Judge Allows Copyright Lawsuit Against Star Trek Fan Film to Proceed
May 11, 2016 08:27 AM EDT
Judge R. Gary Klausner in California District Court on Tuesday denied the request by Axanar Productions. The company requested the court to dismiss the lawsuit against their crowdfunded Star Trek film. Howver, judge allowed the lawsuit filed by Paramount and CBS to move forward.
In the request, Axanar Productions argued that numerous individual elements of their planned production are not protected by copyright. The Consumerist reported that individual elements mentioned including names of planets and places, the Starfleet emblems, and of course the Klingon language. However, judge ruled that although some individual aspects of Star Trek universe do not enjoy copyright protection, but they get the protection when considered together.
"When viewed in a vacuum, each of these elements may not individually be protectable by copyright," writes the court ruling. "Plaintiffs, however, do not seek to enforce their copyright in each of these elements individually. Rather, Plaintiffs' copyright infringement claims are based on the Star Trek Copyrighted Works as a whole…
The Court finds it unnecessary to analyze whether the allegedly non-protectable elements of the Star Trek Copyrighted Works are eligible for copyright protection because Plaintiff describes these elements in the Complaint solely in an effort to demonstrate how the Axanar Works are substantially similar to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works."
Last December, CBS and Paramount, the owner of Star Trek TV and movie franchise filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Axanar Productions and trekkies Alec Peters. According to Bloomberg Law, the lawsuit claimed they used copyrighted elements in their crowdfunded fan film 'Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar.' CBS and Paramount claimed the film used "innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek including its settings, characters, species, and themes."
Following the lawsuit, lawyer for Axanar Erin Ranahan of Winston & Strawn filed a motion to dismiss it. The main reason is a failure to specify what exactly these copyrighted elements in Star Trek actually are. However, this led to ammended complaints from the plaintiffs regarding the Trek universe, Vulcan architecture, warp drives and Klingon language.
The lawsuit showed a totally different approach from Star Trek to its fans which called Trekkies. According to Forbes, since 1960's Star Trek's stewards have tolerated and also encouraged fan work, even its creator Gene Rodenberry fed material to fans. For decades, Star Trek has created space for fan fiction, writings, performances and film in Star Trek convention.
Star Trek is a franchise which flourished because of its fan work. What differ with the Axanar is the scale of production. Funded from a crowdfunding websites Kickstarter and Indiegogo, it has raised over $1.1 million for production. Its short film, Prelude to Axanar, showcasing a high quality special effect and reached over 2 million views on YouTube.
On Tuesday, US District Judge R. Gary Klausner in California has denied the request by Axanar Productions to dismiss the copyright infringement lawsuit. Judge allowed the lawsuit filed by Paramount and CBS to move forward. This marked the first time Star Trek sued its fan film.