Star Trek copyright case returns to the neutral zone after reaching settlement
Filmmakers behind the Star Trek fan film Axanar can stand down from red alert status. A settlement has been reached between CBS, Paramount and the filmakers, meaning the potentially nasty copyright trial that was set to begin on January 31 has now been avoided.
A joint statement from CBS, Paramount, and filmmaker Alec Peters on behalf of Axanar Productions announced, "Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law."
The statement goes on to note that "substantial changes" would be made to Axanar in order to resolve the litigation. Full terms of the settlement haven't been released, but an official response from the Axanar filmmakers explains that the previously planned feature film would now become two fifteen-minute shorts to be distributed for free on YouTube.
In June of 2016 CBS and Paramount released a set of guidelines establishing the parameters of what they see as constituting a fan film. These guidelines came after the Axanar filmmakers crowdfunded over one million dollars to make their feature. One of the guidelines notably limits the amount one can fundraise for a fan-generated production to a maximum of $50,000.
Other guidelines established by the studios include a stipulation that all uniforms, accessories and props be official merchandise, rather than bootlegs items or imitations, and that all participants must be "amateurs" that contribute to the work for no financial compensation.
While the settlement indicates a significant degree of capitulation on the fan filmmaker's side, it can generally be seen as a win for everyone. After a judge ruled earlier in January that the filmmakers were unable to use a fair-use defense, the trial suddenly became an enormously risky proposition for both parties. If Peters and Axanar Productions were to lose they could have been liable for statutory damages hypothetically surpassing $100 million dollars. This theoretical "win" for CBS and Paramount would only have resulted in terrible publicity for studios, with the case thus far not generating much good will for the copyright holders.
Both parties are no doubt relieved that the Axanar case hasn't made it to trial, but the saga leaves future fan-made projects without a clear set of rules to follow. While CBS and Paramount have offered up guidelines for fan-filmmakers, these are in no way legally binding. Having never had a fan-made project go all the way to court we still don't truly know where the legal line is drawn. We now return to the copyright grey area with a powerful rights holder effectively saying, "Abide by these rules and we may not sue you even though we still could."
For now the battle between the big studios and fans returns to be neutral zone but the copyright wars are certainly not over.
Via: Deadline Hollywood