(Star Trek) Axanar Lawsuit

I have donated to Axanar, among other Trek fanfilms. The truth is CBS has the legal high ground. 

That said, as recently as August 2015 CBS had given Axanar a go-ahead. The timing of this is a dick move. 

Another respondant on an Axanar page thread gave online contact for CBS for us to complain. Change-dot-org has a petition. Well and good, but electronic messages are easy to ignore (i.e. As soon as "Axanar" is read, "delete" is clicked). The Hashtag means nothing. 

If you really want to complain to CBS, a phone call is better--this requires your time and their personal attention. 

Q. How can I speak to Audience Services about a CBS program?

A. You may telephone us at 212-975-3247 between the hours of 10AM and 11:30AM ET....or 2PM and 3:30PM ET Monday through Friday.

A good old fashioned letter is better. Now YOU spent time AND money, and dealing with thousands of envelopes and letters takes more CBS resources than simply deleting an email. 


524 West 57 Street

New York, NY  10019

In short, bring it on like it's 1968 and Bjo Trimble was lighting a fire under your ass.

Bear in mind a lot of us do fanfilm work, and that includes FxHome (Simon's new tutorial, for example, is potentially copyright infringement, except a tutorial gives FxHome a "Fair Use" claim). The question is, is CBS treating this as a one-off, or a test case to go after other high-profile fan productions like Star Trek Continues or Star Trek New Voyages? 

If Axanar is shut down and the upcoming Star Trek Beyond doesn't take a massive box office drop, then CBS will know the fans are powerless. This might encourage Disney to go after Star Wars fanfilm or the BBC to go after Doctor Who fanfilms. 

And, legally, they win. But why hurt non-profit work done by fans? 




  • @Triem23 firstly sorry for you loss, the grief and frustration oozing from your note is evident. You approach to complaining is the best approach. To the matter in hand, it seems that this fan project just grow too big not to considered a threat. A threat to what I hear you mutter, surely it's just more beating the Star Trek drum to make the call to watch louder (ohh I like that line). Well it kind of is, but we live in a world where Trek is big business and big business likes MONEY over all else.

    OK so why did CBS executive producer meet with Axanar and green light it, well one man does not make a company (OK maybe Bill Gates and Steven Jobs kind of did), this was a board room decision.

    Hope you did not sink to much money into the crowed fund, always risky.


  • DanielGWoodDanielGWood Staff
    edited December 2015

    Such a shame to see that, always disappointing when large companies stamp out the creativity of their fanbases, but even more so with crowdfunded films (Axanar has had two campaigns, right?). Assuming CBS/Paramount don't back down, and there's no appealing, what do the Axanar people do? Return the money somehow? Seems like a hell of a mess.

    Leaving aside the practical concern though, it's a shame for fans to lose something which sounded vaguely interesting (I'm not a huge Star Trek fan myself, more of a general sci-fi enthusiast), especially given the next official film looks rather dull.


    Reading that EW article (previously I'd only read a short piece elsewhere), it's interesting that the Axanar film apparently branded itself as fully-professional and a step up from "fan films".  That may well be true, but it seems risky - sticking to the "it's a fan film made by amateurs for our own entertainment" line has always seemed a good defence to me.

  • @DanielGWood you raise good points. Alec Peters can come off as arrogant. 

    @Andy001z not really grief as such, more frustration. "Prelude to Axanar" came out well over a year ago. Axanar has been very public, attending cons, seeking press, etc. Axanar has been asking CBS, "This ok?" over and over again. What gets me here is why didn't shut Axanar down long ago?

    I urge phone calls and letters because I recognize that this is asking fans to bully the network, but,  honestly, whatever your cause is, personal contact via phone has more impact than digital. Letters even more, especially these days. It's a desperation move. 

  • When Alec Peters came to Salt Lake Comic Con, he described Axanar as more than a fan film. And it truly has become that. And that's the problem. It's a gray area he's in, and he's been pushing the boundaries as much as he can.  The production itself may be non-profit, but professionals are being paid to create this "fan film" which is a big part of what makes me uncomfortable about the whole thing.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see this go further. Renegades, Phase II, and Continues should have reason to be concerned because of this. Even Farragut has been crowd funding. I don't see it trickling down little guys like me who have made amateur fan films out of our own pockets. We're not a threat to their bottom line. Axanar, on the other hand, is coming along right when they're preparing to launch a new series (on a subscription TV service??!!!) and has production values that may rival what CBS is putting into the new series.

    I loved the Prelude to Axanar short. I have a couple of Axanar patches (next to my John Eaves prints). I do hope something can be worked out, but I can fully understand why Paramount/CBS is doing what they are doing. Frankly, I'm surprised it has taken this long for it to happen. It should have hit with the first sign of crowdfunding.

    As for Bjo, I can't speak for her. But she is a fantastic lady. Her husband John is great, too. My wife and I spent a day with her on our Honeymoon back when Voyager was on air. She arranged for a personal tour of the Paramount back lot for us that day. It was great! The highlight was sitting in one of the large sound stages in front of the Delta Flyer with Bjo and Michael Okuda just chatting for an hour. 

  • I fully appreciate that Star Trek belongs to CBS/Paramount and they have every right to protect their property but I have to side with Triem on this one. If the Axanar project had been started with absolutely no contact with CBS or Paramount I'd probably think differently but CBS and Paramount were contacted multiple times and the response received was apparently "Sure you can make a film you just can't profit from it". They have had every opportunity to say no but they didn't.

    Now that they do seem to have a problem with Axanar they immediately jump to the very expensive and drawn out process of a law suit. Not even Apple does that without starting a much cheaper and easier "cease and desist" action first! Instead it's a full law suit that even targets the script writers that's filed after fund raising is complete.

    Personally I think the suit only has one purpose and that is to bankrupt the Axanar project. There's not enough money involved to reclaim any damages and they are going to have a hard time proving any material harm from Axanar to begin with. A cease and desist type action would have halted the project if that was the goal so it's pretty obvious they want to do more damage.

  • @Allladin4D ; I think you're right about the lawsuit vs. cease and desist.   There's no question Axanar was walking the tight rope but Alec Peters must have really pissed somebody off.

    As a donor I, as well as many others, was surprised to hear that after donating last year they were planning 4 more crowdfunded campaigns before final product and pushed production into 2016.   This was before CBS announced a new ST series release in 2017.  At first I thought CBS was going to pick up Axanar "as" the new series, but I think the suits saw Peters as direct competition since both the CBS version of ST and Axanar would be head to head online.

    Peters had indicated on occasion that Axanar would be more than a one and done.  If he was planning it as a series, then that is an obvious conflict with CBS All Access online.

    Unfortunately, I have no faith in CBS to come up with a compelling version of Trek. 

  • @Stargazer54 assuming you're not reading  http://fanfilmfactor.com/ Jonathan Lane has been doing excellent analysis of the Axanar case and releasing public versions of the court documents. It's really a case all indy's and hopefuls should follow--it's the kind if precedent setting case that's going to be required reading in Law School for decades. 

    If it's a hard win for CBS we might see Disney start cracking down. This could potentially affect films like the above Star Wars film or Hitfilm's "REBELLION," (as a Hitfilm ad, it's commercial. Literally.), everything Corridor Digital does or shows like "Superhero Beatdown."

  • @Triem23 I think everybody should read through the filings on the Axanar case and if not at least read through Lane's commentary. It's not a slam dunk case for either side but if CBS wins big then even just planning a fan film is copyright infringement. Scary thought.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited December 2016

    @Aladdin4d a year ago I would have said this was pretty open-and-shut with Axanar's only hope being for a "non willful infringement" judgment based on "you didn't sue any of these guys!" (points to Jonathan Lane's 128 page listing of other fan films*). 

    Now, well...Axanar's lawyers have an interesting series of arguments...

    * @RossTrowbridge Yes, "Rendezvous" is listed. Lane's review/summary notes that the two episodes "have heart," and that the VFX is "surprisingly good," but does state that the acting is "...about as good [as one would expect from] non-actors in Utah."

  • Guys what / where have u taken my thread, (slaps the bunch of u with a large wet fish).  It was just meant to be a cool little video. (Walks off muttering)

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited December 2016
  • @Triem23 Ya beat me to it!

  • nice

  • @Andy001z Sorry for cluttering up your thread but when a copyright case over fan films triggers friend of the court filings in Klingon you gotta talk about it somewhere.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited December 2016

    This discussion was created from comments split from: Andy says "Worth a watch" thread.

    @Andy001z I uncluttered your thread.

    @Stargazer54 @Aladdin4d we owe Andy an apology because no thread in the forum ever digresses... 

    On the other hand, some days it's cool to have moderator powers. 

  • Right you are @Triem23 (drunk with power) :)

    But seriously, sorry for hijacking the thread @Andy001z

    Here's hoping you Rogue One(ers) had an awesome time on opening day!

  • @Stargazer54 who's drunk with power?  Andy got his thread back, and I already had a perfectly good Axanar thread sitting unused... 

    Just being helpful and logical--that's my story, and I'm sticking to it! 

  • I'm collecting for myself but in case anybody wants copies I have some of the pleadings stashed here:


  • As long as I've resurrected the thread, here's the latest insights from fanfilmfactor.com 


  • Stargazer54Stargazer54 Moderator
    edited December 2016

    @Triem23 "Drunk with power you may be, but right you are to move thread. . ." (Oh, wait . . . that's Yoda.)  wrong Franchise

    But seriously, thanks for the link.  I think the lawsuit has as much to do about Peters tweaking the nose of the industry as much as it does about copyright.  Fan films have been around forever.  Of course that's in internet time.  (Forever is since the late 60's when rich kids would steal their dad's 8mm film camera and shoot stuff with cardboard box spaceships in the backyard.)

    But the timing of Axanar, appearing on CBS's door step, just prior to its stillborn launch of Discovery (which was supposed to be out in January and has now slipped into early summer, if at all) pushed CBS to protect a property they have shown little interest in.  "Hey!  You kids get off our lawn!"

    I think the thing that pushed Axanar over the edge was enlisting professional actors (who were really good) to appear in the trailer.  Production values were on par with the studios and subsequent CGI effects by Tobias Richter were top notch.  Even with that, I don't think Paramount would have given a damn because they have no plan for Star Trek.

    But CBS did have a plan (or once had one - but they show no signs of commitment or follow through now).   Most of the original production staff have pulled anchor and moved on.  

    My prediction: By the time  Discovery ever becomes a reality, the Axanar suit will have been settled, only 6 Discovery episodes will be ordered and Discovery will fade away into obscurity as an online oddity that briefly appeared on CBS All Access.

    Ironically, Peters may yet prevail and be the only viable ST property in town with the potential to be picked up by a "major network" in 2017-18.  Who knows?   By then SyFy or AMC (and the audience) may have grown tired of zombies.  And a year of Trump may push audiences to yearn for uplifting stories about the future and spirit of humanity, as a side dish to their media pablum.

    Oh, and thank you so much CBS/Paramount for screwing up the greatest marketing opportunity to ever to be placed in your lap - the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek in 2016.  What should have been a year long tribute to actual science fiction and introspection into the human condition turned into a void in space - filled by the likes of Trump and and Rogue One.  (No offense SW fans.  Count your blessings.)

  • @Stargazer54 Discovery is going to happen in some fashion make no mistake there. Little known fact so don't feel bad for having missed it - Netflix is providing the of the bulk of the funding and in return retains many rights to Discovery everywhere in the world except the US. Netflix is no slouch in negotiating deals and they're dumping a lot of cash into the project so even if CBS tanks the whole thing I'm sure Netflix has the option of going it alone. I can't imagine them putting that much money on the line without the option to continue without CBS.

  • @Aladdin4d Good point about Netflix.   That would be a great option. 

  • @Stargazer54 I had to reread the 2015 posts to catch up on Axanar discussions here. 

    On the timing of the Axanar suit: I can't believe I hadn't said it here, but I've often speculated on what the tipping point was for CBS, and have felt it might have been when the Axanar donor store launched. Selling "Starship Ares" models? 

    I never quite bought the "professional"  argument--New Voyages, Continues, Of Gods and Men, Renegades all of these have had Star Trek actors, writers, VFX people, etc..  working on them. Having Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takai, Chase Masterson and Garrett Wang in a film directed by Tim Russ trumps Tony Todd, Richard Hatch and Gary Graham any day of the week. 

    The only other reason I can really think of would be simply that Axanar and Discovery are set in the same time period. 

    Hey, for StarTrek's 50th one unique thing happened... A trailer for a Trek film was so bad that the film's writer and director apologized for how truly terrible that trailer was! 

  • Stargazer54Stargazer54 Moderator
    edited December 2016

    @Triem23 Yes, the "professional" nature is subjective of course.  (Although, I would watch anything with Chase Masterson in it.) ;)

    I have not watched all the fan films but did see Of Gods and Men, and the first Renegades, and there are times you are just a little uncomfortable (probably not the right word) with the performances and understandably so.

    But when I saw Prelude to Axanar, I was completely blown away by all aspects - the story, the affects, the pacing and the acting.  Nothing seemed out of place or forced.  Which is why I ponied up (along with you fellow donor) to see where the story would go.  Yes, it was a "fan" film but felt like it was on another level, at least from my perspective as a viewer and ST fan.

    Of course, these are only my opinions and not substantiated by anything other than that.  I value your views, as well.  You may be on to something about the models for sale.  It did seem like when the storefront went up then things started getting tense.

  • Well, the whole "fair use" issue is scary for anyone who picks up a light(sword) or tricorder and steps in front of their iPhone.  The fact that the judge set fair use aside as a basis for Peters' defense is even more disturbing.

    Should Peters lose I can see where moving on to appeal, on the grounds that fair use should have been considered, is an option.

    Artists are always pushing the boundaries of fair use and some do get into trouble from time to time.  The breaking point usually comes down to whether the copyrighted material was used for profit and that the intended purpose went beyond "purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research."

    So, if a kid builds a cardboard box X-Wing in his backyard, shoots himself flying it over green screen, composites it (in HitFilm Express, of course) and posts it on YouTube, then can he sell the X-Wing to a friend down the street and not be infringing?

    The only difference in quality between that scenario and Axanar is that the "kids" are now adults that bring professional production values to the project and volunteer their time to do so.   But who gets "paid" is also a grey area.   If I pay craft services that is one thing.  But if I pay scale for the actors, then I may be in violation.  Taking donor money to invest in facilities and staff is also a grey area.   Selling models of the ship (as @Triem23 has pointed out) may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

  • @Stargazer54 I need to read the order again and of course ask my legal friends about it but sometimes you'll run into a judge taking an affirmative defense off the table and even present a logical basis for doing so knowing it's wrong and really a question for the jury. It's a judicial way of passing the buck.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @Aladdin4d and @Stargazer54 I find it odd that not allowing a fair use defense is potentially "good" for the defense as it can now be a primary ground for appeal.

    Speaking of appeal, here's more Jonathan Lane blog. 


  • Let's take a look at just the "criticism and news reporting" portion of fair use.   If Axanar does indeed go all the way to the Supreme Court,  then the idea of the criticism of public figures may come into play as part of  fair use arguments.  

    It is not too far fetched now to assume that the next appointee to the court will be a Trump nominee.   And we all know how well he responds to criticism.   I'll be surprised if he doesn't try to have Alec Baldwin, Lorne Michaels and the cast of Saturday Night Live arrested for making fun of the president.

    Peters may have turned over the wrong rock. 

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