Hello, My name is Jon Tessler and I have been a sci-fi geek my entire life…..I was going to write an introduction post about what drew me to sci-fi, and what shows and movies are my favorites…..etc…..I have known Larry for a number of years, and i offered to contribute to the site, because i have always enjoyed it……at least that was the plan…until this past week…..when CBS/Paramount decided to do something so stupid, that it has fans all over the internet going apoplectic. First a bit of back story….
This year is the 50th anniversary of possibly the greatest fan driven science fiction show in history “Star Trek”. The fans love for the show goes all the way back to the original run, when NBC canceled the show after 2 seasons. Well, led by writer DC Fontana, the fans did something that had never been done before, mounting a letter writing campaign that caused the network to reconsider the cancellation and grant the show a third season. After the third season, the show was cancelled for good, but then the fans created a new phenomenon, the fan convention. Star Trek conventions began popping up across the country, the stars were brought in to speak to the fans, fan created merchandise was sold etc…..In the years with no new shows, the fans kept the show alive. They started writing books, and making fan films. It was as if the voyages of the Starship Enterprise would continue well beyond its “five year mission”. The fans lobbied NASA to name the first space shuttle “Enterprise”….NASA agreed, and Gene Roddenberry, and the stars were there at its unveiling. Once again “Trekkies” moved mountains to honor the show. Soon there was talk about maybe doing a movie, which turned into 6 with the original cast, suddenly a new series popped up, Star Trek The Next Generation, which was followed by DS9, Voyager, and lastly Enterprise and even more movies. Meanwhile fans banded together and created fan driven series such as Phase 2, and Star Trek Continues. Fans made blueprints of various ships, People like RE Mandel created whole guides that covered everything from the timeline of spaceflight to ships in the Klingon fleet.
Being a fan was great, you had so many outlets that you could direct your energies to. Fans eagerly awaited the 50th anniversary. The rise of the internet gave rise to crowd funding of projects such as Renegades, which used actors who appeared on various shows like Tim Russ(Tuvok), Walter koenig(Chekov) etc…..one group led by Alec Peters wanted to go back and tell the story of the first Federation/Klingon war that ended with the Battle of Axanar, a battle that made Captain Garth a hero, and James Kirk’s idol. Alec and his team, got actors lined up, and started crowd funding…..it went way better than anyone could have predicted. Alec went to CBS to see about CBS/Paramount licensing the movie, CBS passed, but Alec asked for a set of guidelines, to make sure he was not stepping on toes, This was last August, CBS responded by filing a lawsuit against Axanar and Alec for IP infringement. Axanar counter sued. While they went back and forth legally a short movie “prelude to Axanar” was released, fans LOVED it. They donated even more money, the buzz for this movie was incredible. Still Alec asked about guidelines for fan movies. Last week “WE GOT THEM”…boy did we get them….
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The fan production must be non-commercial:
- 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.
- The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.
- The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.
- 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.
- 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.
- The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or costumes.
- 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.
- 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.”
- Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.
- Fan productions cannot create or imply any association or endorsement by CBS or Paramount Pictures.
CBS and Paramount Pictures reserve the right to revise, revoke and/or withdraw these guidelines at any time in their own discretion.
Basically CBS/Paramount has decided that the entire fan film realm as far as Star Trek goes, is effectively DEAD. Already Star Trek Renegades has dropped the words Star Trek from the title, and changed character and other names because they were already in production. Other fan film series have not publicly stated what they will do….But the writing is on the wall. Various facebook pages have EXPLODED with fans voicing their displeasure, both towards Axanar, and CBS/P. There have been talks of boycotts, not only of Star Trek Beyond, but also the New series slated to be on CBS next year. Multiple people including Star Trek writer David Gerrold have weighed in on the matter, some support CBS, but most support Axanar and the other fan films.
My fear is that this will spread to other series, and fan fiction as we currently know it will die a painful death. I understand that CBS wants to protect its property, but the fans are the reason why Star Trek has lasted as long as it has. In full disclosure, I donated to Axanar’s crowd funding, and “I Stand With Axanar”. I am amazed that CBS/P has misread what a movie like Axanar or Renegades would do for the franchise. I look at marvel, which gave us Guardians and Deadpool to bring in new fans, and I wonder “how is CBS misreading the tea leaves so badly”. Star Trek is supposed to be about infinite diversity, and infinite combinations, and fan films gave us exactly that. The Lawsuit involving Axanar still goes on, one I will hope Alec and crew win, because the thought of what a loss would do to the fan film realm is as big as a warp core explosion, while the ship is traveling at warp 9.
I promise not all my posts will be this gloomy, and I will get a “proper” introduction up in the next few days.
Live Long and Prosper