Paramount Pictures is generally not that protective when in comes to fan-made projects that involve the Star Trek franchise.
However, the well-received short film Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar and the planned follow-up feature film Anaxar has crossed a line. This week both Paramount and CBS Studios sued the makers of the Star Trek inspired fan film, accusing them of copyright infringement.
Prelude to Axanar is an idea from Alec Peters who started working on it half a decade ago. After a few years he and his team decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to get it funded, with an initial goal of $10,000.
The project turned in to a massive hit and quickly raised more than $100,000 for the short film, and a similar campaign for a follow-up feature that will soon start filming raised another $638,000 on Kickstarter alone.
That’s a healthy budget for a fan-art project and the success prompted the attention of both Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios.
In a complaint filed (pdf) at a federal court in California the movie studios accuse the people behind the Anaxar project of various counts of copyright infringement.
“This is an action for copyright infringement arising out of Defendants’ unauthorized exploitation of Star Trek, one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time. Since its inception, Star Trek has become a cultural phenomenon that is eagerly followed by millions of fans throughout the world,” the complaint reads.
“The Axanar Works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes,” it adds.
Through Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdfunding campaigns the projects raised over a million dollars. In their complaint Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios believe that they are entitled to any profits the films make as well as $150,000 in statutory damages.
In a response to the lawsuit, Anaxar’s Alec Peters states that they are not trying to exploit the Star Trek franchise since their work is a harmless fan film project.
“Axanar is a fan film. Fan films – whether related to Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, Batman or any other franchise – are labors of love that keep fans engaged, entertained, and keep favorite characters alive in the hearts of fans.”
“Like other current fan films, Axanar entered production based on a very long history and relationship between fandom and studios. We’re not doing anything new here,” he writes on Facebook.
Peters remains open to discussion and hopes that the parties involved can come to a mutually beneficial solution, so it’s likely that the lawsuit will eventually steer toward some form of settlement deal.