There’s been quite a fight brewing lately between Star Trek rights holders CBS and Paramount Pictures, as recently the two companies — which split the film and television rights to the franchise — sued Axanar Productions in an effort to stop all production of the crowd-funded fan film Star Trek Axanar, which is being described as the “first fully-professional, independent Star Trek film.” When this first happened late last year, everyone was shocked, as Paramount and CBS have allowed Star Trek fan fiction in all kinds of forms — including films — to exist for decades. Was Axanar just too high quality of a production for its own good, therefore waking the dragon?
Recently however, the Axanar producers breathed a huge sigh of relief, when Star Trek film producer J.J. Abrams revealed last month at a Star Trek 50th-anniversary fan event that Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin had convinced Paramount to change its position on the matter, and dropped the lawsuit. Except… that didn’t happen exactly.
Now Paramount Pictures and CBS have released very detailed guidelines regarding amateur productions on all things Trek. In a statement, the two companies said “Throughout the years, many of you have expressed your love for the franchise through creative endeavors such as fan films. So today, we want to show our appreciation by bringing fan films back to their roots.” The “Guidelines for Avoiding Objections” specify ten rules to avoid legal action from both companies, including the fan production cannot use Star Trek in the title, but instead must say “A ‘Star Trek’ Fan Production” in the subtitle.
Ok, so that’s not so bad right? Well, also among this new way of “showing appreciation,” the new guidelines has rules like “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.” The new guidelines also dictate that fan productions can’t be remakes of existing official Star Trek films or episodes, must use bootlegs or imitations of commercially available uniforms or props, and cannot use any writers or actors who have previously been employed on a Star Trek series or movie.” Got all that? There’s more, but that’s general gist of it.
That doesn’t leave the fans making these films — which are often a labor of love — with a whole lot of options, does it? And aside from Axanar, it leaves long-running fan made series like Star Trek Continues and Star Trek New Voyages in the dust. Not the best way to deal with one of the most loyal fanbases in pop culture history. You can read the entire “Guidelines for Avoiding Objections” for yourself by clicking on this link on the official Star Trek site. This is no doubt far from the last thing we’ll hear on this subject from all parties involved.
What do you think of CBS and Paramount’s stance on Star Trek fan films? Fair or unfair? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments below.