CBS and Paramount resolve ‘Star Trek’ fan film suit

It’s been a busy week in the world of Trek. The new CBS All Access series Star Trek Discovery is once again going to miss its start date, and now the rights holders of the actual franchise have settled what could have been a very long and messy lawsuit. Phew!

As mentioned in The Hollywood Reporter, a man named Alec Peters raised money on crowdfunding sites and hired people to make a YouTube short and script, with an eye towards a feature film. CBS and Paramount had an issue with that (shields up!), and the concerned parties were heading at warp speed towards a trial that was to start January 31. With the settlement being reached, that’s not going to happen.

“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 (above) and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved,” The statement on THR reads. “Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law.”

The suit was filed in December of 2015. This was a new (final?) frontier, and THR adds that there have been past legal disputes over “Harry Potter and Seinfeld encyclopedias, as well as a closely watched battle a few years back over an unauthorized sequel to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye,” but “There’s never really been a trial over fan fiction before,” says David Kluft, a lawyer who has written about Trek legal matters.

Fan creations have long been a part of the Star Trek orbit, but the thought is the rights holders decided to flex their collective muscles after releasing the 2016 film Star Trek Beyond, with the new CBS effort still to come. Paramount and CBS did release a primer for fans so they can still make their own creations without trampling on copyright issues. Why those guidelines didn’t exist sooner is a valid point, given the vastness of the internet and social media, but that’s another story. The Peters work will get released, but with changes made to satisfy both parties.

“Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the ‘Guidelines for Fan Films’ distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016,” read the settlement announcement.