The Hollywood Reporter revealed Wednesday that CBS and Paramount filed a suit on Christmas Day to put a stop to the production of a fan created, crowdfunded film, “Axanar,” set in the “Star Trek” universe and taking place decades before the classic series. As IO9 suggested, Trek fans are both puzzled and angered at the sudden move. CBS, which now owns the television rights for the Star Trek franchise, has been tolerant of fan-created films and TV episodes, so long as they were not being produced for commercial purposes. Indeed, CBS executives met with “Axanar” executive producer Alec Peters and seemed satisfied that the project would not infringe on its intellectual property.
Both CBS and Paramount, which hold the rights to “Star Trek” seem to be of a different frame of mind now. They are demanding an injunction against production of “Axanar” and damages for copyright infringement.
“Axanar” features a character named Garth, who appeared in a Classic Trek episode as an insane, megalomaniac. “Axanar takes place 21 years before the events of ‘Where no Man Has Gone Before,’ the first Kirk episode of the original Star Trek. Axanar is the story of Garth of Izar, the legendary Starfleet captain who is Captain Kirk’s hero. … Axanar tells the story of Garth and his crew during the Four Years War, the war with the Klingon Empire that almost tore the Federation apart. Garth’s victory at Axanar solidified the Federation and allowed it to become the entity we know in Kirk’s time. It is the year 2245 and the war with the Klingons ends here.”
The Facebook page for “Axanar” suggests that the people making it are prepared to fight, both in court and in the larger court of public opinion.
“Well, it appears CBS knows that Axanar is exactly what fans want, because they are trying to shut us down! While Team Axanar will have a response shortly, know this DOES NOT deter us from what we are doing! Delivering to fans exactly what you want.
“Goliath, meet David (and his thousands of screaming fans)!”
So, why has CBS and Paramount suddenly become so keen to shut down fan films? One possible reason is that “Axanar” promises to be too good to be tolerated. The project has raised $1 million and has professionals both in front of and behind the camera, some of whom have worked in “Star Trek” before.
The third movie in the rebooted franchise, “Star Trek: Beyond” is due to premiere in 2016. CBS is developing a new “Star Trek” series to air exclusively on its access channel. Thus, a lot of money is riding on the outcome of the lawsuit.
Indeed, CBS and Paramount may have shot themselves in the foot, running the risk of alienating fans whom they depend on to consume their products. A boycott would hurt both corporations far more seriously than tolerating a professional grade movie that, ironically, may be of better quality than the approved films and TV shows.