Who is to Blame.

Posted in Rants & Ramblings on August 18, 2016 by Wolverine Studios

This copyright lawsuit, CBS/Paramount versus Axanar, is nearly nine months on now, and I still have problems wrapping my head around it; more specifically the reasoning behind it. There is absolutely no logic behind it and no way for CBS or Paramount to come away from this better off than they were, even if they do win.
Now I am no legal expert but I have watched enough Perry Mason to know that precedents carry a lot of weight in court, both decision made in the court room and actions outside that may prove relevant to any case. Example: A defendant in a murder trial will have any and all accounts of any previous violent behavior he was ever observed having or had the police called about.

Axanar is accused of copyright infringement, but the precedence of CBS and Paramount’s actions in the past regarding their loose reins on their IP is a strike against them. Indeed Star Trek New Voyages and Star Trek Continues, both fan productions, have been continuing the 5 year mission of the Original series, using the same characters, costumes designs, same ship designs, and same theme music for several years.
The man behind Star Trek New Voyages, James Cawley, has on at least one occasion told the story of his approaching Paramount about his making new episodes for The Original Series as a fan production to which they answered, “You can make the project, you can make these films but you cannot make money. You can’t profit from “Star Trek” because then you’d have to stop.” **

So why the change of stance with Axanar? Why this lawsuit?

It certainly could not have been the inclusion of the Constitution class starship of which class the Original Enterprise was one of.

It could have not been the use of Klingons or the Klingon language because both have been used in New Voyages.

It could not be the use of professional actors or Star Trek alum because again both have been used in other Star Trek fan productions:
Star Trek: Of Gods and Men; Nichelle Nichols, Grace Lee Whitney, Tim Russ, Walter Koenig, Robert Picardo and Alan Ruck all reprising roles they had in franchise Star Trek productions as well as Trek Alum; J.G. Hertzler (Martok), Chase Masterson (Leeta), Gary Graham (Soval), Garret Wang (Ensign Kim), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), and Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) playing different characters.
Star Trek Renegades; Tim Russ, Walter Koenig, Robert Picardo, Cirroc Lofton, and Manu Intiraymi reprising their franchise characters with Gary Graham taking on his previous non-frachise role, Ragnar.
Star Trek New Voyages; has enjoyed the company of both Walter Koenig and George Takei reprising their franchise roles, Chekov and Sulu as well as Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) in the two episode arc Blood and Fire.
Star Trek Continues; has had many Star Trek alum Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Chris Doohan, Beau Billingslea, Kipleigh Brown, Bobby Clark, and Doug Drexler, as well as many other SciFi acting veterans.

It could not have been using Kickstarter or GoFundMe crowd funding campaigns as New Voyages held one for financing the construction of their new sets. (https://youtu.be/Xtg4Y6FWk9M?list=PL5h4ur_aSq8N5yx46vUjnNbsaQ74kcBLV ). Continues has had three similar campaigns.

So, again the question; Why Axanar? What did they do to so different or so wrong that they deserve such specialized and individual attention? Well, two things. One, they produced a superb, twenty-one minute teaser, Prelude To Axanar. Second, they raised over $1 million during their crowdfunding campaigns.
While neither of these are illegal, it is my belief that the quality of the teaser and the $1 million of available capital scared the shit out of CBS and Paramount to which they saw a threat to the third movie in the new alternate timeline, Star Trek and of an upcoming Star Trek cable series, that are the main reasons for the lawsuit.

I wondered why the other Star Trek fanfilm production teams did not step up and ask these same questions, certainly they were just as concerned about being served with a lawsuit but CBs and Paramount have been aware of many fanfilm makers for years, not just New Voyages and Continues but Farragut, Exeter, Intrepid, Saladin and Hidden Frontiers.
Why did not James Cawley, who had a good working relationship with Paramount, step up and if not intervene, then at least offer to sit in and maybe help mediate or negotiate? Maybe hammer out a set of guidelines we can all be happy with?
As I sit and think back to various online discussions and comments, a memory comes to mind, comments regarding tensions between the creator of Axanar and the creators of both New Voyages and Continues. Might they have put a bug in the ear of CBS and/or Paramount? Jealous at the success of the crowdfunding or of the fan hoopla over the teaser? Past deeds or words that might have halted or prevented the forming of what could have been a coalition of fanfilm makers mutually supporting each other, if not financially, then in terms of resources and information? (“Hey I got a great bargain on set dressing stuff at Ikea.” Or “Let me give you the contact info for a great voice actor.”) Wait, the creator of Axanar made a Facebook group just for that, the Star Trek Film Maker Association.

As I type this blog, this pathetic attempt to organize my thoughts on this matter and make sense of it, it must be noted that the aforementioned third movie of the alternate timeline, Star Trek Beyond, was released roughly 3 weeks ago and is tanking at the box office with a loss of almost $50 million after three weekends.
In my opinion, Paramount has lost a large portion of their Star Trek fan base as a result to both the poor movies that were Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness and their filing of the lawsuit against Axanar. Fans talk, network and connect. It seems that both CBS and Paramount must now learn a painful lesson; they may own the physical and intellectual property that is Star Trek but they are not the reason Star Trek has survived for 50 years, that credit goes to three generations of fans. Star Trek will live through many more generations of fans, whether it is through family or neighborhood made fanfilm, fanfiction, or small, local fan conventions, Star Trek will live with or without CBS or Paramount.

** Jamer Cawley Interview by TNZ on 29 April 2011 ( http://www.trekzone.de/content/cc/fandom/interviews/tzn-exclusive-interview-with-james-cawley.htm )

TZN: Now that the new movie established a new universe, does Paramount grant you more leeway with your adventures in the prime universe?

Cawley: Paramount doesn’t say anything. They don’t say: “You can do this but you can’t do that.” Five years ago, when we started, they said: “You can make the project, you can make these films but you cannot make money. You can’t profit from “Star Trek” because then you’d have to stop.” That’s the only thing they’ve ever said. And that’s officially.

Unofficially, I talked to a lot of people that work for Paramount over the years and they loved the project. They think we’re doing a great job and I think they look at us as free publicity. We keep “Star Trek” alive when they don’t have anything new out there for the fans to be involved. And I think that’s why they like us. We just try to keep the brand alive, we try to keep the fans active with “Star Trek” so that they’re gonna buy the books, and the model kits, and the DVDs and all that stuff. (laughs)

And I think that’s why they like us doing this. Certainly, if they didn’t like it they would call me up and say: stop! And they never do that. They’re very good. They’re on my website all of the time, you know, we go to our Analytics and see Paramount and CBS, we know they’re there and they like it. They’ve been very good to us. JJ was very gracious to me, they’ve just been wonderful. They seem to enjoy it, we enjoy it and it’s for mutual benefit. We get to play “Star Trek” and it helps them sell “Star Trek” merchandise.

CBS/Paramount dictates for fanfilm production and this filmmaker’s rebuttal.

Posted in Rants & Ramblings with tags , , on June 23, 2016 by Wolverine Studios

So, Paramount and CBS have devised a set of guidelines (read: restrictions) for the makers of Star Trek fanfilms while giving them the ability to drop the hammer on and put the kibosh on any fanfilm project/maker they chose at any time for any reason.

This is a copy and paste of said guidelines and my commentary of each in square brackets.

CBS and Paramount Pictures are big believers in reasonable fan fiction and fan creativity, and, in particular, want amateur fan filmmakers to showcase their passion for Star Trek. Therefore, CBS and Paramount Pictures will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional and amateur and meet the following guidelines.

Guidelines for Avoiding Objections:

1.     The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

[ Utter and complete rubbish considering the fact that it now opens the door for CBS/Paramount to go after nearly every other Fan Film studio because they all have multiple episode story arcs, the majority of which are 30 mins or longer]

2.     The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.

[I can live with this but as they include another disclaimer later on, this is just redundant]

3.     The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.

[Fine, no remakes of episodes or movies, I can live with this. Besides we fans are not Hollywood, we actually have original ideas. Any non-Star Trek material is of no concern of CBS or Paramount and they have no right or obligation to get involved in or hinder a fanfilm on behalf of another party.]

4.     If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.

[In other words, you cannot make your own costumes or props anymore. Will they extend this to include sets as well?]

5.     The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.

[More rubbish as the precedent has already been set and they have done nothing about such previously – Phase 2, Renegades.
Many of those professional actors are fans as well, they are doing what they do for the love of Trek.
Feeding the cast and crew can technically be considered “compensation for services”.  So we are not supposed to feed them during a 16  hour shooting day?
If the person in question no longer works for CBS or Paramount or has no contractual obligation to or with CBS or Paramount then it of no concern of either studio to how, when or where that person chooses to apply their talents.]

6.     The fan production must be non-commercial:

a.     CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.

[Add another ‘zero’ to that figure, boyos.  Quality FX are expensive. Even though this stipulation will never affect me or my poor efforts, it is not for CBS or Paramount to decide how much fans can contribute whether during a crowd-funding or simply donating cash.

Maybe that is a loophole; fans can snail-mail cashier checks to their fanfilm of choice.]

b.     The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.

[This could fall under the ‘non-profit’ stipulation already covered under current copyright law.]

c.     The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.

[As long as they are not charging for the disk or material on the disk, what difference does it make how they distribute it?]

d.     The fan production cannot be used to derive advertising revenue including, but not limited to, through for example, the use of pre or post-roll advertising, click-through advertising banners, that is associated with the fan production.

[Fine, no crowd-funding banners on the streamed material, no monetizing from the host site. All funding effort must be ‘physically’ separate from the viewing. Again, will likely never affect my efforts]

e.     No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.

(Ummm, no. Should I ever get to the point that I may actually make something worthwhile, if I want to reward the supporters of my efforts to make a Star Trek fanfilm with hat, shirts or coffee mugs bearing my Studio emblem on them, you damn skippy that is what I will do. Now if I am not supposed to have anything Star Trek related on said items, then fine.]

f.     The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or costumes.

[If those item happen to be original to the fanfilm i.e. not a replica/copy of an actual Star Trek prop but something completely new and original; pretty sure CBS/Paramount has no say in this.]

7.     The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy.

[So long as proper warning is given at the beginning of the film, something akin to the MPAA ratings, then this not under CBS or Paramount purview, particularly if the film is a spoof or parody. My own rating system has “G” for General/All Ages, “PG” for Parental Guidance, roughly 14 or under, “R” for Realistic-meaning if it is likely to happen in real life it might get shown, and “X” for Extreme- meaning that it will contain stupidly extreme scenes such as drinking 56 bottles of whiskey in one night kind of extreme.]

8.     The fan production must display the following disclaimer in the on-screen credits of the fan productions and on any marketing material including the fan production website or page hosting the fan production:

“Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”

[Oh my! A general disclaimer. Trust me, after all this copyright BS, our biggest wish is to disassociate ourselves from both CBS and Paramount, and you can bet your ass I will retain all rights to my script and original props and costumes.]

9.     Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.

[Negative. At the very least, scripts will be copyrighted and/or registered with the WGA so the Hollywood types cannot remake our material without obtain the proper permissions or licensing.]

10.     Fan productions cannot create or imply any association or endorsement by CBS or Paramount Pictures.

[Note disclaimer above]

CBS and Paramount Pictures reserve the right to revise, revoke and/or withdraw these guidelines at any time in their own discretion. These guidelines are not a license and do not constitute approval or authorization of any fan productions or a waiver of any rights that CBS or Paramount Pictures may have with respect to fan fiction created outside of these guidelines.

[ummmm, yeah. No. You cannot make the rules and then randomly change them whenever you see fit. We will not follow a bunch of rules you lay down only to let you walk all over us. Who do you think you are, Obama?

You hammer out a set of rules/guidelines with us and they become ironclad. No changing them without some serious prior warning and negotiations.

These rules/guidelines should effectively be a contract between CBS/Paramount and the makers of fanfilms.]

Axanar versus Goliath

Posted in Rants & Ramblings on March 4, 2016 by Wolverine Studios

Alright, let us be clear on one point; I am a Star Trek fan.

That said, it must be understood that I like different portions of Star Trek for different reasons.
Overall, I am a Star Trek Tech fan. I like to think about and theorize about how the different gadgets, gizmos and machines in the Star Trek universe work. I like to apply current, real life, scientific theories to the various bits and pieces of Star Trek Tech and do my level best to come up with a plausible melding of the two.
I use these meldings as plot points in my stories and scripts to give them a sense of realism and to follow in the path of The Original Series and The Next Generation writers of using real scientific theories and information in their own stories and scripts.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the Paramount/CBS law suit against a fan film production company by the name of AXANAR.

Being a fan-fiction writer and one that has used Star Trek games and animation programs to create some visualization for my stories, the idea of being sued by the owners of Star Trek is something that fills me with dread, to be completely honest it scares the beegeezus out of me. to the point that I am afraid to even offer the writer’s guide I assembled, based on the aforementioned meldings of Trek and science, to other people for free because I might have used a canon photo or some such.

Like every other Star Trek fan on the planet, I have seen the Axanar teaser/trailer and been astonished at the quality of the CGI and the star power that was recruited to participate in its filming.
Also like everyone else, I am having a difficult time fathoming the exact reasoning of the Paramount/CBS lawsuit.
The prevailing theory is that Paramount/CBS is afraid of the potential production quality and thus want no competition with their upcoming film and TV series.
The fact that they are citing copyright infringement as the reason is ludicrous as there are other fan-film productions with far more copyright infringements than Axanar; indeed there are two such productions that insist on completing Kirk’s five year mission, original Constitution class starship and all.
After some thought, I surmised that there were two directions Paramount, or rather CBS could go with their new series.

  1. They could continue the franchise from the destruction of Romulus at the turn of the 25th century, or
  2. They could fill in the years between Enterprise and TOS.

Restarting at such a late date like the 25th century would require the people in charge of the studios to invent something new, tell original stories with original characters. Something Hollywood has consistently failed to do since roughly 1997.

As Star Trek is now to be exciting and brainless like the Fast and the Furious franchise then the two most likely times to place a new series would be either the Earth-Romulan War or the Four Year War with the Klingons.
The Earth-Romulan War would likely involve bringing back the NX class and with it the Enterprise NX as we know from canon was a class that took part in that war but they will not want to bring back a cancelled series. Nothing says ‘We fucked up’ quite like that.
The Four Year War would allow CBS to reboot the series but would then be in direct competition with Axanar over the storyline.
If CBS can bully Axanar into halting production and tie them up in court until they can release their own version of the Four Year War, it would effectively force Axanar to take a different direction if they wish to continue making fan films.
This is, I believe, the real reason, the long term game plan of the Paramount/CBS lawsuit.

Aemielius.