The ongoing battle over the legality of Star Trek fan films took another intriguing turn this week, with Paramount and CBS releasing a long list of rules that fan-made projects set in the franchise’s sci-fi universe must abide by in order to avoid a lawsuit.
Along with restricting fan films to no more than 30-minute running times and $50,000 budgets, the restrictions also demand that fan films use only officially licensed Star Trek merchandise as props, set pieces, and costumes. And those are just a few of the rules the studios want aspiring filmmaker fans to follow.
“We want to show our appreciation by bringing fan films back to their roots,” stated the two studios in a joint announcement accompanying the release of the fan-film restrictions. “The heart of these fan films has always been about expressing one’s love and passion for Star Trek. They have been about fan creativity and sharing unique stories with other fans to show admiration for the TV shows and movies. These films are a labor of love for any fan with desire, imagination and a camera.”
The full list of restrictions was published on Star Trek.com, and is prefaced with the following statement: “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 nonprofessional and amateur and meet the following guidelines.”
While some of the restrictions adhere to what’s long been understood as the unspoken rules of fan films — not profiting off the films, not using material from the official shows or movies, and including a disclaimer about the project’s unofficial status are some examples — others rules have generated quite a bit of criticism from filmmakers, both professional and amateur. Star Trek director J.J. Abrams and the director of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond have both indicated that they hope to see the studios drop their lawsuit against the creators of Axanar, a fan-funded feature that raised $1 million on Kickstarter and set the stage for the current legal battle.
Axanar executive producer Alec Peters chimed in with his own response to the list of rules shortly after they were released.
“While CBS and Paramount claim to want to encourage the passion of fans to produce ‘reasonable fan fiction,’ the restrictions presented do just the opposite, willfully ignoring over 40 years of fan works that helped buoy the Star Trek franchise through some very lean years and enthusiastically spread the magic of the franchise in more plentiful times,” wrote Peters. “Around the franchise’s 50th anniversary, we would have hoped CBS and Paramount would have taken this opportunity to unite with Star Trek fans in celebration of their creativity, not seek to crush it.”