Last year Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios launched a legal battle against the makers of a Star Trek inspired fan film, accusing them of copyright infringement.
The case, which revolved around the well-received short film Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar and the planned follow-up feature film Axanar, put the future of the crowdfunded project at risk.
In the original complaint, the rightsholders claimed ownership over various Star Trek related settings, characters, species, clothing, colors, shapes, words, short phrases and even the Klingon language.
In a pre-trial order earlier this month the court decided that the fan-film is not entitled to a fair use defense. In addition, it found that there is an objective substantial similarity between the fan-film and the original Star Trek works.
This meant that Axanar was about to head into trial with a significant disadvantage, but in the end it didn’t come to that. Instead, both parties agreed to a settlement while asking the court to dismissed the case.
“Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar’s film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved,” reads a joint statement, published by HWR.
With a settlement, the Axanar team avoids having to pay a high amount in damages if they had lost. However, it also means that the planned film for which it raised over a million dollars through crowdfunding, will look substantially different.
Although most of the settlement terms remain confidential, it is clear that the film’s length will be significantly shorter. Instead of a planned 100-minute feature, Axanar will be reduced to two fifteen minute segments.
“Terms of the settlement agreement include an agreement to allow Axanar Productions to continue showing Prelude to Axanar commercial-free on YouTube and to allow Axanar Productions to produce the Axanar feature film as two fifteen-minute segments that can be distributed on YouTube,” Axanar announced.
While the films are allowed to appear on YouTube, they can’t be monetized through ads. Also, several copyrighted elements will be removed from the original script to satisfy the movie studios. One of the hot irons was the use of Klingon language, but it’s unclear whether that is still permitted.
Many fans who backed the project financially are disappointed with the outcome, but in comments on social media the filmmakers are clear that they really had no other viable option.
“And your solution is? Maybe you haven’t been following the multi-million $ lawsuit that we have been going through the past 13 months,” Axanar commented after someone suggested they had caved-in to the movie studios’ restrictive demands.
In response to the lawsuit, Paramount and CBS issued a set of fan film guidelines last summer, hoping to avoid similar legal battles in the future. While this comes too late for director Alec Peter and his crew, they are glad that their project can continue in an edited form.
“Axanar Productions was created by lifelong Star Trek fans to celebrate their love for Star Trek. Alec Peters and the Axanar team look forward to continuing to share the Axanar story and are happy to work within the Guidelines for Fan Films for future projects.”
“Live Long and Prosper,” the Axanar team concludes.