Settlement talks apparently continue between the studios that own Star Trek — CBS Corp. and Paramount Pictures — and a fan-film they said went to far, "Star Trek: Axanar." With the announcement of those talks a week ago, the studios also surprised everyone by saying it was creating guidelines for fan-films.
Not to be left out, "Axanar" — which appears to be the very reason why CBS and Paramount are looking to create fan-film guidelines to begin with — have come up with some suggestions of their own. And Axanar Productions' principal, Alec Peters, has apparently brought a few other fan-film producers on board.
AxaMonitor, a site dedicated solely to the copyright infringement lawsuit CBS and Paramount filed against Axanar Productions and Peters last December, says it has obtained a copy of the proposed fan-film guidelines. Among other things, it would eliminate "perks" given in fundraising campaigns (as what also seems to be like "donor stores" that Axanar maintains), it would remove the ability for fan productions to pay principals like the $38,000 Peters says he received from donations last year, and it would limit time of productions to 50 minutes.
"I just felt that all the active fan-films should be able to share their thoughts together in a constructive way," Peters told a blog run by an Axanar supporter, according to AxaMonitor. "Most of them don't speak to CBS, and clearly we are communicating with them regularly, so it felt like the right thing to do."
The people Peters tried to involve in the guideline creation included a mishmash of fan-films — some people may have heard of, like Todd Haberkorn from "Star Trek Continues," to some that might not be well-known, like Greg Lock from "Star Trek: Ambush." However, only half of those people contacted actually participated in the discussion, according to AxaMonitor. Haberkorn, for example, did not participate.
AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza said he obtained some of the conversations the producers had in a week-long Facebook chat formulating these proposed guidelines, which pointed out a controversy over one rule they have since removed: crowdfunding.
The original fan-film guidelines would have prohibited crowdfunding on platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to create fan-films. Axanar, by the way, said they raised more than $1.3 million in fan donations through crowdfunding and other fundraising platforms, including a "donor store" where people could receive perks in exchange for specific donations.
That plank in the proposed guidelines didn't seem to survive, however. One fan-film producer, which AxaMonitor did not identify, said that no crowdfunding would "basically end fan-films. Why would we want to do that?"
Another unnamed producer said it would be better to take out the crowdfunding prohibition, and let CBS and Paramount decide "if they want that stopped."
It is unclear how much influence the Axanar-led fan-film guidelines will have on the final set of rules CBS and Paramount are expected to release at some point. But Newsweek reporter Marc Perton, points out through a pair of legal observers that such rules will have to be fluid to account for ever-changing technological advances.
"Any guidelines created today will have to be re-evaluated on a regular basis," Sidley Austin law firm partner Peter Kang told Newsweek.
"I'd be surprised if the guidelines didn't give Paramount substantial leeway to decide that a particular film was inappropriate," said Rebecca Tushnet, a professor at Georgetown Law School, who Person says has spoken out many times on copyright fair use and fan-fiction.
One producer not involved in Axanar's confab was "Star Trek: New Voyages" founder James Cawley. He reportedly posted on Facebook that "like clockwork, Alec is texting and trying to make nice, so we will all join him in creating guidelines to give to CBS. I politely declined and received several insults."
Cawley later said he changed his phone number.
Peters, according to AxaMonitor, acknowledged "New Voyages'" non-participation in the discussion.
"Unfortunately, James Cawley of 'Star Trek: New Voyages' said no without even hearing a proposal," Peters said. "He was the only one who declined. Everyone else wanted to at least see what a set of proposed guidelines would look like."
Judge R. Gary Klausner denied Axanar's motion to dismiss on May 10, and set a trial date for January. In the meantime, both sides were ordered into settlement talks — typical of civil cases of this nature — as well as developing a plan for discovery that would allow both sides to gather evidence to support its claims.
Read AxaMonitor's full report by clicking here.
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Updated at 3:36 p.m. to clarify involvement of other fan-film producers, including "Star Trek Continues."