CBS Corp. and Paramount Pictures are reportedly working on Star Trek fan-film guidelines that could change the world such hobby productions currently exist. And Alec Peters — who, along with his fan-film company Axanar Productions, are being sued by the two studios for copyright infringement — was not invited.
So Peters thought he would put together a fan-film coalition of his own to draft guidelines. Except it now seems no one really showed up.
Just days after Peters revealed his proposed fan-film guidelines as well as the producers he said contributed to the discussion, nearly all of them disavowed not just the proposed guidelines, but Axanar and Peters themselves.
"I want to make myself quite clear on this point," Nick Cook, the producer of the fan production "Starship Intrepid" told his Facebook followers. "Star Trek is the property of CBS/Paramount. As fans, we have no standing and no rights to play in that sandbox. The owners of Star Trek have been nothing but graceful and accepting of fan works over the last 15 years, and they have every right to decide where the line is drawn on such things. We do not."
Cook was among 15 producers who took a stand on either the fan-film guidelines or Peters and his production studio, as compiled by AxaMonitor. Some of the producers participated, while others were just invited. Even more producers also spoke up, even though they were not directly invited to the Facebook chat Peters started last week to draw up some proposed fan-film guidelines.
"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 late last week. "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 talks were in the wake of "Star Trek: Beyond" producer J.J. Abrams declaring to a group of Star Trek fans that the copyright infringement lawsuit Paramount and CBS had filed against the "independent" fan-film "Star Trek: Axanar" was "going away." CBS and Paramount released a statement within hours of that announcement, saying they were in active settlement talks with Axanar, and that the studios also would put together guidelines for fan-films to follow in the future.
But the very next business day, Axanar and Peters responded to Abrams and the studios by filing a counterclaim which, among other things, claimed the studios didn't have valid hold of the copyrights to Star Trek, and that CBS and Paramount were violating Peters' rights to free speech and due process.
At the same time, Peters was looking to get some support in the fan-film community over what he felt those guidelines CBS and Paramount were reportedly developing should be. AxaMonitor released an early draft of those guidelines, but Peters himself updated them a short-time later while revealing the producers he said participated.
One of them, he said, was actor Todd Haberkorn, of "Star Trek Continues," who is not a producer on "Continues," nor did he participate in the discussion. In fact, "Continues" showrunner Vic Mignogna told 1701News his production will have nothing to do with what Peters is putting together, and will do anything CBS and Paramount ask of them.
Other producers took a similar public position over the holiday weekend.
"I am publicly stating that 'Starship Valiant' will play by any rules that the powers that be make," producer Michael L. King said on his production's Facebook page. "I am very thankful that 'Valiant has been allowed to play in the Trek universe."
King said made suggestions on two of the proposed guidelines, but was unhappy when a transcript of that conversation was leaked to AxaMonitor.
"Honestly, I feel that the group of people in this 'chat' were used and manipulated, and I am not and will not be a part of any legal dealings with Paramount/CBS vs. Axanar."
Ryan Husk, who has worked on various fan-productions over the years, was identified by Peters as a representative of "Star Trek: Renegades." That fan series producer, Tom Moore, however, said "Renegades" was not part of the guideline discussion led by Peters.
"My personal feeling is that CBS will determine what rules (if any) they want to impose, and it won't be based on anything that comes from Alec or a few fan-films," Moore said on TrekBBS. "If my neighbor said he was going to come up with rules so we can play in his yard, my friends and I are not going to dictate what rules we want ... him to impose. He will impose his own rules."
Husk himself said he was only representing himself in the fan-film guidelines discussion.
"I'm not a part of this, never wanted a part in this, and explicitly stated that fact," Husk told AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza. "I am not of 'Renegades,' nor do I (represent) 'Renegades' in any way. Anything I do or say is speaking on behalf of myself alone."
Not all the producers have spoken out against the proposed guidelines or Axanar. "Star Trek: Ambush" producer Greg Lock said he willingly participated in the discussion, and it were "Axanar haters" who leaked the discussion, creating a "breach of confidentiality" that "we are all very angry about."
"I did not feel that Alec's actions were unreasonable," Lock wrote on his production's Facebook page. "He was not telling CBS what to do, in my opinion, and if anything, it seemed as always that he wanted to help in any way he can to facilitate the continuation of fan-films. It was quite clear that he was not going to 'storm' into the offices of CBS and make demands. Far from it."
Among other things, the revised fan-film guidelines would eliminate "perks" given in fundraising campaigns, and remove the ability for fan productions to pay principals a salary. It also would limit productions to 50 minutes.
An original draft of the proposal also eliminated crowdfunding through platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but that particular guideline was removed from a later draft. Axanar, among other things, maintained a "donor store" where specific donations would result in a "perk" or product based on the fan-film, and Peters himself admitted to receiving a salary of at least $38,000 from fan donations last year.
It's not clear if CBS and Paramount have reviewed the proposal offered by Peters, or if they will even be considered in whatever eventually becomes the new fan-film guidelines offered by the studios.
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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