If you are going to make a Star Trek fan film, there’s a good chance you won’t wind up in court like the creators of Axanar, if you follow the new guidelines released by CBS and Paramount Pictures.
For years, fans have created short films, and independent series that have attracted a lot of attention. Some have even included actors from the various Star Trek series to gain even more attention. When creators of Axanar attempted to make a movie about the early days of the Federation, CBS and Paramount stepped in an attempt to block production of the movie.
For the last year, there has been a lot of back and forth from both sides of the debate on the merits and faults in allowing fans to create films based on the property owned by CBS/Paramount. Just last month, J.J. Abrams was said to be talking with the IP owners in an attempt to ease tensions between fans and owners, and not have everything blow up in an embarrassing PR move. While there is still a chance you could get sued for making a Star Trek fan film, CBS and Paramount have released a set of guidelines to help you avoid getting a letter from their legal department.
The following was posted on the StarTrek.com website, and we have added our own commentary to make it a bit more clear to future filmmakers.
CBS and Paramount Pictures are big believers in reasonable fan fiction and fan creativity, and, in particular, want amateur fan filmmakers to showcase their passion for Star Trek. Therefore, CBS and Paramount Pictures will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional and amateur and meet the following guidelines.
Guidelines for Avoiding Objections:
1. 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.
So if you were wondering why there were no more episodes of the Red Shirt Diaries, now you know.
2. 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.
While you can’t use the words “Star” and “Trek” in the title of your short, you will be forced to use a drab subtitle to make sure no one will mistake your short with a real Star Trek movie. I do find it interesting that the document does not mention the use of a specific font that may look like the official font used by CBS and Paramount. I expect this will be added in the near future. The document does not mention using the phrase “Wagon Train to the Stars” as a title of your show.
3. 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.
In other words, don’t try and tell your own version of Wrath of Kahn because we’ll sue you. Obviously, Paramount added this in after the disastrous Into Darkness failed to impress anyone.
4. 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.
This item is one that will probably cause the biggest headaches for creators and fans alike. If I’m reading this correctly, it means if you want to use a phaser in your production, you’ll have to use a licensed product from a toy company like Hasbro or Sideshow Collectibles. This will no doubt put a great strain on prop creators like Bill Doran (Punished Props), and other who may have been contacted to build props and costumes for a production. It also causes the cost of production to drastically increase as it means nearly everything in the film will need to be purchased instead of made using your own spit and bailing wire.
5. 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.
This point clearly keeps ANY past Star Trek actor from participating in any way in your production, so don’t ask. This is really a shame because it means Clint Howard is going to miss out on a lot of potential work.
6. 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.
This will end up going to court at some point.
At what point do you move from a fan production to a professional one? Joseph Kahn is a director who is well known for his music video work with Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Eminem, and others. He’s also the director who used his own money to make the Power Rangers fan film that went viral so quickly it caused SABAN to issue a cease and desist because it looked “too professional.” Even though Kahn made no money from the production, it does raise the question on whether or not Kahn was able to use the film as a means to get other jobs and earn more money.
7. 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.
This is going to be a real blow (pun intended) to the Star Trek porn parody creators like Vivid, Wicked, and Wood Rocket. Actually, it is a brilliant move by the studio as it sets down terms that could very easily take those companies to court, and will definitely set up a Fair Use show down at the Supreme Court in the next five years.
8. 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.”
This isn’t that big of a deal as most fan creators have been adding wording similar to this to their works for years to avoid legal troubles. If anything, this statement can easily be modified to address ANY intellectual property you hope to make a fan film of. For example:
“Sigmund the Seamonster and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by Sid and Marty Kroft. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with Sid and Marty Kroft, Oliver Soublette, or any other Sigmund and the Seasmonster 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 Sid and Marty Kroft, or anyone with a brain.”
9. Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.
To be honest, I’m not aware of anyone who has done this, but in light of what is going on with scope of the Axanar fan film, there are certain elements in that production that the fan film creators could try and claim as their unique addition to the Star Trek universe, thus trying to turn the Plaintiff/Defendant table on the studios.
10. Fan productions cannot create or imply any association or endorsement by CBS or Paramount Pictures.
In other words, when you are at the bar, don’t try to use the line “Yeah, I’m working on a short Star Trek film. Yeah, CBS is all excited about it. Want to make out?”
CBS and Paramount Pictures reserve the right to revise, revoke and/or withdraw these guidelines at any time in their own discretion. These guidelines are not a license and do not constitute approval or authorization of any fan productions or a waiver of any rights that CBS or Paramount Pictures may have with respect to fan fiction created outside of these guidelines.
I’m sure many of these items will be changed and/or revoked as soon as CBS and Paramount take a look at these reactions to the initial guideline release.
So, if you can keep from breaking any of the above “rules” then your GENERIC SCIENCE FICTION SPACE MOVIE should be fine.