Paramount Pictures and CBS have filed a lawsuit against the fan film “Axanar,” stating that the Star Trek production is a violation of their intellectual property.
Financed by more than $1 million in crowdfunding on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the independent feature film is spearhead by Alec Peters, who serves as a producer, writer and actor on the project. “Axanar,” which was preceded by the 2014 short film “Prelude to Axanar,” is designed to reflect a professional, studio-quality production.
With the project steering into professional waters, however, Paramount and CBS are not standing idle and are seeking an injunction as well as damages.
"The ‘Axanar’ works infringe plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species and themes," states the complaint, which was filed by Paramount and CBS attorneys Loeb & Loeb on Friday in California federal court.
"Star Trek is a treasured franchise in which CBS and Paramount continue to produce new original content for its large universe of fans,” the studios said in a joint statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “The producers of ‘Axanar’ are making a Star Trek picture they describe themselves as a fully professional independent Star Trek film. Their activity clearly violates our Star Trek copyrights, which, of course, we will continue to vigorously protect."
In August, Peters gave interviews that expressed confidence that the project would endure any legal issues. CBS had stated in a meeting with him that the film couldn't make money, Peters told The Wrap.
Previously, fan productions operated with the same understanding — no profits allowed.
"CBS has a long history of accepting fan films,” Peters said. “I think ‘Axanar’ has become so popular that CBS realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”
“I support copyright and ownership of intellectual property,” wrote "Axanar" actor J.G. Hertzler (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) in a Facebook post today. “As a writer and director, I do not feel it is everyone's right to help themselves to my creations without my permission and or proper remuneration. It was my understanding that Paramount and CBS had given fan films extremely wide latitude over the last 10 to 15 years to make Star Trek-based fan films as long as no one was making profits from the commercial release or dissemination of such films.
“I guess that situation has either changed or was never the case.”
Nevertheless, Peters says they're prepared for this development and will defend against the lawsuit.
“There are a lot of issues surrounding a fan film,” he said. “These fan films have been around for 30 years, and others have raised a lot of money."
Set 21 years before Capt. James T. Kirk's original five-year mission, “Axanar” spotlights Starfleet hero Garth of Izar and the events leading up to the famous Battle of Axanar, which was teased during the "Star Trek" Season 3 episode "Whom Gods Destroy." The battle occurs during The Four Years War, a transformative showdown with the Klingon Empire that almost tore the Federation apart.
The production includes such actors as Richard Hatch ("Battlestar Galactica"), Gary Graham ("Alien Nation," "Star Trek: Enterprise"), Garrett Wang ("Star Trek: Voyager") and Kate Vernon ("Battlestar Galactica"). Robert Meyer Burnett (“Free Enterprise”) is directing the film, based on a script by Christian Gossett ("The Red Star") and Peters.