Home Types Events Axanar Lawsuit Not as Cut and Dried as it Appears?
Axanar Lawsuit Not as Cut and Dried as it Appears?

Axanar Lawsuit Not as Cut and Dried as it Appears?


[Writer’s note: As James and Mike pointed out in the comments below, the lawsuit against Axanar was filed jointly, by both Paramount and CBS. That kind of junks the legal defense outlined here – and we have written a correction detailing so. However, we’ll leave this original article in place because it still makes interesting reading and has some cool links in it.]


We’ve already reported on the lawsuit Paramount filed against fan-film producers of Axanar. But, as it turns out, the case might not be as black and white as we all assumed.

Earlier this year, Star Trek fans raised over a million dollars to produce a not-for-profit fan film entitled ‘Axanar’, about one of the key battles in early Star Trek lore.

Despite dozens of other fan film productions existing – including ongoing series like Star Trek: New Voyages and Starship Exeter – Paramount pictures decided to sue the makers of Axanar; alleging copyright infringement.

At first, we all assumed the case was cut and dry. As much as we all support fan filmaking, when the copyright owners get involved the fans generally don’t have much of a leg to stand on. The entire fanfilm industry exists on the whim of the original copyright owners.

Or, in the case of Star Trek, does it?


Paramount's lawsuit could resemble this scene of smoking wreckage from Axanar, if Watkin's editorial pans out.
Paramount’s lawsuit could resemble this scene of smoking wreckage from Axanar, if Watkin’s editorial pans out.


Because Reece Watkins, over at Krypton Radio, recently penned a fantastic editorial which blows apart the lawsuit Paramount have filed; and it throws the entire future of the Star Trek franchise into question.

Watkins points out that Paramount, who filed the lawsuit, don’t actually own the Star Trek franchise. CBS, the network that originally aired the 1960s TV show, and subsequent incarnations like The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, own most of the intellectual property that Paramount are claiming infringement on. Paramount only own the cinematic version of Star Trek; and actually have no greater claim on characters like the Klingons and Captain Kirk than the makers of Axanar do.

This means that Paramount’s entire case could be thrown out of court, unless they can actually prove that the intellectual property being infringed is unique to their movies, and not shared or derived from the original Star Trek.


Axanar's biggest crime isn't intellectual property infringement - it's because it's potentially better than the 'official' Paramount productions.
Axanar’s biggest crime isn’t intellectual property infringement – it’s because it’s potentially better than the ‘official’ Paramount productions.


With so much of the Star Trek canon having been created by the CBS TV shows, this is going to be a challenge for Paramount; and it could get even worse. The makers of Axanar are themselves intellectual property lawyers, and their strategy, should Paramount not settle, is to analyze the entire history of the Star Trek franchise; and work out if Paramount really own everything they’re laying claim to. It’s entirely possible some elements have already fallen into the public domain, as this is the first copyright infringement filed by the owners of Star Trek.

Reece Watkins concludes his article by pointing out the folly of Paramount’s lawsuit. They’re attacking some of the most passionate fans of Star Trek – not just the makers of Axanar, but the tens of thousands of people who funded the fan film. If they embraced and adopted Axanar, it could turn them into heros. But if they continue trying to crush the production, it could be a public relations nightmare for them.

Head over to Krypton Radio and read Reece’s entire piece here.



Militant Ginger Born and raised in the cathedral city of Winchester, Roland earned his Eurotrash merit badge in Paris before moving to America to seek his fortune. If you've seen it, please give him a shout, because he's still looking. A digital Don Draper with a Hemingway complex, Roland pays the bills with his social media savvy, but under various nom de plumes is a top-ranked Amazon author after hours, and is impatiently awaiting the day he can give up the rat race forever and write schlock in a cabin in the mountains.
  • rebelmr

    Let’s hope Paramount back down!

  • Mike Gibson

    Uh, CBS *and* Paramount filed the case jointly. Perhaps you could do 3 minutes of research before posting a misleading article.

    • j4m3S


      • rolandhulme

        Hi James! Hi Mike! Thanks for your comment. Seems to me you’re absolutely right. I’d based my opinion off the editorial I’d linked to, and they’d missed out the CBS joint filiing. I should probably have double checked, but I had assumed a body like ‘Krypton Radio’ would be staffed by people nerdy enough to know that!

        Check us out, all us ill-informed armchair lawyers.

        So if you’re right, that clearly changes things and ONCE AGAIN pulls the rug out from under the makers of Axanar’s feet. I don’t see them having a legal leg to stand on, unless they can claim that Paramount/CBS has let fan productions be made for so long they’ve allowed some IP to fall into the public domain.

        What do you want to happen? Would you prefer Axanar to get squished, or be adopted by Paramount/CBS and carry on in some format?

        • j4m3S

          Honestly i was pro let it get made even with the lawsuit but now after seeing how the Axanar lot have acted i just want it gone mainly down to the divide it has caused in the fandom.

          I have spent some time (last 3ish weeks) on the US Copyright Database i have found almost EVERY single episodes copyright entry along with both the Klingon Dictionary in Audio and Written formats so the copyrights are there i just think people arent too bothered if they are or not its more like they are taking things that axanar say with too much face value rather than looking into the case themselves.

          • I think the problem is we all really believe in the premise of fan films and fan fiction and don’t ever want to see it taken away, but like you said unfortunately this group may have taken it too far and used the IP to make money and that’s a no-no.

            It does seem though like Paramount and CBS are playing this wrong for the day and age though right? Or maybe they’ve already tried to sort it out reasonably behind the scenes and the Axanar people are being the stubborn ones. I don’t know. I’m just really interested and nervous to see how this one plays out.

          • j4m3S

            Unlike trademark infringement Copyright can be selectively enforced thus they do not have to explain anything as to why they went after Axanar and no others.

            Also: Speaking about Axanar, CBS told the industry site The Wrap: “CBS has not authorized, sanctioned or licensed this project in any way, and this has been communicated to those involved. We continue to object to professional commercial ventures trading off our property rights and are considering further options to protect these rights.”

            That means CBS/Paramount are going after Axanar for a specific reason.

    • rolandhulme

      Here is our correction. http://echoba.se/getting-real-axanar/

  • j4m3S


    I reallllly Think people need to get some FACTS before they write things…

    Seriously i thought that journalism was based upon factual info .. maybe NOT!

  • Curly_Boy

    You should probably report on the much better written response to his article here: http://axamonitor.com/doku.php?id=which_kobayashi_maru

  • Pingback: Getting Real About Axanar - Echo Base()

  • It’s not misleading at all. The article studies Paramount’s role in the suit in detail, and it’s all about Paramount’s standing, as separate from CBS’s standing.