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Sci-Fi Television The Almighty Buck The Courts

Paramount and CBS File Lawsuit Against Crowdfunded, Indie Star Trek Movie (hollywoodreporter.com) 228

An anonymous reader writes: Back in August, an Indiegogo campaign raised $566,023 to produce Axanar, a Star Trek movie in development by an independent group of fans, who also happen to be film professionals. Now, unfortunately but predictably, Paramount and CBS have filed a lawsuit in California federal court claiming their intellectual property is being infringed upon. They are "demanding an injunction as well as damages for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement." The guy running the crowdfunded film is a lawyer, and he said, "We've certainly been prepared for this and we certainly will defend this lawsuit. There are a lot of issues surrounding a fan film. These fan films have been around for 30 years, and others have raised a lot of money." He said CBS/Paramount weren't willing to provide guidelines on what types of fan productions would be tolerated (unlike Lucasfilm with Star Wars), because they worry about setting precedent.
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Paramount and CBS File Lawsuit Against Crowdfunded, Indie Star Trek Movie

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  • Public Theft... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WCLPeter ( 202497 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @05:59PM (#51211831) Homepage

    And thanks to those same companies lobbying efforts they're still able to enforce copyright on something, which by all rights, should have entered the Public Domain 21 years ago.

    So much for the continued progress of the arts and science, Axanar looked like an interesting project - it was the first "real" Trek I'd seen in years and I was looking forward to the feature.

    Been wondering if we couldn't use corporate law against them in this case, by pushing for ever longer terms they're missing out on profits - corporations are mandated to maximize profits. Paramount, by lobbying to extend the term lengths, is missing out on that sweet sweet Star Wars money (which should also be in the public domain) and thereby depriving their shareholders of a potential revenue steam.

    I'm not a lawyer but I'd have to wonder if these guys could get some Paramount shares and counter sue?

    • corporations are mandated to maximize profits

      That's just not true. That theory was first floated by GE's CEO in 1978 to justify what he wanted to do.

      • Well, they do have a fiduciary duty to shareholders, which is pretty close to the same thing.
        • Well, they do have a fiduciary duty to shareholders, which is pretty close to the same thing.

          And Linux desktops show content and applications in windows, so it and Windows are pretty close to the same thing.

    • And thanks to those same companies lobbying efforts they're still able to enforce copyright on something, which by all rights, should have entered the Public Domain 21 years ago.

      Under the Copyright Act of 1909, works were protected for 28 years, with the option to renew for 28 years. Duration of Copyright [google.com] There is no way that Star Trek: TOS enters the public domain before 2027 even under the rules in force over 100 years ago.

      This ignores, of course, all licensed and copyrighted derivatives based on the original series in all media.

      Been wondering if we couldn't use corporate law against them in this case, by pushing for ever longer terms they're missing out on profits - corporations are mandated to maximize profits. Paramount, by lobbying to extend the term lengths, is missing out on that sweet sweet Star Wars money (which should also be in the public domain) and thereby depriving their shareholders of a potential revenue steam.

      The key to reviving a long-dormant genre, character or series, is distance and a healthy disrespect for your sources.

    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      There ought to be compulsory licensing available for fictional worlds and characters, as there is for music. Studios should not be able to control derived works like fan fiction or charge arbitrary fees.
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @06:00PM (#51211847)

    Paramount and CBS are just worried that a bunch of amateurs working weekends with iPhones will make a better, more original, movie than J.J. - perhaps with even more saucer-section rising from the clouds/mist/ocean shots! ( That last one was an awesome shot to be sure but, seriously, do you have any idea how ridiculous it is to hide a starship on the bottom of the ocean? Or so I think I heard someone ask. )

    Khaaaaan!

    • do you have any idea how ridiculous it is to hide a starship on the bottom of the ocean?

      It's more ridiculous than fighting zombies with vinyl records, that's for sure.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      If materials science advanced to the point where a starship could get close to the speed of light without the crew becoming a sticky goo on the side of the corridors, remain in geostationary orbit, remain pressurized at one atmosphere even when orbiting a large star, I'd be rather worried if it couldn't handle the pressure increase going deep into the ocean.

      • by Shadowmist ( 57488 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @06:09PM (#51211909)

        If materials science advanced to the point where a starship could get close to the speed of light without the crew becoming a sticky goo on the side of the corridors, remain in geostationary orbit, remain pressurized at one atmosphere even when orbiting a large star, I'd be rather worried if it couldn't handle the pressure increase going deep into the ocean.

        Take your average 300 foot tall starship. The water pressure difference form top to bottom is 10 atmospheres. That becomes a rather serious issue in diving.

        • by TomGreenhaw ( 929233 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @06:50PM (#51212195)
          There is that magical structural integrity field. If the Enterprise in Generations can crash into a planet and have people walk away with nary a scratch, I figure what's a few atmospheres. Just sayin...
        • Take your average 300 foot tall starship. The water pressure difference form top to bottom is 10 atmospheres. That becomes a rather serious issue in diving.

          Muffin-top starship?

        • This is the Star Trek Universe we're talking about. Duranium alloy is pretty damned tough stuff all by itself, but you add structural integrity fields to bolster it, and it can withstand a literally astronomical amount of abuse before it fails on you. Warp drive alters the local gravity constant of the ship, and you have internal artificial gravity and inertial dampers (I refuse to say 'dampeners', call me a wet blanket for that if you like) to compensate for acceleration effects (and some, but not all, imp
      • Especially since there are other examples of starships in the series diving into gas giants, what difference does it make where the pressure comes from?

      • Just got to compensate, and if that is not enough just rotate shield harmonics / frequencies on a randomized basis. That generally works, as per the all ST series.
      • ... where a starship could ... remain in geostationary orbit, remain pressurized at one atmosphere even when orbiting a large star, I'd be rather worried if it couldn't handle the pressure increase going deep into the ocean.

        The fact that it could remain in geostationary orbit negates the need to hide it in the ocean - at least as the scene unfolded in the movie. That's what makes it especially ridiculous. J.J. just wanted to do another "ship rising from the mist" scene.

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        1 atmosphere != 600 atmospheres... under salt water you get an atmosphere's worth of pressure every 10m.
        • by mikael ( 484 )

          I was thinking of inside pressure. Watching those documentaries about how everything compressed in deep water. There are lifeforms at the far depths of the ocean that can only live at those pressures. Tryto extricate them back to the surface, and they basically dissolve as they consist of proteins that can only exist at those depths.

      • Re:setting precedent (Score:5, Informative)

        by dissy ( 172727 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @08:08PM (#51212675)

        If materials science advanced to the point where a starship could get close to the speed of light without the crew becoming a sticky goo on the side of the corridors, remain in geostationary orbit, remain pressurized at one atmosphere even when orbiting a large star, I'd be rather worried if it couldn't handle the pressure increase going deep into the ocean.

        Professor Farnsworth explained it best:


        Leela: Depth at 45 hundred feet, 48 hundred, 50 hundred! 5000 feet!
        Farnsworth: Dear Lord, that's over 150 atmospheres of pressure.
        Fry: How many atmospheres can this ship withstand?
        Farnsworth: Well it's a spaceship, so I'd say anywhere between zero and one.

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Of course, the question there was... "Why was it underwater instead of in orbit? The natives clearly didn't have the capability to detect it in orbit."

  • Idiots (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's would be much smarter to Support the film and provide help from CBS's experience in producing films and take a cut of the sales, its also free advertising and you might even pick up some new talent.

    Not only would you get paid, for doing little to nothing with no investment but you would also have no risk and all the reward.. If the movie is great than you can claim it was because of your support, if it's terrible no big deal it's an indie film...

    And it would boost sales for the next "official" star tre

    • Especially since they have the option to just authorize the film instead of just suing. What would it hurt?

    • Not invented here syndrome. You think software companies are bad about it, just imagine a company that consideres itself 100% creative. This is a big threat to their creatives and they are enacting an immune response.
    • It's would be much smarter

      Being smart is not a requirement for running a business.

    • Maybe they're afraid that a fan film will have far better cinematography than the two abortions Abram was responsible for. I think a ten year old with a couple of iPhones could produce better special effects than the meth-amphetamine inspired average shot lengths. I swear, the reboots seem designed to send epileptics into seizures.

    • Simply make it someplace where US IP laws mean nothing,

      Trouble is, all such countries have "weapons of mass destruction". A little genocide is no big deal, but don't you dare trample on someone's government-granted monopoly.

  • "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    CNS/Paramount, you are:
    - Not promoting the Progress of the Arts [yes, I know the original meaning of Arts is different]
    - Not respecting limited times [in any realistic sense]

    All property is (theoretically) safe from the government and others (4th Amendment), so why was this clause included in the Constitution? Because i

    • A copyright or patent for a year is little incentive for new inventions, and a forever patent or copyright provides no return for society in return for that protection.

      Where is the optimum? I believe it is 14 years.

      The last Star Trek movie came out a year and a half ago, and the next one is due out in 7 months. I think they're well within your optimum range to be protecting their IP.

  • There is literally hundreds of hours of fan films and webisodes. Why go after this one in particular?

    • This one is big money, and CBS is starting a Trek series. When you push boundaries, eventually you hit a wall.
    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      Because the fan movie makers are making a lot of money off the Star Trek trademark and marketing. Making money of someone else's intellectual assets is a crime.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Then sue for fucking trademark infringement, not copyright infringement.

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        Making money of someone else's intellectual assets is a crime.

        In many places in the US, spitting on the sidewalk, and disturbing the peace as defined arbitrarily by an asshole cop, are crimes. In Thailand, insulting the King's dog is a crime.

        The term "intellectual asset" is an absurdity. It leads to "I thought of X, no one else can use X, even thinking of it completely independently, without clearing it with me".

  • For the record (Score:3, Insightful)

    by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @07:16PM (#51212375)

    Under the original copyright terms [wikipedia.org] the founders instituted in 1790, TOS would have been out of copyright since 1996 (20 years ago). Under the 1831 extension, it would have been out of copyright since 2010 (6 years ago). It wasn't until the 20th Century that the term got extended so far past the founder's intent that a 47 year old work is still under copyright. And even then, it would have been out of copyright only 8 years from now. It wasn't until 1976 (within my memory) that the current march toward virtual perpetuity really started.

    Next question: Would a world where people can make and sell Trek TOS fanfic (both crappy and masterful) really be that bad? Are we, the public, better off this way? We only get new material once a decade or so, and it is almost completely immune to the natural market forces that rule media in general.

  • TRANSLATION: "Someone is making money and it's not us!"

    Yeah, yeah....I know, they own the rights, etc etc etc. What good are the rights if you don't do anything with them?

    Why not let the dedicated fans have some fun? It's keeping the franchise alive, what's so horrible about that?

  • by yayoubetcha ( 893774 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:13PM (#51212991)

    Paramount got the script from Simon Pegg for the next Trek movie and now they're worried:

    Uhura: Spock?
    Spock: Yeah?
    Uhura: You see what I'm saying?
    Spock: Yep, totally.
    Uhura: I know he's your best friend, but you do live with him.
    Spock: I know.
    Uhura: It's not that I don't like Kirk.
    [Uhura looks over at Kirk who is playing an arcade game]
    Uhura: Kirk, it's not that I don't like you.
    Kirk: It's all right.
    Uhura: It would just be nice if we could...
    Kirk: [talking to the arcade machine] Fuck!
    Uhura: ...spend a bit more time together...

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2015 @09:38PM (#51213103) Journal
    Of late the fan-created content (Star Trek Continues, for instance) has been more watchable than the high-budget pseudo-Trek crap that J.J. Abrams has been shoveling at us, so CBS and Paramount can go fuck themselves so far as I'm concerned.
    • Recall in The Original Series:
      -The galaxy seems to be about the size of North Dakota, and has a mysterious force field around it that prevents ships from leaving - the ENTIRE GALAXY. The galaxy is divided into four quadrants, whatever that means. We seem to have covered over a trillion star system in less than two hundred years, and have a bureaucracy and navy large enough to cover it all.
      -Most aliens are essentially college educated humans, sometimes British, that somehow we can have a common basis of und

  • If you can't put together a good story, get the fuck out of the way. You would do a lot better if you used the lawsuit money as a contribution to the fan film. All it does is build a bigger fanbase from star trek.

    But you gotta own something that isn't yours in the first place - it's they fans who own star trek.

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Thursday December 31, 2015 @09:15AM (#51214987)
    It's hard for me to tell what drove CBS/Paramount over the edge with this production. Tim Russ (Lt. Tuvok on Voyager) has made 2 crowd funded Star Trek movies that he and his company didn't get sued over. In fact, they recently (barely) raised enough money on a Kickstarter campaign to do 2 more episodes of Star Trek Renegades. Russ said that he had a meeting with CBS/Paramount and offered to produce Renegades for them as an online series. They turned him down but told him he could keep doing the series as long as he didn't turn a profit from it. It may be that Axanar has simply raised too much money and that has attracted the ire of CBS/Paramount. Depending on the source Axanar has raised between half a million and one million dollars and for comparison, Renegades took until one day before the campaign ended on Kickstarter to raise the $350,000 needed for 2 more episodes. It may be that CBS/Paramount suspects that someone is pocketing money from Axanar given its higher costs than Renegades (Axanar is budgeted at $250,000 per episode).

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