You might not think copyright infringement law would make the basis for good science fiction television, but given the real-life drama that's currently playing out between fan film Axanar and Star Trek parent companies CBS and Paramount, you would appear to be wrong.
It was starting to get a little by-the-book dullsville for a second there. When last we wrote on the subject, Axanar Productions was requesting that CBS and Paramount specify which specific aspects of their as-yet-incomplete film were infringing upon Trek copyright. Did you think that would slow down the lawsuit?
So, Paramount has basically come up with a laundry list of specific things Axanar is infringing upon that includes, but is not limited to, Vulcan appearance; the classic, TOS-style gold shirt design; and the sum entirety of the Klingon language. That last item alone raises a slew of complicated questions over whether one can copyright a language, fictional or not, at all. Rather than belabor you with the details, the short version is, as of now, yes, you can.
But that's not all. Paramount also answered the accusation that they cannot know what will be in the movie when the script isn't even done. How? Chalk it up to social media use without foresight.
Paramount submitted as evidence a Facebook post from Axanar's own page referring to a "locked script" for the film. Paramount also pointed toward an interview with Axanar's own fearless leader, Alec Peters, in which he stated, "We violate CBS copyright less than any other fan film." That's a nice sentiment but, by his own admission, Peters is saying that copyright is being violated.
So, this does not sound like great news. However, something very surprising happened which just might sway public opinion so swiftly in Axanar's favor that a settlement may be found despite all the doom and gloom. Behold!
This is getting ridiculous! I support the fans. Trek belongs to all of us.https://t.co/mYMqIDXqHu— Justin Lin (@trailingjohnson) March 14, 2016
Yes, that is Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin stating in no uncertain terms that he's on Team Axanar. Wow! Obviously, Lin is neither judge nor jury, but his opinion does hold some sway considering much of this lawsuit is specifically due to Paramount's fear that Axanar will dilute their movie end of the Trek brand.
Lin's confidence in the ability of fan work to peacefully coexist with official continuations of the Star Trek franchise is a breath of fresh air during these stressful proceedings. After all, the fate of Axanar could very easily spell trouble for not just their own production, but also for any other fan production companies interested in exploring the world of Star Trek. The result of this suit could also have a lasting impact on all fan productions going forward for any franchise, not just Star Trek.
Obviously, Axanar Productions is thrilled that Lin has seemingly thrown in with them despite his affiliations. They reached out to me with their official response:
"Thanks Justin! We're just trying to make a great fan film. #StarTrekBeyond will be awesome! We can't wait!"
"Obviously, we’re more than thrilled to have Justin Lin’s support", says Alec Peters. "We’re all huge fans of the Fast and Furious films, and we can’t wait to see what he does with Star Trek. What we’re seeing here is the fans and filmmakers supporting each other. We just hope the right people are paying attention.”
It's hard to say how all of this will ultimately pan out. Axanar may get made, it may not. But, in the meantime, if this is just a temporary bump in the road towards making Axanar a reality, you can't say this copyright infrignement lawsuit has not kept us all entertained.