Geekery: CBS Releases Fan Film Guidelines

star trek fan films

It looks like they’re trying to end production of Star Trek fan projects without outright saying it. See what you think…

CBS and Paramount released the guidelines. They’re not being received well because they’ll prevent most fan films from happening – which seems to be what CBS/Paramount wants. Take a look (emphasis is mine):


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

9. Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.

10. 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. 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.


Some of the fan films and series that have been created with love and a lot of hard work over the years wouldn’t be allowed by these guidelines… and we’re not just talking Axanar.

Star Trek Renegades is an independent fan funded and supported Internet television Series, produced by Sky Conway. Renegades features a combination of familiar Star Trek characters and actors, plus a collection of hot, new rising actors.

Star Trek – Horizon is a feature-length fan film made by a single filmmaker as a personal passion project and love letter to Enterprise, the fifth Star Trek series. Pre-production began in December of 2012 and this 3-year-long odyssey concluded on February 25th, 2016. It’s been a long road, getting from there to here.


And there are dozens more like these out there that are made by fans who care about the universe; fans who helped carry the whole franchise during the years when there weren’t official movies or series available. Which is why the new guidelines feel like such a slap in the face.

Star Trek: Beyond will do well no matter what because the appeal is broad, but it’s going to be interesting to see how this treatment of the fan base is going to affect the pay-to-view Star Trek series coming out next year.


What do you think – are these guidelines fair? What to you think the long term reaction is going to be?

  • Damistar

    Is GWs old CEO working for Paramount now? 🙂

  • frankelee

    Don’t go see their new Star Trek movie then. It’ll be a win-win for you anyway because it looks awful.

  • Severius_Tolluck

    Those are pretty rough restrictions.

  • Spinocus

    Well CBS and Paramount can officially go f–k themselves. While I cannot stand most fan-made films (they’re typically long on effects and terribly short on story or acting) but I absolutely love “Star Trek Continues”, it is extremely well written and totally captures the spirit and essence of TOS.

    What did Shakespeare write in Henry VI? “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

    Anyway this won’t changes my already low opinion of the Trek reboots. It’s like someone sucked all the brains and soul out of Star Trek and filled the remaining cavity with cotton candy, low brow humor and lots of explosions. Talk about lowest common denominator dreck.

    • greenskin

      Star Dreck?

  • EdgarRoutine

    so… a bunch of the same geeks people have been making fun of for decades.. the super trek geeks.. so they can no longer make “official” Star Trek home made movies? .. umm who cares? other then the pathetic geeks themselves..
    William Shatners famous quote..” Get a life” when he was making fun of these same geeks themselves.. seems quite appropriate..

    • You greatly underestimate the size, power and influence of the Trek fandom.

      CBS cares, and they’ll care even more when all those superfans with all their money go find other, more welcoming fandoms.

    • euansmith

      People having fun doing something they love? That sounds like a pretty good life to me.

  • CBS has been trying to squash Trek fan films for years, so this is no surprise.

    It’s going to backfire, badly, but CBS won’t realize that until it’s too late.

  • Seb

    Deeply disappointing, as this really sets up other franchises to consider crushing their most ardent fans too. Talk about killing the torchbearer between campfires.

  • usGrant7977

    Fan projects are supposed to be small operations. A dozen trekies and a private consumer special FX computer program. Anything else isnt fan made, thats professional. Pay the licensing fee like a big kid.

    Also, the reboot’s sequels are getting worse. The first one was fun, and gave a decent reason to continue in that time of the Federation and with those characters, even though those actors are nearly all dead. Im getting spoiled in my old age, when I expect decent sci-fi and fantasy movies. Back in the day (70′ s&80’s) most sci-fi & fantasy was crap. I guess i need to remember that the Entertainment Industry is all about the money, not the story.

    PS. I’m not looking forward to anymore GW movies.

  • Mud_Duck

    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.

    Didn’t the Original, TNG, DS9, Voyager, and maybe the one with Cpt. Hunter, brake most, if not all these rules? That was kinda the idea behind the Original, too break social norms, make the serial a ‘forum’ for questioning the ideals of the time and making people look at the ugly side of modern life. First inter-racial kiss anyone?!?

  • Spacefrisian

    Who cares about some silly rules anyway, you cant control the interwebz anymre than you can controll the weather.

  • joetwocrows

    IANAL I am not admitted before any bar, nor do I practice law in any jurisidiction for or without recompense. See what I did there? I specified the limitations of my opinion.
    That’s basically what CBS has done here: They have published their definition of ‘fair use of copyrighted works’. Or, if you play by these rules, we won’t sue you for copyright infringement. It’s a clever move. It lays out how and how far fanfic can go before CBS thinks there’s a risk of diluting the trademark, or otherwise damages their company while still recognizing that ‘Star Trek’ is bigger than they are.
    Now, if you (the direct person, akin to the conpiritorial ‘they’) want to challenge these rules for whatever reason (such as not being politically correct) then have at it. Just be ready to pay for doing so.