticated fan films, it’s almost as if Axanar is making its own table within the space traditionally granted by Paramount/CBS for fan films and saying, “Hey, we can come over to the main table any time you want.”

From a Star Trek fan perspective, this is great news.  If we’re going to hear a cover band, we want it to be a good cover band, not just people who are really exciting about playing musical instruments — and let’s face it, many a Star Trek fan film has been the equivalent of spastic guitar playing.

It's as if this guy said, "I can make a Star Trek TV show."

It’s as if this guy said, “I can make a Star Trek TV show.”

 

We don’t want spastic. We want good songs played in that classic Trek style or at least “sound like Trek.” Besides which, more Trek is good. But beyond the use or misuse of this or that part of someone’s intellectual property, there’s the attitude behind the fan production — and that’s something I haven’t seen written about much.

It strikes me that Axanar Productions is doing two things. On the one hand, they’re trying to make a fan film about Star Trek, something that the IP rights holders have allowed for over a decade at least. On the other hand, they are trying to build a sustainable business model… using, in part, these same IP rights.

It’s clear that the people behind Star Trek: New Voyages (aka Phase II) and Star Trek Continues not only want to keep making Trek, but have gotten increasingly professional about how to make sure they can keep making Trek — just like any good business would, non-profit or otherwise. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, it’s not individuals who are renting sound stages for fan productions nor paying for building sets, it’s production companies. They’re still labors of love. I’m sure the showrunners have spent their own money and probably still do — and a lot of people work on these productions for no or low money. However, it’s way more of an official operation than some people happening to get together one weekend to see if they can make a film. Thousands of people know this model and approve of this model because they’ve given them money in crowdfunding campaigns. Simply put: fan film producers want Trek fans to give them money so they can make Trek fan films. They’re using Trek the IP as a draw to raise money to make Trek.

Axanar Productions appears to be taking that approach and being very forthright that they want this to be an ongoing enterprise (you knew I’d use that term). As I indicated last month, I thought Axanar was trying to do this as a non-profit enterprise all to honor the official unofficial rule from CBS/Paramount: thou shall not make a profit. All the fan productions appear to be using the idea of Star Trek, the Star Trek IP in other words, to fuel their crowdfunding campaigns. So they totally are using CBS/Paramount’s IP for business reasons, albeit non-commercial ones, right? I think it may come down to attitude.

I believe lawyers would characterize this in terms of “intent” and “good faith” and so on: basically the legal of equivalent of “well, we know Godzilla rampaged across Tokyo and destroyed buildings and the inevitable plastic tanks. However, was he destroying things because he wanted to as in the original Godzilla or was he destroying them because he was, in fact, defending Tokyo from an evil monster as in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla?”

Really, if there were more legal opinions that referenced Godzilla, I think we’d all be better off –or at least entertained– but I digress.

This seriousness of Axanar Productions is something that non-lawyers have picked up on when the topic of the Axanar lawsuit comes up. I’ve talked with many casual fans or people who haven’t been following the story closely and we all sense that there’s something a little bit different here: a disturbance in the Force, to mix franchises.

Unfortunately, I feel the issue of making a fan film using someone’s IP and the issue of making a sustainable business using someone’s IP is being conflated in most articles. After all, the CBS/Paramount lawsuit appears to be mainly concerned about making a fan film using their IP, like the other fan films. Heck, they’ve even come out wanting to protect the Klingon language which, like most real languages, is now out in the wild, with speakers making their own minds up about what is and isn’t Klingon. So rulings that shutter Axanar Productions and its fan film could have the consequence of shuttering all the other increasingly good Star Trek fan films.

Axanar Productions is pushing the limit of what fan films can be and, to be fair, they’re quite up front about wanting to push the limits of what fan films can be. That could be the issue: that they’re making this more professional and not a hobby. They’re trying to make Star Trek their livelihood. It’s as if instead of just doing cosplay as a Klingon, I started selling my versions of Klingon armor — and that’s how I earn my daily bread. At some point, CBS/Paramount is going to say, look, ya gotta license that — and they’re right to do so.

That said, how about making some of these labors of love licensed? I would love for this to be a sustainable non-profit endeavor for some of these Trek fan productions. Just as JJ Abrams went to the R2-D2 hobbyists for some of their droid work and just as LEGO goes to some of its ardent fan builders on occasion to become new Master Builders, so too do I think that CBS/Paramount could look to fan production for new ideas and new blood (green, purple, or otherwise).

Lest we forget, this is how Trek did it in the TNG/Ds9/Voyager era: they were open to writing submissions. Ronald Moore, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, and others joined through their scripts and made deep impacts on Trek.

Now you could have a series of not-for-profit R&D groups not only writing scripts, but shooting films: all trying to excite the Star Trek fanbase. You basically have a bunch of Star Trek zealots ready to make some proof-of-concepts for you. Good ideas can be promoted up to the ‘major leagues’ while other ideas can remain in the ‘minors’ as ‘Star Trek Legends’ or something similar.

At the same time, for better or worse, I think that’s CBS/Paramount’s call for how they want to allow fan productions to continue (to say nothing of learning the Klingon language). They own the rights. Fans do not, nor will ever own the rights. (See Letting Go of the Canon last week). I can only hope they do it in such a way that encourages innovation and fan creation. I am convinced that the wider universe of Trek will be better for it.

###

Okay, so that’s all very serious, so let’s have a second link I found this afternoon. The second link is an immeasurably more entertaining link, it’s Stalled Trek: Prelude to Ax’d-We-Are, a puppet/animation version of Prelude to Axanar. If it was just a parody of the fan film or Star Trek in general, it’d be fun, but of course, getting extra meta, they manage to fit in the lawsuit as well.

Luckily, allowances for satire and parody should allow it to remain around, though it really makes you wonder what the intellectual property legal landscape will be when all this dust settles.

And will I be able to call it space dust without being sued?