J.J. Abrams might not be pulling the director reins of the Star Trek movie franchise, but it seems his influence might be strong enough to convince at least Paramount Pictures to pull out of a copyright infringement lawsuit against an "independent" fan-film.
"There was a fan movie, 'Axanar,' that was getting made," Abrams told fans during a "Star Trek: Beyond" event in Los Angeles Friday night. He was joined on stage by "Beyond" director Justin Lin, who Abrams said was "outraged by this" lawsuit "as a lifetime fan."
"And we started talking about it that this was not an appropriate way to deal with fans," Abrams said. "The fans should be celebrating this thing. We all, fans of Star Trek, are part of this world."
Abrams said he and Lin went to Paramount and "pushed them to stop this lawsuit," and claim they were actually successful. In fact, he said that "within the next few weeks," it will be announced the Axanar lawsuit is "going away."
But that doesn't mean Paramount is simply dropping the lawsuit. A CBS spokesman told 1701News early Saturday morning that they are doing exactly what judges like — settle the case before going to court.
"We are pleased to confirm we are in settlement discussions," Paramount and CBS told 1701News in a statement. The studios added they are also "working on a set of fan-film guidelines," without adding any further detail.
That could be a big change in how CBS and Paramount have approached fan-films in the past. Most of the "rules" have been unspoken directives, since it's believed creating written rules would possibly create a "license" for fan-films to exist. It's not clear how those guidelines could affect fan-films or their future.
For example, if CBS and Paramount adopted fan-film rules similar to Lucasfilm and Star Wars, those fan-films would be reduced to just five minutes, and follow very strict guidelines. Productions like "Star Trek Continues" and "Star Trek: New Voyages" would cease to exist under guidelines like that.
Last December Paramount Pictures joined CBS Corp. in suing Axanar Productions and its principal Alec Peters for copyright infringement after the group raised more than $1.3 million to produce what it described as an "independent" fan-film. It used a good portion of the money to rent out premium warehouse space just outside of Los Angeles and convert it into a studio where they planned not only to make "Star Trek: Axanar," but also other productions, including some they said would be commercial in nature.
Axanar also "licensed" out its Star Trek-inspired merchandise and logos to other companies, offering them not only as "perks" for donors in their online crowdfunding, but through a "donor store," where people can make specific donations and receive the products in return.
Axanar's defense attorney Erin Ranahan tried twice to dismiss the complaint, finally proving to be completely unsuccessful in a court ruling last week where the judge denied all of Ranahan's pre-trial claims.
Lin's opposition to the lawsuit is not unexpected. In March, the "Beyond" director responded to a Hollywood Reporter story on the lawsuit, proclaiming that "Trek belongs to all of us."
This is getting ridiculous! I support the fans. Trek belongs to all of us.https://t.co/mYMqIDXqHu
— Justin Lin (@trailingjohnson) March 14, 2016
No court filings have become public yet in the case that indicates any change in the current course of the case, which right now is awaiting Axanar's written defense before the end of May.
An Axanar spokesman told 1701News in a prepared statement that the production group was remaining cautiously optimistic.
"While we're grateful to receive the public support of J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin, as the lawsuit remains pending, we want to make sure we go through all the proper steps to make sure all matters are settled with CBS and Paramount," according to the statement. "Our goal from the beginning of this legal matter has been to address the concerns of the plaintiffs in a way that still allows us to tell the story of Axanar and meets the expectations of the over 10,000 fans who financially supported our project.
"There is still a lot of work to do, but receiving this kind of public support helps immensely."
Story edited 5/21/16 at 1:10 a.m. to include comment from Axanar. Story edited 5/21/16 at 1:20 a.m. to include comment from CBS and Paramount, adding discussion about potential fan-film guidelines.
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