An Editorial by Station Manager Gene Turnbow
On May 20 at an event held for Star Trek fans on the Paramount Studios lot in Los Angeles, Trek movie directors Justin Lin and J.J. Abrams dropped a bombshell about on stage about the beleaguered Star Trek fan film Axanar, in front of cameras and and the media. Abrams said this:
A few months back there was a fan movie and this lawsuit that happened between the studio and these fans, and Justin was sort of outraged by this as a longtime fan. We started talking about it and realized this wasn’t an appropriate way to deal with the fans. The fans of Star Trekare part of this world. We went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit. Within a few weeks, it’ll be announced that this lawsuit is going away.
There was applause and whooping from the audience, and there was much rejoicing. Fast forward four weeks, and where are we?
Claims and Counter-claims
The Axanar legal team has filed a counter-claim against CBS and Paramount. In their counterclaim, the defendants, producer Alec Peters and his Axanar Productions alleged they have:
“A real and reasonable apprehension” they face additional litigation if they proceed with Axanar.
Put Axanar on hold until the studios provide “necessary guidance” to prevent the defendants increasing their liability.
Grounds for a declaratory judgment that Prelude to Axanar, the Axanar screenplays, its “Vulcan Scene,” and any other alleged infringing works are not “substantially similar” to Star Trek, or constitute fair use under copyright law.
Naturally CBS and Paramount are legally required to respond to this counter-suit, taking the opportunity to effectively deny that Axanar ever reached out to them for guidance, and they continue to maintain, at least on paper, that Axanar is an illegal production.
Stopping? Or Not?
The publicity event at the Paramount lot happened on May 20, and there were already legal interactions in court procedure already in the pipeline at that point. Axanar and its legal time filed the counter-suit they had been preparing prior to that a mere three days later.
Unless CBS and Paramount actually go to the judge and say, “you know what, never mind” and the judge declares the case against Axanar dismissed, the paperwork transactions are on a rail. There is a set procedure, certain expected responses, and everything has to be filed according to standard court procedure. In a prepared statement released by Axanar Productions, this problem is outlined pretty clearly:
This filing was necessary because, despite J.J. Abrams’ assurance that the lawsuit would be “going away,” and confirmation that CBS is in settlement talks and finally working on fan film guidelines, Paramount and CBS have not yet dismissed the lawsuit. Axanar Productions must therefore meet deadlines set by the court and proceed as if the lawsuit will continue until the situation is resolved.
That’s why there is no new news to report on the Axanar situation. It’s not that CBS and Paramount don’t plan to wind down the lawsuit. Each side must first, however, file all their responses with the court that are expected of them before they can address any new business before the bench. The bottom line is that all of this takes the time it takes, and it could take another two or three months to work through all the paperwork and filings to get this shut down.
While the ramifications of this case relative to fans making films about the franchises they love are understandably profound, reporting this situation as anything but business as usual at this point is irresponsible journalism at best, rumor mongering at worst. If you’ve been reading hackle-raising commentary about Alec Peters and Axanar at this point, you can safely unclench. Nobody — not even the participants themselves — will know anything for at least another month or so.