Star Trek: A Case Study In How to Dismantle a Fandom

(Header Photo Credit: US Army Europe)

[AUTHOR UPDATE: Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast interviewed John Van Citters of CBS on the new fan film guidelines which cleared up some of the issues raised below. I’ll be writing a follow-up article on what the new info means for fan creators. For now, I’ve closed comments on this thread – thank you all for participating.]

CBS and Paramount handed down new Star Trek Fan Film guidelines and most fans are livid:

Star Trek Facebook

At the time of writing, the official post on Star Trek’s Facebook page had 1,300+ comments. 1,300+ “angry” and “sad” reactions. Tweets from Trekkie lawyers like Ryan Kairalla and an entire hashtag around parody rules:

On the rules, Paramount and CBS indicate: “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.” So, what’s all the fuss? Let’s deconstruct the guidelines (cited from on 6/24/16 at 12PM Mountain):

CBS and Paramount’s 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.

10 guidelines which, taken together, dismantle the Star Trek creator fandom.

Not all the rules are explicitly unfair, though – so let’s start with some premises:

  • Let’s agree that profiting off of someone else’s brand or copyright is probably not in the realm of “Fair Use”, so guidelines 6, 8, 9, 10 are more or less fair to a true indie fan creator.
  • Some might take exception to #6 based on production costs to build sets and the like, but it’s not like you couldn’t crowdfund prop replicas or sets – like the “restore the bridge” project – separate from the production fundraising in and of itself.
  • Let’s also agree that – as fan productions, the product should always be free to the audience (except for previously mentioned donations for production up to the level of breaking even) and not have advertising revenue associated which would negatively impact the property owner’s income.
  • The one caveat to #6 is that if you backup your production on a DVD or USB drive and do a screening with that media, you’re in violation.

So what does that leave us? Let’s explore the remaining rules: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7

  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.

Consequence: No world-building. No characters surviving or explored beyond the scope of 30 minutes in total. No complex storylines. No ongoing efforts. This one rule, in and of itself, can put a stop to: AxanarStar Trek: Continues, Star Trek: Phase II (New Voyages), Star Trek: Outpost, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, Star Trek: Renegades, Starship: Exeter, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, Star Trek: Section 31, Star Trek: Intrepid, and pretty much every other fan production that is longer than 30 minutes or one episode.

Many productions and audio dramas have already indicated they’re halting work via their Facebook pages.

It’s not entirely clear if these rules only apply to film productions or if audio and written form (ie: if it takes you longer than 30 minutes to read or has more than 2 sections/chapters it violates this rule), but they’re halting all the same. Episodic, serial Trek is what we’ve seen, time and time again and what most productions have modeled themselves after – because fans expect it.

  1. 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.

Consequence: Not a huge deal, just every fan production with “Star Trek” in the title will be slightly harder to find in Google and will need to change domains.

  1. 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.

Consequence: If interpreted to include audio clips and effects, that means you can’t use any existing sounds, effects (transporter/warp), or music. The way this guideline is written, it could also mean you can’t use fonts, designs, or derivations of existing work – such as LCARS, the ship designs, Klingon symbols, you name it. So… is it still Trek if it doesn’t have the trappings of Trek?

Theoretically, you could also stretch this guideline to YouTube and Twitch streams of role-playing Star Trek Online players – since they’re essentially “producing” “machima” using “official clips” from a Star Trek production.

  1. 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.

Consequence: Whew. No 3D printed phasers or tricorders (because Playmates made a Tricorder back in the day – good luck finding one on Ebay). No 3D-printed combadges or rank pips, because Anovos made replica licensed props of those ($$$). No TOS, TNG, Voyager/Early DS9, or Insurrection uniforms because those exist via Anovos (sometimes they’re even in stock). Again, is it still Trek if it doesn’t have the trappings of Trek? This feels like a cash grab more than an honest intent to be “true to the trappings of Trek” (especially in tangent with rule #3 – wherein you can’t use any official clips or recreations of official clips).

  1. 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.

Consequence: If my day job is to produce audio, and I produce audio on a fan film for free, the fan film is now in violation. If I build website professionally, and I donate my services to the fan film, that fan film is in violation. If a fan film has a professional Trek actor participate, that fan film is now screwed. If you’ve ever appeared in the Trekkies documentaries, you cannot participate in a Star Trek fan film. Depending on the interpretation of the word “employ” (as in: employed as an eyewitness commentator? employed as an unpaid extra? Employed as an unpaid intern?) anyone who was ever on their local CBS affiliate could also be risking a lawsuit from CBS and Paramount if they participate in a Star Trek fan film. This really seems like an overreach, and ultimately, I believe is in violation of most state laws on noncompetition agreements as it has a chilling effect on hiring.

  1. 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.

Consequence: You’d better not have any interesting characters who are dealing with any personal vices, you cannot have a duplicitous Ferengi breaking the law, you cannot use Orions (especially with regards to slave trafficking and Orion women probably violate the obscenity bit because obscenity is SUBJECTIVE), you cannot show the NX-01 Decon Chamber (bow chica bow wow), you cannot have a Klingon/Federation bar fight scene, you cannot have a fight scene at all (because last time I checked violence was illegal and harmful), you cannot use the Betazed or Borg assimilation (because you’re violating an individual’s right of privacy – in this case, a character, but it’s not written to preclude that). In short: do not do anything we find disagreeable. Having a plot is highly discouraged.

Having a plot is highly discouraged.

What are we left with?

Not anything that we currently recognize as a Trek fan work. Certainly nothing long enough to deal with current social issues, or that can even deal with social issues at all.

I’ve always been a Trekkie. I can remember my first episode, watched with my family on the couch. I remember being inspired by a more hopeful future – technology side by side with social progress enabling massive shifts in human culture. I wanted to live up to those ideals. I dabbled in fan fiction, created my first fan website, created my own audio drama, and now participate actively in one that just posted its 72nd episode – a Trek audio drama that won a Parsec Award (this is like an audio drama Emmy). That production, completely staffed and produced by amateurs, likely can’t continue under these rules handed down by CBS and Paramount. And that’s wrong.

CBS and Paramount Pictures are now icing the most enthusiastic Star Trek fans in the name of corporate greed and it’s wrong – wrong enough that I’m rethinking my status as a Trekkie.

Since 2005 when Enterprise went off the air, fan films and conventions kept the torch going. Let’s be clear: w/out Star Trek: Continues and other fan films like it, Star Trek’s fanbase was in a major drought. CBS and Paramount no doubt benefitted from fan work – who the hell do you think kept buying, watching, reviewing, and asking for more and more advanced props and reference material? Who do you think showed up in full-on cosplay at the premiers?

Fan films, experiments, adaptations, and fiction should be given special immunity from copyright as long as they’re not products the audience pays for (beyond donations for production costs). It’s pretty clear when that line is deviated from.

There are at least 4 different legal arrangements for fan work I’m aware of that CBS and Paramount could have employed without risking their business model:

  1. Creative Commons (least ambiguous, most enforceable, has community support, has to be constantly monitored but a large media company has the resources)
  2. Open-Source (or Creative Commons) Creator’s Toolkit (Nine Inch Nail’s The Hand That Feeds album)
  3. Selective Licensing (Star Wars Extended Universe)
  4. Open-Forum Guidelines w/ Reporting and Advice (Kindle Worlds)

Speaking as a creator whose creations have been infringed upon – in my case my work was outright stolen and republished as someone else’s, not remixed by a fan – I say let fan creations ride.

Fan creations almost always help the original artist. Thanks to the DMCA, piracy and off-brand usage are almost always easily thwarted without litigation. If you want to encourage remixes and adaptation, Creative Commons has use-specific license denial when you don’t agree (morally or otherwise) with the remix’s intended purpose and “not-for-commercial sale” option built into the CC-AT-NC licenses, too. Sounds like a perfect platform to encourage fan creations, right? You never relinquish your copyright and can object to a particular use at any time.

A stone-cold “you cannot create anything that would remotely compete with Trek and, also, please only watch/buy/wear/share Official Trek” stance is wrong-headed. Worse: to consider a largely fan-created language (Klingon) enforceable property is just… greedy.

There’s no confusion on the part of fans: we know what “real” Trek is, what it looks like. We’re not making the choice of where to put our money. We are going to spend (and HAVE spent) money on *all* of it – fan or canon, paid streaming or Netflix or YouTube. It’s not an either/or proposition. It’s always an *and*. That loyalty is supposed to work both ways, though – and when you get greedy in the sandbox, nobody wants to play with you anymore.

These guidelines essentially spell the end of Star Trek fan creations. It’s as simple as that.

Bad rules are bad for business. You don’t have to be a Ferengi to see how icing fans between productions chills demand for all Trek. These guidelines represent a completely antithetical deviation from a franchise that once espoused that money wasn’t the end goal in the future. It would be nearly impossible for a fan film following guidelines 2, 6, 8, 9, 10 to have a significant financial impact on either CBS or Paramount so it’s hard to see why the remaining items are necessary outside of a lawsuit.

It would be nearly impossible for a fan film following guidelines 2, 6, 8, 9, 10 to have a significant financial impact on either CBS or Paramount so it’s hard to see why the remaining items are necessary to enforce outside of a lawsuit.

This Trekkie can no longer sustain being a fan. If you feel the same, let CBS and Paramount know.

What a terrible and short-sighted end to such a beautiful vision of the future.

420 comments on “Star Trek: A Case Study In How to Dismantle a Fandom

    • Be free to do so, but it won’t matter. There are plenty of Star Trek fans who will gladly see the new movie, and watch the new series, including many who were involved in the fan productions.

      • I laugh. Of COURSE it will matter. If the FANS boycott Paramount/CBS the franchise becomes a liability. You really think this long-term, loyal, very vocal fandom doesn’t have clout? Ridiculous.

        • Depends are how stupid people are. I like to hope the fan base is not…but my dealing with humanity as whole tends to differ. But I can hope.

      • Yes because their are plenty people out there that are Masochists and deep down inside want to f up. I mean how else can explain people support a franchise that F with them all them.

    • When CBS tried to cancel TOS after season 2 the FANS swamped them with a letter writing campaign and got it back on. In the 70’s when there was no Trek on the air or in the theaters, the FANS kept it alive and created the first fan conventions. Even when the movies were bad we still went to see them (I’m looking at you Star Trek: The Motion Picture) and the fans have supported Star Trek through thick and very very thin…
      Not everyone loved everything… I disliked DS9, but some loved it, I loved Voyager, but some didn’t, but we ALL love Star Trek in some form.

      Now CBS/Paramount have turned to the fans who have supported and championed Star Trek and dumped on the very people who have kept the franchise alive for 50 years. They’ve given all of us, not just the creators of the fan films, but the people who loved them as well a nice big middle finger…

      • At the time it was NBC that tried to cancel TOS after season. CBS did not acquire the rights until much later. CBS had a shot at broadcasting TOS but decided against it because they had Lost In Space.

        • I stand corrected, but it’s still valid none the less. The FANS made Star Trek what it is… A Dedicated, Vocal, Loyal and some would say a Rabid fan base has kept Star Trek alive and well for 50 years…

    • To be fair, some of the fan base doesn’t deserve them, either. Look at the childish tantrums being thrown here because CBS/Paramount finally gave a list of things they wouldn’t allow you to do with their property. You act like you own it, when you do not. You’re a fan, not an investor. You can walk away, and that is your right, but they owe you nothing.

  1. Agreed. This is hypocritical and unnecessarily punitive on the people who have kept Star Trek going for 50 years–the fans. Unless these guidelines are rescinded or modified to address the crass unfairness you spoke of, I will not support any further efforts by the corporate swindlers holding the franchise hostage.

  2. It’s simple, Star Trek, and CBS, no longer get my money. The ONLY interesting things coming out of Trek lately have been fan films, but I would have still paid to see Abrams destroy the Enterprise (yet again *sigh*). But now: No. Star Trek Beyond can sit in the theaters and rot for all I care. The new CBS series? I’m sure I can find reruns of the Six Million Dollar Man. Sorry, but if they want to be this way, they don’t deserve, and won’t get my money.

    • They weren’t getting your money from these fan productions, either, so I don’t think it will bother them. These productions used CBS/P’s property without their permission, and they used it to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, selling merchandise, building studios, and CBS/P never saw a dime of it.

      Now that fan films can only use a $50,000 budget (which is still a lot of money for an amateur film) and has 30 minutes to play out the story, we’ll see labors of love again, and not “semi-professional” replacements for the actual Star Trek shows and movies.

      • Foolish person. Most fans of Star Trek watched everything, fan stuff as well as official. There are many, many people who are seriously upset by this, not least because it is diametrically opposed to stance of the ACTUAL creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, towards fan films. HE would have been thrilled that so many fans love the shows and concepts enough 50 years later to put so much time, effort and money into creating non-profit productions. Your lack of comprehension of what will be destroyed due to these guidelines show that you have no conception whatsoever of the scope of the fandom.

        • Nope.
          Seen every movie since 1980.
          Seen every series since 1966.
          NEVER seen a fan based anything.

        • In 1968 75,000 fans wrote to NBC to keep TOS on for a third season and in 1980 200,000 fans wrote and conviced congress to name the first space shuttle “Enterprise”. CBS never had a good track record in court, they lost to the NAACP and had to take Amos and Andy off the air, they messed with Perry Mason when he lost his one and only case and fans revolted by telling CBS there are things you cannot do, CBS gave In because they didn’t want to lose that fan base. Not to mention all the Price is Right models who took them to court and won.

      • The closest measurable marketing analog with an economic impact is fantasy football to NFL teams. It’s a $70B market which also has an impact on ticket sales, advertising, and the entire ecology of the NFL.

        Drawing the same logic to Trek fan productions, to pretend that these productions 1) were all raising money (they weren’t – only a few did) on CBS/P’s brand and 2) had no positive impact on fan desire for official Trek is shortsighted and silly at best. Star Trek fan clubs (whether cosplayers or producers) directly impact the bottom line of the franchise in myriad ways.

        The problem remains that many of Trek’s most dedicated fan creators are now unable to continue their projects – projects which in and of themselves had accrued fan bases directly benefitting CBS/P without having raised or attempted to raise revenue or monetize or do anything beyond show their love for the future Gene put forth.

        It’s fallacious to show up here and claim all fan producers violated CBS/P’s IP in this way; it’s simply not true. It’s also petty to reflect the old Shatner “Get a life” line (in your other comments) on these fans who’ve done nothing wrong and now been told to “get the hell out of the sandbox” for nothing more than having more than 1 episode of a 30-minute self-contained story arc. That’s the #1 guideline stopping most fan productions cold.

        No, CBS/P don’t owe us a damn thing. But was it a smart marketing move? Take a look at the vitriol on this thread directed at CBS/P, in the original announcement thread on Facebook, on the comments on the original post on Proof’s in the pudding.

        Your assumption here that these efforts were somehow not labors of love is totally fallacious. Take a look at Star Trek: Outpost, Darker Projects audio, Hidden Frontier audio, or any of the other fan productions that didn’t actively crowdfund or attempt to raise a profit, yet are still in violation of these guidelines and must stop or pause until they figure out how to rework their efforts.

        The argument isn’t that CBS/P shouldn’t have the right to defend their IP (they can and should), it’s that they should have considered the marketing implications of doing so in this way with these specifications.

        Does CBS/P have a right to defend IP in this way? Sure (except maybe restricting work of actors or other professionals depending on your state’s “right to work” laws). But were they the best marketing move? Probably not, based on the comments here and elsewhere. If you doubt the harm done to the brand by these guidelines on a large scale, just explore the comments and reactions on any of the 50+ fan production announcements.

        As an aside, the thing you’re not mentioning about Viacom’s marketing blunder (other comment chain) in attacking fan magazines and websites is that Viacom reversed course time and time again.

        To behave as if this isn’t a marketing problem for Trek is the height of willful ignorance of the true scope and timeline of the problem facing CBS/P.

        Let’s not pretend that these rules were written to “enhance the fan production” scene – they’re written in a way that CBS/P can object to any fan production plot point subjectively on the grounds of “obscenity” (guideline #7). They’re written so as you cannot reproduce or recreate Star Trek elements (guideline #3) while disallowing you to have the genuine article as well. They’re written to ensure a hefty portion of any production raise you might receive goes back into licensed products (Guideline #4) while restricting your ability to roll your own (guideline #3) at the same time.

        These guidelines are modeled in a way that makes it impossible to know if – in including a red alert klaxon on my fan film – I’m now going to be sued because Guideline #3 says I should make everything from scratch without recreating/reproducing it, but also that I can’t use active clips from the show. So… no more red alerts? How do you play fairly with rules that are mutually contradictory depending on the mood of the lawyer?

        On a personal level, pretending your fellow fans shouldn’t be hurting or bummed because they can no longer partake in a hobby that most likely contributed to a large portion of their free time, then relegating their disappointment to “childish tantrums” (another thread) is predatory.

        To pretend that a mass exodus of the most creative and participatory fans won’t have an impact (another thread) is downright delusional. The explosion of original, non-Trek sci-fi that will appear on the scene will do more to damage CBS/P’s business position than almost any of these fan productions ever could have.

        • I agree. The only positive thing I can see coming out of this is that Hidden Frontier may now go back and pick up with their independent project Frontier Guard.

        • It’s fallacious to assume that you have any right whatsoever to use someone else’s toys to do with whatever you please. You don’t have to like it, but to assume anything else precludes a sense of entitlement that you, and many others here, seem to possess. If every fan film disappeared tomorrow, most Trek fans wouldn’t likely notice. Your overt emotionalism aside, any net positive you’ve made from the fandom to CBS/Paramount, will be negated by the behavior seen by those who have thrown tantrums, or who have spit in CBS/Paramount’s face, like Axanar. Quite frankly, you don’t deserve the largesse CBS/P bestowed upon you, and if that bothers you, then it will bother you, but it won’t change that it’s the truth.

          For all your arguments of fallacy, you fail to see the gap in your logic where you feel your assumptions are worth anything more than the digital medium on which they have been printed.

          • Your ad-hominem attacks are getting tiresome and I never assumed any rights or felt entitled to the series. Gene Roddenberry himself wrote in his 1976 introduction for Star Trek: The New Voyages, a Bantam published book edited by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath:

            “…Certainly the loveliest happening of all for us was the fact that so many others began to feel the same way [about Star Trek as we did]. Television viewers by the millions began to take Star Trek to heart as their own personal optimistic view of the Human condition and future. They fought for the show, honored it, cherished it, wrote about it–and have continued to do their level best to make certain that it will live again.

            …We were particularly amazed when thousands, then tens of thousands of people began creating their own personal Star Trek adventures. Stories, and paintings, and sculptures, and cookbooks. And songs, and poems, and fashions. And more. The list is still growing. It took some time for us to fully understand and appreciate what these people were saying. Eventually we realized that there is no more profound way in which people could express what Star Trek has meant to them than by creating their own very personal Star Trek things.

            Because I am a writer, it was their Star Trek stories that especially gratified me. I have seen these writings in dog-eared notebooks of fans who didn’t look old enough to spell “cat.” I have seen them in meticulously produced fanzines, complete with excellent artwork. Some of it has even been done by professional writers, and muchof it has come from those clearly on their way to becoming professional writers. Best of all, all of it was plainly done with love.

            It is now a source of great joy for me to see their view of Star Trek, their new Star Trek stories, reaching professional publication here. I want to thank these writers, congratulate them on their efforts, and wish them good fortune on these and further of their voyages into other times and dimensions. Good writing is always a very personal thing and comes from the writer’s deepest self. Star Trek was that kind of writing for me, and it moves me profoundly that it has also become so much a part of the inner self of so many other people.

            Viewers like this have proved that there is a warm, loving, and intelligent lifeform out there–and that it may even be the dominant species on this planet.

            That is the highest compliment and the greatest repayment that they could give us.”

            To discredit the benefit of fan creators is willful ignorance. To bait your fellow fans with ad-hominem rhetoric is predatory. Keep it up and you’ll be banned.

          • What ad hominem attacks? I’m not attacking you personally, I’m just saying that while your voice here counts, as it is your page, in the vast fandom as a whole it’s just a whisper, and not everyone, or even most, are going to necessarily agree with or even know what you’re talking about. Fan films? Those still exist?

            Also, go ahead and ban me if you consider me a nuisance. Do what Alec Peters did when I asked him where the movie was back in December ($1.5 million and two years, no movie at that point). Be yet one more hardcore Star Trek fan who gets to play Chairman Mao on their website. It tells me more about your opinion of Roddenberry’s open minded, utopian society than anything else ever will.

          • Ah, well I would like to apologize if I was being abrasive. I feel strong about this, as you do, but it’s no excuse for me to be rude or dismissive. So in that spirit, I do apologize.

            Believe it or not, I’m just as frustrated by all of this as you and many others. I love fan films, and have several particular favorites (Star Trek Continues is the best fan production I’ve ever seen, IMO). I’m just not upset with CBS, because I feel they’re being put on the defensive by what Axanar has done. I think after the Axanar lawsuit is settled, CBS will loosen their restrictions, just like things calmed down after the late 1990s Paramount Star Trek fansite purge. That one was nuts, but once things cooled off, the fan community began to thrive like never before. I think we’ll see that again.

          • I tend to agree with the above, except where money is concerned. I think the $50,000 limit on projects will stay. And I think it should stay.

          • Yup, I remember that one.
            There were many fan sites out there in the beginning. Probably made up a good portion of hobbyist websites on the Internet in those early days.
            Then Paramount went ahead and created an official Star Trek website. In order to support and promote it, they then proceeded to purge every single existing fan website off the face of the Internet.

          • I *really* hope you’re right here. If the guidelines aren’t eased a bit, fan worldbuilding is pretty much at an end, though (as self-contained stories limited to 30 minutes max mean you can’t carry over your character or ship or whatever else). It’s really guideline #1 that creates a major issue for most producers. The weird wording interaction on #3 and #4 make it unclear if you can render your own sounds or effects for something that already exists – and if you can 3D print your own props for a roll-your-own variant of the phaser or tricorder, so that remains to be clarified, really. If those 3 things can be cleaned up, (and I suspect #5 – the “no Star Trek pros” goes away in labor law disputes) almost all fan creations mostly go back to normal.

          • The simple solution would be for any producer of a fan film to consult a lawyer prior to proceeding. Spend part of that $50K protecting yourself and your friends against a lawsuit.

          • I wish! I’d love to get paid to talk about Star Trek all day. That would be a sweet gig. No, I don’t get paid by CBS, no I’m not a troll. I happen to disagree with how people are seeing this situation, but I’m not a troll.

          • A lot of your points are really well-founded. Part of the problem with these guidelines is they’re entirely left up to the person who will be enforcing them. So if that person is having a bad day, your production might, too. I’m interested to see how the community rebounds from this (I suspect it’ll be an explosion of original SciFi as more and more groups go the Renegades route – I know that’s what I’ll be doing).

          • Honestly, I think the fan community will be better for it. Make sure you check out that link I posted in another reply to you. John Van Citter goes over a lot of the concerns some of the fans have been itching to know more about. I was fine with the guidelines before, but after listening, I don’t think there’s going to be any major disruptions from this. Will some productions be unable to continue as they have in the past? Yes. STC, Renegades, they’re going to have to adapt (I can’t wait to see what Renegades has done when their movie finishes).

            It means no more $500,000 Kickstarters, or a dozen B and C list actors who stand around for whole scenes and do nothing but lend some kind of informal endorsement of that particular fan series. It means no more donating hundreds of dollars for merchandise rather than for making a labor of love.

            I think the interview will really shed more light on things, and show that CBS actually does care about their fans. I know the head of CBS licensing seems to care very much. Here’s the link again in case you don’t want to have to hunt for the other reply:


            It does address the homemade costumes question, too. In case you don’t want to sit through an hour to hear it, he essentially says that homemade costumes and props are just fine, just don’t buy knockoff props from counterfeiters or third parties who aren’t licensed, as CBS/P never sees a dime from that. Either buy it from a licensed source, or make your own, or have someone you know make it for you (but they can’t charge you outrageous prices for it). Either is fine with them.

          • You are the one w/the totally fallacious arguments here. Of course money makes it perfectly fine to trash a wonderful fandom and trivialize the impact of a franchise they bought. In the purely legal sense, a very narrow channel. In the creative, aesthetic sense it is anathema. And in the long-term business sense it is counter-productive. When CBS/Paramount loses a @#$^load of money because of this bad marketing and horrible publicity, they might do a rethink.

          • I never said money makes it okay to do anything. They won’t lose money from this, because not enough people consider it important, even though it is clearly important to you, and believe it or not, me. I love what these fan productions have done, but it was never their property, and CBS/P has come to claim most of it, for now.

            That is all I really have to say on the subject. Since the moderator of this message board seems to feel I’m only here to stir up trouble, I doubt I’ll last very long.

            I hope you get your bright and happy future.


          • Money did trash fan films, the money Alec Peters paid to himself and to build a studio for personal gain. How can people keep trying to blame CBS for the actions of this man is beyond me?

            Maybe if you all had got together and openly denounced the actions of Alec Peters before this got out of hand, CBS would’ve never come to this point. Instead, many of you cheered him on.

            Now it’s biting you in the rear end.

          • I agree with you that I have a sense of entitlement when it comes to the ST universe. Indeed, entitlement is my primary argument against CBS/P’s attempt to stifle the continuation of human narrative into the future. It is the same sense of entitlement that I have to Greek Mythology, Biblical allegory, Shakespearian allusion, etc. The ST universe has shaped modern science, cultural shifts, and has carried the exploration of the duality of human nature into the next century. CBS/P does not bestow largesse on me or anyone else. They cannot own that which I take from the narratives. Regardless of what happens with Axanar, I will enjoy, participate in, and write my own narratives of every variation of the Star Trek world.

          • And CBS doesn’t mind you writing your own stories as long as you aren’t profiting off of them. They didn’t mind fan films until Peters figured out how to bilk people and pay himself a salary through crowdsourcing.

          • For how long? At what point does this imaginary world enter public domain?

          • I doubt any major properties will ever enter public domain. But what does that matter if you are making films and fiction for the love of it?

          • It matters when I cannot make a film for longer than 15 minutes, or I must meet several of the other debilitating restrictions CBS/P has placed on fan film. I understand some of your complaints against Peters, so imagine that he had not taken money for himself. The new restrictions would still outlaw *Axanar*, which is in itself a great idea. CBS/P would have been smarter to merge with or buy the rights to *Axanar* and create it itself [not bury it]. I, for one, would buy a ticket to both *Beyond* and *Axanar*.

          • If Peters hadn’t taken the money for himself, then these restrictions likely wouldn’t exist.

            CBS has no need for Axanar. Why would they reward a group that stole their property?

          • Because *Axanar* is a great story idea….many fans consider it better than the alternative universe films currently being produced. [Surely that point is evident to you.] They would be rewarding the fans. Really, your response underscores the reason for some of the intense anger of the fans. “CBS has no need for *Axanar*.” No, it has no need but only because it has no goal to create great narratives, only to make money.

          • Believe it or not, there are a great many Star Trek fans who enjoy the Abrams films, I’m among them. Have you actually sat down and examined what Axanar is? It is from a group that complains about the “pew-pew” in the Abrams films, but is choke full of “pew-pew”. To the point that some folks have been able to point out direct parallels in imagery between the two.

            Fans need to quit acting like CBS needs to pat them on the head and toss them a bone like a good dog. You like current Trek? Great. If not, find something else to do (I did during much of DS9, VOY and ENT). CBS owes you nothing. They OWN Star Trek. Get over it.

          • It’s missing the point to say, “can they restrict fan creations”. Obviously they can. The only question that your fellow fans are putting forth is: should they? When a series has been built on the foundation of fan fiction (to the point where those fans wrote episodes for the show which were sometimes shot FOR THE SHOW)… it’s a highly questionable long-term marketing move.

          • Is it a good move? I don’t know. I’m not a Hollywood mogul. But until they root out Axanar, this is the way things are going to be. Even in the guidelines, they say they are subject to change. Though I think the $50,000 fundraising limit is here to stay, and with good cause. Unlimited fundraising is too ripe for abuse.

            I think everyone needs to step back and take a deep breath and allow things to play out. Spitting fire at CBS isn’t going to motivate them to reevaluate things.

          • Again, swimming against precedent. A massive letter-writing campaign saved Trek before. A modern day equivalent is a blog. Maybe it can save mostly innocent fan creations.

          • But fan films aren’t a massive concern. A Trek novel writer that I talk too, who I won’t name, said that tie-in novels are read by roughly two percent of the fans of any given franchise. Axanar had 8,000 donors. That is a minuscule portion of the fan base.

            But about the letter writing campaign, I doubt people were claiming they were going to boycott NBC over Trek’s cancellation. While it was a different time, I imagine the pleas to keep Trek on the air were far more polite than what we are seeing now.

            Tone down the rhetoric, quit trying to make CBS/Paramount look bad for making a decision to protect what is theirs. It is something we would all do if we were in that position.

          • Believe it or not, I am one of the fans who enjoy the Abrams films. I also enjoy Star Wars and do not agree with those who demand that fans choose one or the other. I have seen all ST series, all ST films, and about half the fan films. I do not need CBS to throw me any bone; do not need to find something else to do; and I have nothing to get over. What I do have is an opinion born of a perspective that goes back to 1966–and the right to express it. I am perplexed as to why my perspective should irritate you to the point that you need to give me arrogant and aggressive directions as to how to view CBS, what to do with my time and what to think about a film I was looking forward to and now may not see. I assure you, I may disapprove of what you say, but like Evelyn Beatrice Hall said in describing Voltaire’s attitude toward someone with whom he disagreed, I will defend to the death your right to say it.

        • On another note entirely, the latest trailer for Star Trek Beyond came out today. They’re using Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer,” on the soundtrack. By the time this film comes out, very few will care what CBS/P had to say about fan films, just as Star Trek recovered very quickly from the late 1990s evisceration by Paramount. People said they were leaving then, too, and yet here we are in 2016, getting ready to celebrate another Star Trek film. Like the previous films, this one will also likely be a critical and box office success.

          I realize you feel helpless and angry in the face of what CBS/Paramount has done, but it does not change that most fans will not care on July 22nd.

          • There are people who go, like sheep, to see the newest, latest, shiniest thing. Those who only ‘know’ Star Trek from the latest film. These people are not fans of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. We are not talking about them. We are talking about trying to preserve the heart of the show. The bastardization of Star Wars may be currently profitable, but the odds of it retaining that long-term fan base are 50/50. With this move, Paramount/CBS has effectively denounced, trashed and spit in the face of Star Trek’s loyal fanbase, and for you to deny that fact as if the only important thing is short term profit is troubling at best. You are single-handedly illustrating the moral bankruptcy of this decision.

          • Star Trek’s loyal fanbase weren’t making semi-professional productions and trying to sell coffee to make a profit off of it.

            The vast majority of Star Trek’s loyal fanbase doesn’t give a witches tit about these guidelines.

          • I don’t feel helpless or angry, but as a trekie on July 22 I’ll be watching ST3, In search of Spock, not Beyond.

          • I’m pissed I can’t go on the 22nd. My wife has a prior commitment. But I’ll be there first thing on the 23rd!