Paramount Sues Fan-Made ‘Star Trek’ Film Over Copyrights on Ears, Klingon Language
The tough thing about using someone else’s ideas to make money is that it’s not entirely legal. This lesson had to be learned the hard way this past weekend by Alec Peters, producer of an independent film titled Prelude to Axanar. The Star Trek fan film drew quite a bit of ire from copyright holders Paramount after a crowdfunding effort on Indiegogo brought this grassroots DIY production over half a million dollars last summer. The promise to make a “studio-quality” film including characters, settings, and other elements from the heavily-licensed Star Trek franchise with no engagement from the relevant studio spelled doom for the Axanar team, and now the chickens have come home to roost.
Paramount first took legal action at the end of last year, filing a blanket lawsuit alleging that the Axanar production had infringed on “thousands” of copyrights. The production then filed a motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds of lack of specificity, challenging Paramount’s legal team to pin something concrete on them if they wanted to move forward. Today, The Hollywood Reporter notes that Paramount was more than up to the task, unleashing a scorched-earth counter to Peters’ gambit. The suit names the iconic pointed Vulcan ears as one of the more cut-and-dried instances of creative swag-jacking (that’s legal jargon, don’t worry about it), also naming the classic gold shirts worn by the Enterprise’s crew and the entire Klingon language as glaring examples of infringement. As if Paramount didn’t already have this sewn up, their suit cites a February interview in which Peters is quoted as saying “We violate CBS copyright less than any other fan film,” a sentence that might as well end after the first four words.
In legal circles, a “Grenada” is a slang term for an un-losable case, referring to the 1983 invasion of a small Caribbean island by the superpowered U.S. military. In lay terms, cases such as Paramount/CBS vs. the Jokers Who Somehow Thought They Were Exempt from Copyright Law are also known as a “slam dunk.” Peters and the Axanar crew emerging from this unscathed is unlikely, but it’ll be interesting to see how the suit plays out regardless. If they can somehow get away with this under a free-use clause in some obscure cranny of the law books, it’ll be a major win for amateur composers of fan-fiction everywhere.