By Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)
Fan films are a weird world where those who love franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek decide to make films of their own. What started off as backyard filmmaking on a shoe-string budget, because you learned how to rotoscope a lightsaber, is now taking on a vastly different form.
One of the biggest fan films in production is a Star Trek film called Axanar. Set before the events of the original Star Trek series (and current rebooted films), it wanted to tell the story of the Federation/Klingon war.
Originally, fan films like Axanar were financed out-of-pocket by the fans themselves, but the times, well, they are a-changing. With the advent of crowdfunding, Axanar has not only been able to raise over $1 million to produce the film, but also raised the alarms over at the offices of Paramount ,who hold the intellectual rights to Star Trek. Consequently, they’ve filed a lawsuit with the main issue being:
“The Axanar works infringe plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes. The Axanar works are intended to be professional-quality productions that, by defendants’ own admission, take Paramount’s and CBS’s intellectual property and aim to ‘look and feel like a true Star Trek movie.’ On information and belief, defendants have raised over $1 million so far to produce these works, including building out a studio and hiring actors, set designers, and costume designers. The Axanar works are substantially similar to, and unauthorized derivative works of, plaintiffs’ Star Trek television series and movies, in contravention of the copyright laws of the United States.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumbling from Paramount over Axanar, and fan films have been around for decades, so why is Paramount all of a sudden suing? I suspect the problem is actually how the film is being financed through crowdfunding.
For example, if you pledged $25 to the Kickstarter campaign, you would receive a digital download of the film; pledge $65, and you get a special edition DVD. Even if all that money goes into the production of the film, I still find it hard to call that a reward rather than a sale.
Even though all fan films go out of their way to make sure no profit is being made from these movies, that doesn’t make them legal. Intellectual property laws don’t allow you to make them at all, regardless of profit or not, it’s just that, up to this point, the studios have turned a blind eye.
Personally, I’d love to see this film as it looks fantastic, but I can’t help feeling supremely sorry for the fans who have funded it. Some of them have pledged hundreds or thousands of dollars, and there is almost no way this film will ever see the light of day. Paramount has all the legal reasons to bring a lawsuit to the makers of Axanar, but it sure is a terrible thing to do to the fans.