Bad news for fan films: Judge finds Star Trek: Axanar not covered under fair use

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Jan 6, 2017

The high-profile lawsuit surrounding the ambitious Star Trek fan film Axanar has taken a turn that could fire a photon torpedo at a fervent corner of fandom. 

Paramount filed a lawsuit against the creators of the Axanar fan film, claiming it violated copyright law and was too substantially similar to Trek. The Verge reports that a U.S. District Court Judge has sided with Paramount and CBS in the quarrel, saying the project does not fall under fair use. This could have far-reaching consequences for fans who show their love for the franchise by making fan films. The case will still move on to a jury trial, though the Axanar team will not be able to use fair use as a defense. Which, umm, doesn’t leave a lot of options.

The Axanar lawsuit has been a wild ride the past year or so, after CBS and Paramount filed suit in December 2015. For a while, it seemed like the case would be dropped, after Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin said he pushed the studio to back down, but that wasn’t the case. With the ruling this week, it could potentially set the stage for harsh repercussions for any aspiring fan filmmakers.

CBS and Paramount has typically turned a blind eye to fan films, but all that changed when Axanar raised more than $1 million for a professional fan production set to star genre staples Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Tony Todd (The Flash, 24) and Kate Vernon (Battlestar Galactica). That apparently hit a bit too close to home for the studio, and led Paramount to issue some strict rules that discouraged pretty much anything other than truly amateur projects shot on a shoestring in a garage. And file the Axanar suit.

As the case eventually heads to jury trial, it’ll certainly be worth watching to see how this might affect fandom as a whole.

What’s your take on the suit? Should Paramount be shutting down these types of projects, or just let the fans have their fun?

(Via The Verge)