CBS Studios and Paramount, owners of the Star Trek franchise, have filed suit against the producers of Axanar, a crowdfunded film that was set to begin production in January, but released a short called “Prelude to Axanar” in 2014. (Read more after the video)
Axanar gives the story of Captain Garth, who appeared in the third season episode “Whom the Gods Destroy”, as a former Starfleet captain – considered one of the greatest – who was imprisoned in a Federation insane asylum.
Axanar Productions, led by Alec Peters – who, oddly enough, was the official archivist for the franchise, appointed by CBS – have stated that they are not licensed – from their web site:
No, Axanar is an independent project that uses the intellectual property of CBS under the provision that Axanar is totally non-commercial. That means we can never charge for anything featuring their marks or intellectual property and we will never sell the movie, DVD/Blu-ray copies, T-shirts, or anything which uses CBS owned marks or intellectual property.
Now, I am not a lawyer, but simply declaring your work non-commercial – and whether you pledge not to sell anything, etc. – does not permit you to use someone else’s intellectual property, regardless of your intent, quality, etc. And it doesn’t matter how much the fans scream for it either. You have to have permission, or use it under what’s called “fair use”, but most of those revolve around educational uses, or the infamous “parody”. This isn’t a parody. And they are raising money via donations to pay for the production – which could fall under a commercial venture.
However, there are already a number of fan-made productions out there that also use the same intellectual property – notably Star Trek: Phase II (originally called Star Trek: New Voyages), which CBS/Paramount has tolerated as long as they aren’t used to make money. But I don’t know their funding model – I know the actors are volunteers, so perhaps it is all volunteer work.
We’ll see if the two can get along in the near future to produce the story, because I’d like to see it. And they have a number of Star Trek actors and other genre actors lined up, including Richard Hatch, Tony Todd, Gary Graham, and Kate Vernon.