I always wondered when a Star Trek fan film would become successful enough to draw a Paramount lawsuit. Why did Paramount go after Star Trek Axanar and not Star Trek Renegades?
Both are high profile productions. Renegades had more Star Trek cast members. Axanar made headlines for raising Kickstarter money. But it really is more of a fan film than Renegades which feels like an Abrams Trek effort to cash in on the franchise by trying to use it as material for something hipper and edgier that isn’t Star Trek.
Axanar isn’t stepping on Paramount’s turf. Paramount’s idea of Star Trek is to use it as fodder for a bunch of blockbuster action movies from the writers of Transformers.
Not a whole lot of overlap with Axanar.
But CBS/Paramount/Viacom/Whatever also decided to launch some kind of pay-per-view online Star Trek TV series and they may have decided to clear the deck of fan productions on YouTube.
But are the execs really stupid enough to think that fan series, which usually have bad acting, writing and effects, but give fans the kind of Star Trek they like, are competition for a pro series that will have nothing to do with Star Trek?
Suing fan films is stupid. Those fan films keep a fan community around. Abrams Trek and Abrams Wars make tons of money, but don’t create new fans. And the existing fans help pay the bills the rest of the year when there are no movies in theaters. They also like Star Trek content that’s more Star Trek, which Paramount doesn’t do anymore.
Paramount has been smarter than Lucas. It hasn’t gone after fan content because execs knew that fandom created unprofitable content that maintained fans who might buy things licensed by Paramount.
Although the plaintiffs have allowed ample cosplaying over the years and even permitted other derivatives like amateur Star Trek shows to circulate, the lawsuit illustrates that there is a place where no man has gone before, where the entertainment studios are not willing to let be occupied: crowdfunded, professional-quality films that use copyrighted “elements” like Vulcans and Klingons, Federation starships, phasers and stuff like the “look and feel of the planet, the characters’ costumes, their pointy ears and their distinctive hairstyle.”
That covers all the cosplaying, comic strips, parodies and every fan film ever made.
Paramount picked a really bad time for this. Abrams Trek Into Darkness and Skinny British Khan was hated by everyone. The Abrams Trek Beyond trailer is being booed. A Star Trek series needs a lot of goodwill from fans and suing a kickstarted fan series also pisses off everyone who donated to it. And with $1 million raised, that’s a lot of angry fans.
Paramount and CBS gave us this joint statement after the posting of our original article: “Star Trek is a treasured franchise in which CBS and Paramount continue to produce new original content for its large universe of fans. The producers of Axanar are making a Star Trek picture they describe themselves as a fully professional independent Star Trek film. Their activity clearly violates our Star Trek copyrights, which, of course, we will continue to vigorously protect.”
Treasured franchises don’t get canceled. Treasured franchises don’t get turned over to the writers of Transformers.
The X-Files is a treasured franchise. So is Star Wars. Paramount never treasured Star Trek. It ignored it. Then whored it out.
Why do fan films exist? They keep Star Trek alive.
A struggle over the U.S.S. Enterprise’s past and future helped sour J.J. Abrams on the “Star Trek” franchise and may have contributed to his decision to take on the “Star Wars” universe.
Yet this marketing assault pales compared to the one that Abrams and Bad Robot once envisioned for “Star Trek” and now plan to construct around the new “Star Wars” films.
Much to the dismay of Bad Robot, CBS’ merchandising arm continued to create memorabilia and products based on the cast of the original 1960s series and market them to Trekkies.
TheWrap has learned that Bad Robot asked CBS to stop making products featuring the original cast, but talks broke down over money. The network was making roughly $20 million a year on that merchandise and had no incentive to play nice with its former corporate brother, the individual said.
Paramount wanted to help J.J. Abrams kill Star Trek. But CBS was making too much money from the merchandising.
Did some Paramount exec decide that Axanar posed a brand confusion threat to some multiplatform rollout?