A group of “independent” fan-film producers in the middle of a copyright infringement lawsuit from two major studios is poised to give up its own California studio space.
Alec Peters, a named defendant in the lawsuit from CBS Corp. and Paramount Pictures Inc., told supporters on the “Star Trek: Axanar” website Wednesday plans are afloat to more or less spin off that converted office space to what he calls a “small group of backers and fans.”
“The cost of converting this space into a soundstage was a big piece of what we raised money for in the Axanar Kickstarter campaign,” Peters wrote on the website. “Some of that money was also intended to cover the monthly rent of the space,” which he added was $12,500 per month.
Because of the lease signed by Axanar Productions, which also is named in the copyright infringement suit, even after the fan-film is made, the group would still be liable for $250,000 in rent.
“Someone needs to pay that rent,” Peters said.
These “backers and fans” will create a separate company that would take over management of the soundstage, as well as pay rent, and even reimburse Axanar Productions for the fan-donated money it invested in the commercial project, Peters said. That company also would assume the $250,000 lease liability, which would cover the next two years.
“To do that, the new company will need to be a for-profit entity, and raise investment dollars for capital,” Peters wrote. Axanar Productions, incidentally, is listed as a for-profit corporation in California.
“We consider this a win-win for for everybody,” Peters said. “The new entity will reimburse Axanar Productions all the money that was spent on upgrading the building, and those funds will go into the production.”
Axanar spokesman Mike Bawden responded to Peters’ latest announcement in a social media area that has been discussing the overall copyright infringement case, “CBS/Paramount v. Axanar,” a group originally formed by the owner of 1701News. There, he told discussion participants that reimbursement would be made to Axanar Productions, not the people who donated money to the troubled fan-film that raised more than $1.1 million in crowdfunding.
“The investors will have no interest in Axanar Productions or its projects,” Bawden said. “From what I understand, they are looking at the viability of renting the soundstage out to productions, including, I presume, ‘Axanar.'”
The move would remove the “ticking clock that was the monthly rent payments for the soundstage” and “other liabilities,” Bawden said. “It also means, I assume, that Axanar Productions will have additional cash on-hand if and when the lawsuit settles. Exactly how much and when, I don’t have those details.”
The transaction, if it does take place, would be more than just liabilities. Axanar Productions budgeted $400,000 for the space, but the “actual cost was more,” Bawden said. “They’ve put a great deal of money into a soundproofed floor, a massive green screen, a lighting grid, sets, equipment, ventilation, etc. All of the physical assets that were paid for out of their second Kickstarter campaign.”
What this means for the lawsuit is unclear. CBS/Paramount filed an amended complaint last week, and on Tuesday, the judge in the case denied Axanar’s motion to dismiss as “moot.” Axanar will have an opportunity to respond to the amended complaint before the end of the month.
CBS and Paramount sued Peters and Axanar Productions last December claiming the entire operation violated its copyrighted Star Trek works. It is seeking up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each instance of infringement, or actual damages. That could potentially cost Axanar hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.
The two studios, which is readying “Star Trek: Beyond” in July as well as a new Star Trek television series in January, still has left the door open to add more defendants — primarily those who helped write, direct and produce the yet-to-be-filmed “Star Trek: Axanar” production.