Fanmade films have long been a way for amateur filmmakers to flex their creative muscle while also paying tribute to their favorite characters, movies and series. For years, Star Trek rightsholders have not only condoned these works of fan fiction, but have oftentimes encouraged their fans' creativity.
So it shocked Star Trek fans when CBS and Paramount Pictures filed a lawsuit against a crowdfunded campaign for a independent studio-quality Star Trek film Axanar. The campaign raised more than $1 million on Indiegogo and Kickstarter last year, even garnering the support of Star Trek actor George Takei.
Just last month, current Star Trek director J.J. Abrams said that CBS and Paramount's lawsuit against Axanar would be "going away." But in light of recent news, that no longer seems to be the case.
CBS and Paramount still maintain that Axanar is an infringement of their intellectual property and the lawsuit continues. However, they would like to put fans' minds at ease by offering up guidelines fledgling filmmakers can follow to ensure no legal action would be taken against them.
On the official Star Trek website, the studios make it clear they will still support reasonable fanmade films in the future, as long as the filmmakers abide by the following 10 conditions:
1. The 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.
2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.
3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.
4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.
5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.
6. The fan production must be non-commercial:
-CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.
-The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.
-The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.
-The fan production cannot be used to derive advertising revenue including, but not limited to, through for example, the use of pre or post-roll advertising, click-through advertising banners, that is associated with the fan production.
-No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.
-The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or costumes.
7. The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy.
8. The fan production must display the following disclaimer in the on-screen credits of the fan productions and on any marketing material including the fan production website or page hosting the fan production:
“Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”
9. Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.
10. Fan productions cannot create or imply any association or endorsement by CBS or Paramount Pictures.
Since this announcement, the creators of Axanar have responded unfavorably to these guidelines, writing on their Facebook page: "The CBS 'Guidelines' for Fan Films basically make it impossible for fan films to continue as they have."
These 10 guidelines may be clear-cut and lessen the risk of litigious actions from the rightsholders, but they also restrict the creative liberties of amateur filmmakers. Here are a few of our favorite fanmade movies that could call for legal action under these guidelines:
1. Dirty Laundry (2012) — By Adi Shankar
2. Troops (1997) — By Kevin Rubio
3. Croft (2013) — By Trevor Addie
On the one hand, it's good for Star Trek fans with filmmaking aspirations to know where they stand in the legality of their works. But on the other, these guidelines are a hinderance and may dissuade those same filmmakers from making a movie in the first place. Sidestepping these guidelines isn't impossible, but it's far from the creative freedoms of the past.
The latest Star Trek installment, Star Trek Beyond, will premiere on July 22.
Do you think these new guidelines are fair for fanmade Star Trek films?