The “Star Trek: Axanar” lawsuit denied the dreams of many passionate filmmakers that have created fan films over the years. Thanks to an intervention by J.J. Abrams, the CBS/ Paramount lawsuit vs the Axanar Star Trek film is coming to an end but it leaves a dark void of uncertainty that could dent the entire fan-film ecosystem for years to come.
There are currently no industry-wide guidelines to help filmmakers comply with copyright law and making fan films ultimately strengthens franchises. It’s time to release them and give filmmakers the opportunity to make films based on existing stories and characters. Technology is evolving to the point where studios and independent filmmakers can revenue share on publicly released fan films via Youtube and VOD platforms. There is no reason to shut these films down and stifle creativity when fan films create even more demand for the bigger productions and TV series.
The legal grey area of fan films has been a problem for a long time, and the technology to deliver high-quality film productions is giving independent filmmakers the tools to pursue ambitious special-effects driven projects on smaller budgets. In fact, there is more opportunity now than ever before for filmmakers and studios to work together on a framework where both parties can win.
Axanar producer Alec Peters reached out to other fan productions and released proposed guidelines which Star Trek producers have yet to comment on.
It’s our hope that the big studios can publicly release fair guidelines to help filmmakers make the right decision even if they need to be amended over time, and if necessary, including a case-by-case approval process. There is no reason why this can’t be done.