GEEKERY: Star Trek: Axanar Sued by CBS

axanar logo

The crowd funded Star Trek fan film has been hit with a blow, but they’re not down for the count.

After months of amicable communication between both parties CBS has filed suit against Axanar Productions to stop the fan film from being made. And it appears that they didn’t bother to serve the papers directly – Alec Peters, the head of Axanar Productions, is saying he first read about the suit in the Hollywood Reporter. Word around the net puts the change of heart on the fact that CBS is releasing a new Trek series next year and don’t want confusion (or dilution of their marketing efforts).

axanar ship

Axanar Productions have released a statement:

“This morning, I was greeted with news that our production company, Axanar Productions and I, personally, am being sued by CBS Studios, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation for copyright infringement of Star Trek.

First of all, I was disappointed to learn about this through an article in an industry trade. For several years, I’ve worked with a number of people at CBS on Star Trek-related projects, and I would have hoped those personal relationships would have warranted a phone call in advance of the filing of a legal complaint. Nevertheless, I know I speak for everyone at Axanar Productions when I say it is our hope that this can be worked out in a fair and amicable manner.

Axanar is a fan film. Fan films – whether related to Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, Batman or any other franchise – are labors of love that keep fans engaged, entertained, and keep favorite characters alive in the hearts of fans. Like other current fan films, AXANAR entered production based on a very long history and relationship between fandom and studios. We’re not doing anything new here.

Like all fan films, AXANAR is a love letter to a beloved franchise. For nearly 50 years, Star Trek’s devotees have been creating new Star Trek stories to share with fellow fans. That’s all we’re trying to do here.

Since the original Star Trek TV series, when the letter writing campaign by fans got NBC to greenlight a third season of Star Trek, fan support has been critical to the success of the franchise. It is the Star Trek fans themselves who are most affected here, for by suing Axanar Productions to stop making our movie and collect so-called damages, CBS and Paramount are suing the very people who have enthusiastically maintained the universe created by Gene Roddenberry so many years ago.

The fact that many of the fans involved with Axanar Productions are also industry professionals speaks volumes to the influence of Star Trek in the entertainment industry. Not surprisingly, these fans want to give something back. We’re very proud that the work we’ve done to date looks so good. That is also a reflection of the devotion of Star Trek’s fans.

Like everything related to Axanar Productions, we take this matter very seriously and remain open to discussing solutions with all parties that can be mutually beneficial.”

We will have to wait and see how this pans out. The Axanar project has pushed into territory that no fan film has before – a $1 million budget, actors that have appeared on official Trek shows, and it has really high production value. At its core, though, it’s still very much a fan created and funded film.

axanar ship fight

For those not familiar with the project:

Axanar takes place 21 years before the events of ‘Where no Man Has Gone Before,’ the first Kirk episode of the original Star TrekAxanar is the story of Garth of Izar, the legendary Starfleet captain who is Captain Kirk’s hero. Axanar tells the story of Garth and his crew during the Four Years War, the war with the Klingon Empire that almost tore the Federation apart. Garth’s victory at Axanar solidified the Federation and allowed it to become the entity we know in Kirk’s time. It is the year 2245 and the war with the Klingons ends here.”

The 20 minute preview episode is available on Youtube… for now:


What’s your take on all of this? 

  • markdawg

    Lame I really want to see this movie.

  • euansmith

    Oh, well, maybe they can take my $10 and make a Buck Roger’s film instead. All the best to them with sorting out this unfortunate mess.

  • Reminds me of what happened to 40k: Damnatus.

    Would be a shame if this sinks, this looks much more like star trek than the crap JJAbrams brougt us.

    • Shawn

      I disagree with about the Abram’s Star Trek films. I very much enjoyed them. However, I certainly do agree that it would be a shame that “Axanar” is sunk.

      • euansmith

        What really annoyed me about the JJ Abram’s films (particularly the second one) isn’t the overuse of lens flare, but the terrible plot with more holes in it than a pair of Ferenge underwear. The acting, props, special effects, cinema photography (what one could see of it) was all top notch; but the simple, cheap, controllable bit, writing the story, is terrible.

        • Couldn’t agree more. Nero hung out in charted space in a massive ship for 25ish years? Where did he get food or fuel? Why did no one notice his ship, since it was so massive? Why didn’t he, I dunno, go to freaking Romulus and warn them?

          • euansmith

            And in the second one (SPOILER ALERT) Sherlock Holmes manages to sneak 70 odd cryopods out of a high security building and disguise them as fully functional quantum torpedoes that are little bigger than a coffin, but contain a functioning engine, guidance system and warhead plus a slumbering post-human super-warrior; and no body notices that their top priority prisoners have gone missing.

          • Erik Setzer

            Probably because barely anyone was meant to even know they were there in the first place. And, IIRC, Khan helped design the torpedoes.

            Bonus: I’m pretty sure they knew the bodies were in the torpedoes and intended for them to be destroyed when they were fired at the Klingons, erasing all evidence of their existence, especially as one of them had already turned against Marcus.

            Basically, Khan and Marcus were in a race to see who could screw over the other first. The problem for Marcus is that this Khan wasn’t just a raging lunatic idiot, like the one in Wrath of Khan. (And the problem for this Khan is that, as opposed to the Enterprise crew in WoK who kept complaining about how old they were, this crew was young enough to actually do something.)

          • Erik Setzer

            Oh, man, you guys don’t know Star Trek that well, do you? Nero’s from the era of around TNG, where the Federation – who weren’t exactly the “cutting edge” of technology – had already made replicators. As “gross” as it sounds, the ship could just take the biological waste of the crew and restructure it into food through a replicator (which basically just breaks down atoms and turns them into something else… kind of the same principal as teleporters, only without rebuilding the original). Why didn’t he go to Romulus? Because he was kind of a nutjob bent on vengeance. He probably meant to kill Spock and the Vulcan homeworld first, THEN go make sure his people were safe.

          • Well, no, they might be able to do that to extend their food supply a bit, but their bodies are using the food they consume for energy, that means each time you consume and excrete you get substantially less matter out at the end. They could maybe eat the less essential crew to extend things further but the idea of that lasting 25 years is a joke

          • Emprah

            Whatever carbon they exhale or skin they shed, the ship’s life support system can recycle. IT is a closed system. Matter does not dissapear if you eat it, silly.

            Star Trek, 40k, Star Wars has reactors so powerful that recycling the matter doesn’t cost them anything important and they can do it almost indefinately.

          • Again, no. What you are suggesting violates the laws of entropy. You need an input to make up for the energy used by the living beings to power their brains, muscles, etc. And of course the ships in Star Trek do need fuel and have finite capacities as comes up whenever is convenient for one of the writers. It’s a JJ Abrams movie, it’s flashy and full of stupid stuff someone above him should’ve said no to, no amount of science fantasy tech nonsense can undo his bad writing.

          • Emprah

            You are …erm.. special, like the short bus kind of person, right? The power made by an antimatter reactor is so much, they can recycle the crap for years easily as long as they got fuel. Of course, their weapons and shields and FTL drive may use it up, but if they simply just wait with life support on, they could do that for a very long time.

          • Right, so has anyone in any non-Abrams Trek story ever kept a ship running with no inputs for 25 years? The only thing even remotely close is Voyager…and hey look supplies were extremely limited on voyager due to their inability to refuel, which led to rationing. And Voyager was a long range exploratory vessel not a mining ship.
            Your continued defense of the flaccid suckfest Abrams spawned is unnecessary, there’s literally no science fantasy nonsense that can fix that movie. I’m glad you have low enough standards to have enjoyed it.

        • Erik Setzer

          Um… hate to break this to you, but if you if you watch the old movies without nostalgia blinders, they have ridiculous plot holes, horrible plots, hammy dialogue… So if the new movies have that stuff, that keeps them in line with Star Trek movies of old.

          • euansmith

            The defence, “Well, they are no more crap than the old ones” isn’t much of a defence 😉

          • Erik Setzer

            Eh… I enjoy both sets of movies, even though I know there’s problems.

            I freaking LOVE Star Wars – it litters my apartment everywhere – but I know you could find all kinds of plot holes and stuff in every movie, and applying “logic” and “reality” to even A New Hope breaks it. Doesn’t matter, I still enjoy them.

            You can find “plot holes” in pretty much anything. Unfortunately, these days it seems a lot of people only get enjoyment out of trying to tear movie scripts apart, rather than just riding along with the story.

            And if you think I called them “crap,” then I guess Star Wars is crap, the entire Jurassic Park series of movies is crap, Avatar is crap, the Alien movies are crap, the Godfather series is crap, Firefly/Serenity are crap, the Warhammer universes are crap… I could go on and on. Basically, everything’s “crap.”

          • euansmith

            It just annoys me that the “easy bit” of filming making; writing a story, is so often done so badly.

            A case in point is Prometheus. A really well made film totally let down by a terrible screenplay. At least the JJ Abram’s Star Trek films had good characterisation (except for poor Scottie). Prometheus’s screen play fell down on both plot and characterisation.

            While I enjoy a good bad film (as Ol’ Jack Burton would say), I do getting distinctly annoyed by bad good films. 😉

        • Mathew G. Smith

          The first Abrams movie actually has a whole cut plotline about what Nero and company were up to all those years. Their ship was disabled by the ramming in the beginning and they were captured by Klingons, only escaping just before their attack on Vulcan. The extended edition restores the bare bones of it.

        • Shawn

          Yeah, the second had some bad moments for sure. That I won’t disagree with. I think that one could have been done better and seemed like they just rushed the script/plot.

        • Red_Five_Standing_By

          The real problem with JJ’s Trek is that it is Star Wars in disguise. The films are full of planet destroying space ships, destiny, chosen ones and magic blood and more of that fantastical stuff that doesn’t feel at home in Star Trek but works perfectly for Star Wars.

          JJ used the Trek films to prove to Disney he could make a billion dollar Star Wars movie.

          • euansmith

            That was the impression I got from watching them too. Having said that, his first Star Wars film was pretty fun.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          yes, second film is shocking. First film is pretty bad. Hollywood really can’t seem to do convincing villains any more. Get some guy in a gimp suit with bad eye makeup and call it a day.

          • euansmith

            I call those guys my friends…

  • Captain Bukkake

    Yes! Another step to total Star Wars domination

    • Cergorach

      Erm no. Both are huge properties. SW is generally huge around the period of the movie releases, ST is huge around their series releases. I suspect SW does a lot better in the toys department then ST, but ST does far better in the TV series department.

      Rabit fans from either universe will praise their own favorite and try to stamp the other into the mud. Personally I like both, as both have some great products/moments and horrible parts…

      • euansmith

        Rabit fans? I didn’t realise that kids in to instrumental grime were so divided on the Star Wars vs Star Trek question.

        Now that‘s an obscure reference 🙂

  • Cergorach

    What I don’t get is why this fan film didn’t get an agreement in writing to get permission before raising $1 million? No way would I invest that amount of time and legal risk before getting an agreement in writing! Are people in that kind of business that naive or stupid?

    • euansmith

      Paramount has been lax about fan movies in the past and has been happy to get the free advertising from the more popular ones. Axanar was supposed to be a $100,000 film, but the budget exploded on kickstarter. I guess some one at Paramount got nervous and decided to pull the plug on them. This action by Paramount does seem to be a great way of generating some negative advertising.

      • Loken

        WRONG. “Prelude to AXanar” was a $ 100,000 short film. “Axanar” was always targetd to be several hundreds of thousands, but yes, as we progressed, the demand for a professional quality film meant we had to spend way more than planned. All explained all along the way to donors.

        Alec Peters
        Executive Producer

        • euansmith

          Well I hope you can get this all sort out amicably and not end up having to spend the budget on lawyers 😉 I’m one of your backers and so I’m hoping to get to see some cool Star Trek action. The trailer looked suitable thoughtful and so I’m hoping the finished movie includes some depth along with some top notch space battle carnage.

          By the way, when I said, “The budget exploded on kickstarter”, that wasn’t a criticism of spending it was an expression of enthusiasm about how much the campaign raised.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      Paramount and CBS have been really accommodating when it comes to Fan Films. The difference really seems to be the professional-level of this production and the amount of money they were able to crowd source.

    • Loken

      Wow, you really are a tool. Sorry buddy, but there is too much you have no clue about, and I have no time to explain the history of fan films to you.

      Alec Peters
      Executive Producer

      • euansmith

        While Cergorach may well be a tool or other handy implement, I don’t think your posts are exactly promoting the thoughtful level of dialogue one would expect from a Star Fleet Academician. I feel that a more diplomatic response could elicit more support for your project.

      • Cergorach

        I might be harsh in my opinions. But your an attorney, you should know about copyright law. Without permission of the IP owner, distributing the movies is illegal. Did you have permission and did they pull that permission? That can happen when you allow that in a contract, I wouldn’t exactly call that smart business, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.

        A quote from wikipedia:
        Paramount Studios, who owns the Star Trek franchise, traditionally allows fan-made projects to move forward just “as long as they agree not to sell
        anything—including tickets, merchandise, or copies of the finished film or series.”

        Then I look at the reward section of the KS, how exactly is offering rewards for donations different from selling them? Especially when using the KS platform (essentially a preorder platform). That should have sounded the warning bells in your head.

        The KS was very unclear about having actual permission or not, the risks were unclear. Many other KS projects that involved IPs from other parties actually had a license to produce them, for example the Shadowrun Returns and Battletech computer games that raise almost $6 million over three KS campaigns. Compared to Star Trek those two IPs are tiny, but they raised a lot of money because it was a licensed product…

        You apparently don’t know the community your replying to, Games Workshop
        is also very harsh when dealing with fan projects, often going beyond
        what is legally permissible. So we know better then most the history of
        fan movies, computer game mods and game supplements. Without explicit
        permission from the IP owner, they are illegal. I don’t have a problem
        with illegal fan projects, but when the people involved start raising
        money, other parties start earning big money, I think the IP owner is in
        it’s rights to squash that. Not only that, everyone involved that acted in good faith is suddenly at risk.

        How many folks here would start asking hard questions when a fan 40k movie was being kickstarted? Chance of success: Taking out a Planetkiller with a snowball. That The Lord Inquisitor fan movie got GW’s blessing was a minor miracle, but they also didn’t ks or raise fan funding…

        So, are you going to refund all those KS backers? With the recent failed Zano drone ks controversy, I’m curious if KS will investigate this ks as well…

        • Lufgt Huron

          He does like to throw around the fact that he’s a Lawyer, a lot…

          But actually he’s not registered in CA, only in North Carolina where he isn’t eligible to practice law.

        • Lufgt Huron

          Here’s the thing, It’s not a fan film, just because fans provided the funding for the film, and that Alec is a fan himself, doesn’t make it a fan film, it’s a Studio Production by Ares Studios.

          Take The Veronica Mars movie project for an example and the kickstarter they got from that.

          People loved the Veronica Mars series, much like people love Star Trek, however the TV show ended, or was canceled. So someone stepped up, pounded out all the detail of what they needed to do, to make an Official Veronica Mars movie, with licenses and copyrights all in place and approved, and the fans donated the money to make it happen.

          Does that make it a fan film because the fans provided the funding?

          No… it does not…

          Anaxar is the same thing, however they didn’t procure the rights to the Star Trek universe to make a film based off of an event that happened in Star Trek canon, which is why CBS and Paramount is going after Anaxar for using the IP infringement, nor did they TRY to work with the studio to make it…

          IF this was a 1 million dollar fan film staring Alec as Captain Fredrick Hogan, valiant captain of the science vessel the USS Nye, on a 4 year expedition to the study the plant life and habitats of planets close to the Klingon border and were attacked by a Klingon Captain Kaptavargh of the Empire, turning this boring science expedition into a fight for survival…

          Stores and names of things not in canon, and all that crap, I’m sure CBS and Paramount wouldn’t give two craps about the use of “Klingon” and other little things because this story is just one of many in the day to day life of the hostile times between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

          But hey this is just my opinion, how i see it through my own eyes.

          In the end, the courts will decide.

      • Lufgt Huron

        Via Kickstarter.

        “Axanar is the first fully-professional, independent Star Trek film. While some may call it a “fan film” as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew–many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself–who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see.
        Alec Peters
        Executive Producer

        “Axanar is a feature film, but will be broken down into four episodes following the four acts of the script.
        Alec Peters
        Executive Producer

        So, you’re not calling it a “Fan Film”, but a fully-professional independent Star Trek feature film, not licensed by CBS, featuring Intellectual Property of actual events, characters & settings in the Star Trek universe owned by CBS and Paramount.

        That doesn’t sound good…

  • Erik Setzer

    This isn’t really a new move with Paramount, sadly. Back in the 1990s, they even tried to shut down every fan website there was. They only relented when that got them some extreme backlash.

    Now that they have new movies and TV shows, it’s unfortunately no surprise that they’re shutting down fan stuff.

  • Davor Mackovic

    CBS just give me another reason not to go to the cinema to see a Star Trek movie. Last Star Trek movie I saw was the horrible ST IX. Never bothered with X.

    I haven’t even bothered with Star Trek 90210. Now I guess I will not need to go see Star Trek:Too Fast Too Furious now. Will wait till it’s on TMN again.

    Star Trek is so bad now, I can’t even bother torrenting it now. That is how bad Star Trek has gotten now.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By

      CBS only holds the TV rights to Star Trek, Paramount holds the movie rights (the two companies split apart a while back and each took half of Star Trek for their own).

  • Mathew G. Smith

    It’s not quite as cut and dried as it sounds. A lot of the money is going towards infrastructure the makers have said they plan to use in future for-profit work, so they are arguably making a profit off of it even if every dollar raised goes into production.

    Of course this was all in the open right from the beginning, so you’d think they would have stopped it right away if they were going to.

  • John Bower

    How typical, what they really hate is that some of the original cast are involved and they know it will be far and away better than JJ’s Crap.

  • Jay Mort

    The movie probably wasn’t SJW enough for the leftists at CBS.