As I reported in a recent blawg post [http://www.gurwinskeyboard.com/star-trek-fan-film-will-it-boldly-go/], a Federal court in Los Angeles was set to decide just how far the Star Trek universe’s copyright reach extends. In the case of Paramount Pictures Corporation v. Axanar Productions, Inc., studio giant Paramount and CBS Studios alleged that a small independent film entitled Star Trek: Axanar infringes upon “thousands of copyrights” owned by Paramount and CBS to the various Star Trek movies and television shows, and that Axanar Productions is “using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes.”
In the past, the studio has tolerated previous Star Trek fan films, as long as they were done strictly as homages and not for profit. None of those films, however, had the level of funding of Star Trek: Axanar. I’m not sure that the studio anticipated the level of blowback it would receive as a result of the lawsuit.
The fan film community, and especially the Star Trek fan film community, was up in arms (or is that phasers?) over that case. Amicus briefs (so-called “Friend of the Court” briefs) even were filed on behalf of Axanar. In one, an organization called the Language Creation Society filed a brief arguing that the Klingon “language” is not copyrightable.
Well, rest easy, Trekkies. At a recent Star Trek fan event, Star Trek Beyond Executive Producer J. J. Abrams announced that the lawsuit was “going away.” Apparently, Paramount realized that, not only was the lawsuit engendering very bad feelings with its audience and fan base for the studio Star Trek films, but that the lawsuit could prove to be a logistical and procedural nightmare for the studio. After the lukewarm fan response to the studio’s last Star Trek film, Star Trek Into Darkness, Paramount felt that it could not afford to alienate its fan base. All of this added up to a case of Paramount rethinking its position. Axanar (the defendant in the case) is now working with Paramount towards dismissing the lawsuit fully. Of course, things could change during those discussions between legal counsel, but all indications now are that the lawsuit will be dismissed and the production of Axanar will move forward.