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CBS Uses Copyright To Scuttle Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II Episode 268

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-boldly-say-no-and-cackle-with-glee dept.
McGruber writes "The NY Times ('Cookies Set to Cleared, Captain!') is reporting that CBS is blocking fan-generated internet series 'Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II' from making an episode using an unproduced script from the original series. In a statement, CBS said, 'We fully appreciate and respect the passion and creativity of the "Star Trek" fan and creative communities. This is simply a case of protecting our copyrighted material and the situation has been amicably resolved.'" The original writer of the episode, sci-fi author Norman Spinrad, was enthusiastic about the production, and planned to direct it himself.
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CBS Uses Copyright To Scuttle Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II Episode

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  • by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:41AM (#39524093) Homepage Journal

    concern. CBS owns the copyright. This isn't about a clip, or anything remotely considered fair use.

    Unless CBS has plans for the script, this certainly wasn't the smartest way to resolve it fro their company. That's a different matter.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:45AM (#39524165) Journal

      Copyright exists to promote the creation of art. If CBS is using it to suppress the creation of art, that's not valid at all.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Eh, I don't love the idea of them using it to stop fun little projects, but I can see why they'd want to protect ownership of a valuable property.

        It's not like Star Trek is as worthless as it was before the most recent flick.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:55AM (#39524297)

          We need to get away from the idea that you can just sit on something (anything, really) and take it out of usefulness to society for a worthless end result (nothing ends up being done with it, the item doesn't get better, and it doesn't gain value).

          Just because you can doesn't make it moral.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:09PM (#39524489)

            Why?

            Did it occur to you that CBS might think the script sucks? And since they're the copyright owner they get to decide if they publish it or not. Do you really want a world where it's OK to publish someone else's work against their objections? Like say you write an erotic fanfic, but don't want to puiblish it. Should I really have the right to then make a feature length film based on your erotic fanfic without your approval?

            • by jordanjay29 (1298951) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:30PM (#39524799)
              One sapient's trash is another sapient's treasure. Who is anyone to claim that something holds no artistic value, or deem that it 'sucks' and thus should not be available for consumption?
              • by Dahamma (304068) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:34PM (#39524875)

                The creator (or owner if the creator sold it) of that work, that's who.

                • by liquidsin (398151) on Friday March 30, 2012 @01:42PM (#39525859) Homepage

                  the creator was on board and excited about the project. i understand that cbs "owns" the script, but do you really believe that the author originally sold his work because he wanted a corporation to bury it forever? i totally get that cbs has to defend their properties, but they could have resolved this in a manner other than taking their ball and going home. shit, i didn't even know that cbs owned the rights to star trek; "CBS greenlights fan-made Star Trek project" would be a way better headline for cbs, but i guess they just don't give a fuck about anything but today's dollar.

                • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday March 30, 2012 @02:02PM (#39526219) Homepage

                  The actual creator of the work was the one that wanted to direct.

                  Yeah. That's right. The desires of the actual TALENT are being ignored here. That's OK. I am sure you will come up with some pro-corporate excuse why the desires of CBS should override the guy who wrote it in the first place.

                  If they haven't been willing to publish the work after all this time, their rights should be null and void anyways.

                  Spinrad should get it back.

                  • by Dahamma (304068)

                    He sold it and took their money. If he wants he can try to buy it back, or if he doesn't want to give back the money he can write a different script (a monkey could write the crap they have been passing off as Star Trek TV episodes in the last decade).

                    If you want to argue the abstract validity of copyrights, fine, but the fact that a guy who wrote the work sold it for profit and now needs permission to use it not relevant to that argument.

            • by Fned (43219) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:32PM (#39524851) Journal

              Do you really want a world where it's OK to publish someone else's work against their objections?

              "Published?" They weren't selling copies of the script, they were making a Phase II episode out of it. That's a "derivative work", not "publishing."

              Now, if you're asking if some of us want to live in a world where it's OK to make new works derivative of 40-year-old prior art, then the answer is OF COURSE WE FUCKING DO.

              • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:44PM (#39525057)

                "Published?" They weren't selling copies of the script, they were making a Phase II episode out of it. That's a "derivative work", not "publishing."

                Since TV scripts are the means of creating a TV episode, the episode filmed from that script is hardly a derivative work.

                If you take the characters from that script and use them in a different way, THAT'S a derivative work.

                Now, if you're asking if some of us want to live in a world where it's OK to make new works derivative of 40-year-old prior art, then the answer is OF COURSE WE FUCKING DO.

                And if you're asking if some of us want you to take material that wasn't considered suitable for production away from the owner and produce it anyway, then the answer is OF COURSE WE DON'T.

            • by sjames (1099)

              Perhaps yes! The supposed intent of copyright law is promotion of works, not locking them away. There is no reason the law shouldn't reflect that properly. If you don't want your name on the fanfic, that should be your right to insist they credit it to anonymous. There should probably be some sort of compulsory licensing, something like a right of first refusal, or some sort of defined abandonment built in.

          • Because making it easier to proclaim that something someone has should be taken from them because you can't access it easily enough would be sooo much more moral?

            Planning that spring release for your book is just too annoying for someone who wants it *now* (and most likely, free), so your copyright is yanked.

            Very moral.
            • It's actually perfectly in keeping with the justification for private property used by some of the big thinkers in political science shortly before and a bit after the founding of the US, notably John Locke.

              Granted his book was mostly fantasy, but a lot of people continue to use it in everyday lay discussion of politics and economics, so why not that part too?

              I would guess that the concept of squatter's rights either influenced Locke & co.'s thinking, or vice-versa (too lazy to look it up), for a real-w

              • by idontgno (624372)

                Adverse possession [wikipedia.org] is the legal core of "squatters' rights". And adverse possession is completely preventable by strenuously contesting property trespass.

                So, if you want to invoke the spectre of squatters' rights in intellectual property, CBS did one of the the only two things they could: fairly and quickly eject trespassers, to make it clear that there would be no squatting on their property.

                Alas, as far as I can tell, they could have done one thing other than close down the fan production: give explicit

          • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:36PM (#39524901) Journal

            Did it occur to any of you that perhaps, just perhaps, CBS isn't hoarding? That the ownership of the script produced and submitted within the Hollywood structure (particularly the one that existed back in the 60's) includes a clause that forbids reassignment? That there may exist terms with the Screen Writers' Guild that forbids subcontracting SWG scripts for production by non SWG-signatory producers (like, y'know, fans)? Crap like that goes on all the time in Hollywood.

            Screeching "GIMME GIMME GIMME MINE MINE MINE" like a two-year-old in the toy aisle of a supermarket isn't going to make CBS (or other owners of popular franchises) more likely to cooperate. In fact, it makes them more likely to start cruising through YouTube on a takedown spree. If the fringe fans become more trouble than they're worth, they're going to get shut down.

            • by sjames (1099)

              And CBS screaming I Don't want it but you can't have it GIMMEE GIMMEE MINE MINE MINE isn't likely to make me any more sympathetic to their cause.

        • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:56AM (#39524311) Journal

          It's been sitting on a shelf for over 40 years. It wasn't even resuscitated for any of the "official" series. It would have been a nice nod to the fans.

          Well, they can eat it, I suppose.

          • by thomst (1640045) on Friday March 30, 2012 @01:08PM (#39525403) Homepage

            Access the NY Times article without having to register with this link [nytimes.com].

            The article is, as is typical of the Times, full of detail about the story in question. Some salient points:

            1. Norman Spinrad - who wrote the original script in question - requested Gene Roddenberry not to make the episode, after the comedy he wrote was re-written into what he called "a very unfunny comedy" by Gene L. Coon (TOS producer), and Roddenberry complied with his wishes.
            2. Spinrad himself comments on this sequence of events on his blog [blogspot.com]
            3. ST Phase II has already produced an episode based on an unused script from the ST:TNG era called "Blood and Fire" by David "The Trouble with Tribbles" Gerrold (which Gerrold himself directed) without any dissent from CBS.
            4. The Star Trek script is called "He Walked Among Us". It should not be confused, however, with Spinrad's non-ST science fiction novel of the same name, which is available in RTF format as shareware [scifidimensions.com].

            Spinrad, who's 71 now, was an enfant terrible of SF back in the 1960's. His novels "Bug Jack Barron" and "The Men in the Jungle" broke what at the time was new ground (the former for its use of vulgarity, the latter for its subject matter). He's been one of the most consistently interesting SF writers ever since, and I can't recommend his work highly enough.

            • [Norman Spinrad has] been one of the most consistently interesting SF writers ever since, and I can't recommend his work highly enough.

              He is also the author of my all-time favorite episode of Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine [wikipedia.org]. That is an outstanding story, and really works as hard science fiction.

              Fun trivia facts:

              At the time Star Trek was made, model-building was a popular hobby, and you could buy inexpensive Enterprise models at your local hobby shop. The special effects guys went and bought an Enterprise

        • It's not like Star Trek is as worthless as the most recent flick.

          Fixed that for you. Damn, that movie was one of the dumbest pieces of shit to ever bear the Star Trek name.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:51AM (#39524247) Homepage

        Star Trek New Voyages is art?

        Only for distressingly small values of the term.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Star Trek New Voyages is art?

          Only for distressingly small values of the term.

          Dude, if a can of shit [wikipedia.org] is art, why not Star Trek New Voyages?

      • by cpghost (719344) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:52AM (#39524259) Homepage

        Copyright exists to promote the creation of art.

        If it ever was the case (and it's doubtful), it was a long, long time ago... when Copyright didn't last more then 2 decades from the time some work of art was created. The perversion of Copyright we have today (life + 70/95 years, or perpetual in case of corporations-owned copyrights) has long outlived its usefulness as promoting art-creation.

      • by Rakishi (759894) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:57AM (#39524321)

        So if you publish a best selling book and Warner Brothers makes a movie of it without paying you any royalties you'd be fine with that?

        After all, you don't want to suppress the creation of art do you?

        • by jandrese (485)
          Why should I as the author expect anything from that? I didn't make the movie, why should I expect to get a piece of it just because they used my book as source material? Copyright should protect me from having Random House take my book, slap a different cover on it, and resell it as their own work. It shouldn't prevent people from making derivative works.

          It's pretty much impossible to write a completely original novel or movie. Something somewhere in your work is going to be construed as a reference
        • by Fned (43219)

          Setting aside the awfully cute assumption you've made that Warner Brothers actually pays royalties to book authors without getting sued first, it would depend a lot on how long ago I wrote the best-selling book. I, for one, don't expect to be paid forever for something I did a long time ago. Don't get me wrong, it would be nice, and I wouldn't turn the money down, but I also wouldn't go around thinking I was entitled to it. What have I done lately?

          In fact, now that I think about it, if I was working on a ne

        • by sjames (1099) on Friday March 30, 2012 @01:05PM (#39525337) Homepage

          The correct analogy would be you submit a book to a publisher and they lock it in a vault and refuse to publish it, then they refuse to let you turn it into a movie with another group of people. The actual author of this episode was actually part of the production.

        • This isn't a best-selling book, this is an unpublished script. The original author is one the record of stating that it's perfectly fine. There is a time window of 40 years in which CBS could have chosen to do something productive with the script. How do you think this is similar at all?

          The quick answer is that yes, if I wrote a book and 40 years later Warner Brothers decides to make a movie of it without paying me any royalties, I'd be fine with that. Why? Because I don't buy into the BS line of reaso

          • by Progman3K (515744)

            But you see, the "ME! ME! ME!" attitude is a reflection of the attitude of grubby corporations.

            The only difference is the power is all on the corporate side now

        • by Hatta (162192)

          I'm happy to let WB copy freely from my work. I copy freely from theirs.

      • Copyright is not as simple as that. While it seems intuitively obvious that this is a direct hindrance to the creation of art, thinking along these lines involves a relatively obvious (at least, in hindsight), but surprisingly common fallacy: namely the unfounded assumption that the inspiring artwork would have existed in the first place. To assume this is to implicitly assume that copyright is not valuable (since this initial existence is the mechanism by which copyright works), and thus makes any argument

    • And nothing of value was lost.

      (At least in this instance. Come on, this stuff is almost as bad as another Star Wars prequel / sequel / plastic figurine.)

      • by ae1294 (1547521)

        And nothing of value was lost.

        (At least in this instance.

        That's not the point. The point is the original author of this episode can't even use it after some 40 years. CBS has no desire to ever use this script and Copyright is suppose to encourage creative endeavours not prevent them just because. This sort of misuse of copyright is hurting our culture for no other reason than greed and a desire for unhealthy amounts of control.

    • by Githaron (2462596)
      Why protect copyrighted material for the sake of copyright? I could understand if they were going to do something with the script but it helps no one if it just sits around and gathers dust. Is someone making money off this series?
      • Not really, except maybe donations and a stipend for food.

        The point of Star Trek Phase II was that it is one of the best attempts at fan-indie TV, and they were originally granted lenient copyright clearance precisely because they had no real commercial ambitions - they just wanted to both provide new actors some work and the fans some new stories. The original actors got involved and volunteered for some episodes.

        That's why this story is irritating, it's pure "Sit On It" Copyright Meanness.

    • Unless CBS has plans for the script...

      To play devil's advocate: There is a new Star Trek movie in the works. What if they are using the script/plot/idea as the basis for the next movie? Or they were planning on digging into their "we've already paid for writers" pile in general?

    • If this was based on an unused script from the original series that means it is at least 40 years old. While it is true CBS owns the copyright it's a shame that copyrights are granted for such a long period of time. If Copyrights are granted with the idea they encourage the arts this is a clear example of the law not fulfilling its goals. I'm not against copyright but if the terms were shorter this wouldn't be an issue and we would have one more work created.
    • Unless CBS has plans for the script, this certainly wasn't the smartest way to resolve it fro their company. That's a different matter.

      Well, I'll put it this way: Several episodes of the first season of TNG were Phase II scripts.

      • And 3 characters in TNG are based on Phase II characters IIRC,

        Data on that full vulcan fellow Xon
        Riker and Troi on Decker and Ilia.

    • This is exactly why copyright should have been left at the previous very generous 20 years. Now some fans can't use an unpublished script written almost 55 years ago? A bit ridiculous. We need to get rid of the "corporations are people" concept and replace it with something more workable.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    CBS's heart must not be *truly* Klingon.

    • by kpoole55 (1102793)

      No, the Klingons wouldn't pull this sort of thing. They have more honor and respect those that honour them. The fan based activity are meant to honour the memory of the Star Trek that was.

      No, this is purely a Ferengi move. Now where did I put my copy of the Rules of Acquisition.

      Or we could cross franchises and use the Pirate's code, "Take what you can, give nothing back."

      On second thought, it amounts to the same thing, after all.

  • lawsuits (Score:5, Insightful)

    by k6mfw (1182893) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:42AM (#39524111)
    It seems entertainment industry spends more time on lawsuits, copyright issues, piracy, etc. rather than producing new entertainment material.
  • by Lumbre (1822486) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:45AM (#39524159)
    Amicably (am i ka blee): An adverb meaning money exchanged hands to simulate a friendly conflict resolution.
  • Seems valid... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by N0Man74 (1620447) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:45AM (#39524171)

    That sounds disappointing, but it seems valid. It is obviously a fact that works from that time period are still protected by copyright.

    Whether it is sane, or whether it promotes the progress of science and useful arts is another matter completely...

  • by Shotgun (30919) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:47AM (#39524187)

    Why is this news? Someone wants to directly copy material from a large corporation's profitable franchise, and the franchise says no. I think a big "Duh?" is in order.

    If orignal author of the episode most likely wrote it under contract with CBS, his enthusiasm is immaterial, as the piece was not his to be enthusiastic about once he accepted money for it. If he did not do it under contract, his enthusiasm is immaterial, as the franchise was not his to be enthusiastic about. CBS is the entity that has the rights and trademarks for Star Trek, and if we are to have a productive society, the rights of ownership must be respected.

    • by vux984 (928602) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:54AM (#39524283)

      Why is this news?

      Do you think an original unproduced script writer for star trek tries to direct his script on his own every day? Do you think star trek fans would find that interesting if one did?

      Isn't that the definition of news? Something somewhat out of the ordinary happens involving something that people are interested in... sounds like the definition of new.

      What I can't figure out is why so many people on slashdot can't figure out why things are considered news.

      CBS is the entity that has the rights and trademarks for Star Trek, and if we are to have a productive society, the rights of ownership must be respected.

      That's a completely unproven assertion.

    • Why is this news? Someone wants to directly copy material from a large corporation's profitable franchise, and the franchise says no. I think a big "Duh?" is in order.

      Because this is Slashdot - where perfectly ordinary and understandable occurrences are [faux] news because it draws eyeballs (ad revenue), and provides the daily Two Minutes Hate.

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      CBS's position is, the script was a 'work for hire', the way any script for an episodic tv show is. Writers were hired specifically to write for that show. Not all scripts or script ideas are used. Those that aren't used go on the shelf, probably to never be seen again. It would have been different if Norman had approached Desilu (the studio that was doing the original Star Trek) with a 'spec script', but that wasn't the case.
  • Everytime I watch one of the episodes, I can't help LMAO they way they try to act like the old casts. Especially Spock!
  • by FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:50AM (#39524223)
    Why can't CBS just license it for a dollar? Copyright is enforced, license is legit, fans get something that CBS must know they're never going to do anything with. How many unproduced scripts can they have? Would they really ever re-make the series using the old scripts and use this one? Greed, pure and simple. "If we can't use it, nobody can"

    We seriously need copyright reform. Copyright terms should be 14 years again. I think as a society, the we (the US) should just ignore copyrights after that time.
    • Why didn't the movie makers ask first?
    • by Fned (43219)

      Greed, pure and simple. "If we can't use it, nobody can"

      Pride, Envy, Sloth, and Wrath, yes, but not Greed so much.

    • by Githaron (2462596)

      We seriously need copyright reform. Copyright terms should be 14 years again.

      Agreed. I never understood why copyright was for so long. Much of what is copyright has become part of our culture and society. They have become common experiences that bind us together. Assuming the content creators plans on creating new content within a franchise, I can understand having rules to protect the actual characters/worlds themselves in order to keep outside people from destroying the franchise; however, if they are never going to create new content, why protect the characters? 15 years should b

    • Most likely, CBS fears that licensing it for $1 will reduce the value of other unprocessed scripts they own that might be worth something someday. Though it probably wouldn't.
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:50AM (#39524227)

    With possibility of renewal if the original human is still alive.

    This script is just sitting around, unused. If it were in the public domain, CBS could use it, or New Voyages could use it, or anybody could use it. Public domain PROMOTES artistic endeavors while the copy monopoly stifles it.

    IMHO

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:54AM (#39524287)

    Thankfully the era of media conglomerates owning pop culture will soon be over. With fan efforts like Kickstarter, new IP can be made with a Creative Commons or Copyleft scheme that will preserve it from being captured and abused by corporations while allowing fans free creative reign.

    Can you imagine what western culture would be like if Homer's descendants were the Greek Disneys?

    public: Hey, he didn't even make up the original myths, he just retold them!

    Greek lawyers: Doesn't matter. Copyright extents to the author's death plus 3,000 years.

    public: But what about culture?

    Greek lawyer: These temples don't pay for themselves, bitch. Now we've gotta take it up with the Hebrews on this Samson character. Clearly they're infringing on our Herakles IP.

    Hebrew lawyers: Get in line. We're already filing a lawsuit against those Messianics for unauthorized derivative material. They lifted our entire Torah and just added new material at the end.

    St. Paul Diddy: It's called sampling. This book wasn't nothing before I got here.

    troll lawyers: Cease and desist all of you. We bought the IP rights to the Sumerian tablets. All of you are in violation.

    • by cpghost (719344) on Friday March 30, 2012 @11:59AM (#39524353) Homepage

      Greek lawyer: These temples don't pay for themselves, bitch.

      As a matter of fact, Eurozone countries are already paying back [bloomberg.com] the Greek for the privilege. They just do it under a false pretext.

  • It's a shame the episode won't be made. Nothing like stuffing creativity in a vault to protect it from ever being recognized.

  • Why could we not just declare Star Trek a religion? It pretty much is one at this point. As long as what is produced is not for profit, I would think the creation of "religious materials" might get better protection.

    Of course IANAL constitutional or otherwise...

    • The AC pointed out how litigatous the Scientologist and LDS Churches get when their secret texts are distributed to the general public. But even mainstream religions get in on copyright as well. For example the most commonly used English translations of the Bible are protected under copyright law, for some and this copyright is rigorously enforced [zondervan.com].

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday March 30, 2012 @12:50PM (#39525147) Journal

    ...that mindshare of the older star trek properties, designs and interfaces will fade, since CBS isn't doing much with them and they're absolutely forbidding anyone else to keep old Trek in the public eye? It seems like CBS's interests would be better served to provide license at reasonable cost, and keep the properties in the public eye.

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