Paramount and CBS settle lawsuit against Star Trek fan movie

Contributed by
Jan 22, 2017

The legal battle over a crowdfunded, arguably fan-made Star Trek movie has come to an end.

According to The Wrap, a settlement was reached on Friday between Paramount Pictures, CBS Studios and producer Alec Peters over Axanar, the Star Trek fan film created through Peters' Axanar Productions. 

It was December 2015 when Paramount and CBS filed suit against Peters and his company, claiming that the film crossed a line between amateur fan project and professional production. And frankly -- with the producers raising more than $1 million to make the movie, hiring professional crew and actors like Richard Hatch and Tony Todd, and Peters allegedly paying himself a $40,000 salary -- one could certainly argue that the line was blurred, if not stepped clean over (a U.S. District Court judge felt the same way earlier this month). 

But in a joint statement released on Friday, all three parties announced that the matter was settled, with Peters agreeing to make "substantial changes" to Axanar. In addition, the settlement proclaimed that all future Star Trek films made by Peters and his firm would follow CBS and Paramount's "Guidelines for Fan Films," which the companies laid out last June. The statement read in part:

"Paramount and CBS continue to be big believers in fan fiction and fan creativity. They encourage amateur filmmakers to showcase their passion for 'Star Trek.'  Paramount and CBS will not object to, or take legal action against, 'Star Trek' fan productions that are non-professional, amateur, and otherwise meet the Guidelines ... Paramount and CBS would like 'Star Trek' fans, with their boundless creativity and passion, to 'Live Long and Prosper.'"

The companies clearly came up with the Guidelines as a result of the Peters situation; the producer claimed in August 2015 that Paramount didn't provide any restrictions to him except that the film had to remain non-profit. It's also clear that while Paramount and CBS had previously been okay with fan productions, one with a budget of more than a million dollars could conceivably be a glossier affair than most -- and that raised a red flag.

Honestly, it's hard to argue against the big companies here. Regardless of what you think of how they have handled Star Trek, it's their intellectual property. Peters' film was coming dangerously close to trespassing on the ownership of their brand, and just the notion alone that Peters was drawing a salary already made this more than an amateur affair.

Axanar will no doubt surface in some form, although it may not be recognizable as a Star Trek story any more, and future fan productions will now have to stay pretty low to the ground in terms of their ambitions.

Do you think Paramount and CBS were being unfair to Peters and Axanar, or did the filmmaker play it too fast and loose with their property?