Yesterday it was announced that J.J. Abrams, director of the last three Star Trek movies, had interceded and pressed the executives to drop the lawsuit as it was not a helpful way to treat fans. While the suit is technically still in force until the formalities of dropping the suit are completed, fans around the world are excited and relieved.
Fan films are generally OK with the rights holders, as long as they are not profit making ventures. Star Trek has a huge fan base with a long history of allowing fan films. Advertised as the most highly funded fan film with a professional cast and crew. It includes actors from some of the Star Trek television series and the main Klingon character is played by Battle Star Galactica’s Richard Hatch.
The initial fundraising effort on Kickstarter, raised $638,471 for a short called Prelude to Axanar, available on YouTube. Delivery of this film led to the next step, a fundraiser on Indiegogo for funds needed for the full length movie. The Indiegogo campaign raised $574,434.
Over a million dollars raised for a fan film put it on the radar of the lawyers who filed suit to stop this movie and seek damages for each item of copyright infringement. The suit was filed December 29, 2015. Established rules for Star Trek fan films is that they can’t sell tickets, merchandise, or copies of the finished film. Without these common ways to fund a movie, fan films are self funded, usually by friend pooling their money and doing all the required job from acting to post production. Axanar’s goal is to have a professional cast and crew to get a high quality film that lives up to what fans want.
Many articles up to now had discussed how Axanar’s lawyers failed to have the suit thrown out, but also requested evidence for each item infringed, as well as the proof of transfer of rights for each time the franchise was sold along the way. Paramount owns the movie rights and CBS owns the television rights, but did everything to show transfer of ownership get filed appropriately? Some have speculated that the things claimed were not properly documented in all the various transfers of ownership and many items might be found to be in the public domain. At the very least, had the lawsuit gone forward, it would have given guidance to future fan films.
2016 is an important year for Star Trek, it will have the release of the next Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond, scheduled to be released July 22, 2016. It is also the 50th anniversary of the original television series premiere. Many fans have not appreciated the dark cloud hanging over this celebratory year.
Enjoy the short prelude to Axanar here: