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‘Star Trek’ fans slam CBS and Paramount after it releases guidelines for fan films

'Star Trek' now has 10 guidelines to follow if you don't want to face legal action.


Michelle Jaworski


Posted on Jun 24, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 1:30 pm CDT

In the midst of a pivotal and ongoing lawsuit against the producers of a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film, CBS and Paramount Pictures have released a set of guidelines for future filmmakers.

The guidelines first appeared on the Star Trek official website Thursday, and in an explanation accompanying it CBS and Paramount Pictures praised Star Trek fans’ support over the past five decades and emphasized that they “want to support this innovation and encourage celebrations of this beloved cultural phenomenon.”

“The heart of these fan films has always been about expressing one’s love and passion for Star Trek,” CBS and Paramount wrote. “They have been about fan creativity and sharing unique stories with other fans to show admiration for the TV shows and movies. These films are a labor of love for any fan with desire, imagination and a camera.”

While they may support fanfiction and creativity, the Star Trek fan film guidelines are essentially a list of 10 different criteria a fan film must meet so CBS and Paramount Pictures don’t take legal action against it. (And even then that doesn’t guarantee your film’s safety; CBS and Paramount “reserve the right to revise, revoke and/or withdraw these guidelines at any time in their own discretion.”)

That includes (but is not limited to):

  • The length of a Star Trek fan film has to be less than 15 minutes for a self-contained story) up to two episodes or parts with a 30-minute time limit. Any kind of follow-up is not allowed.

  • You can’t use “Star Trek” in the film’s name but you have to use “A Star Trek Fan Production” in your project’s subtitle and any promotions.

  • You have to use official Star Trek merchandise in your production (and not knockoffs).

  • Anybody who was part of a previous Star Trek production can’t participate in a Star Trek film—and the people who work on it cannot be compensated.

  • Fan films are noncommercial and you can only raise up to $50,000 for your production.

  • Fan films must include a disclaimer that says CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures are not endorsed or affiliated with their film.

Many of these guidelines would directly impact Star Trek Axanar, the fan film which CBS and Paramount Pictures have an ongoing lawsuit against. Axanar is a full-length movie, it crowdfunded more than $1 million, and features several Star Trek alumni. Axanar’s legal fight has received support from J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin in recent months.

Some fans were quick to point out that the Star Trek Fan Film guidelines would stifle creativity and making it nearly impossible for fans to even make fan films.

Others condemned Axanar for ruining it for everyone else.

“The trouble with Axanar is that all the money raised wasn’t going on the Axanar feature,” Chris Murphy wrote. “Portions of it were going to Peters and Co. Effectively they were paying themselves out of the fund. Weasel wording aside, this is a textbook definition of ‘profiting’ and they were doing it based on the Star Trek IP. Furthermore, funds were also being used to set up Peters own studio, which, it was planned, would go on to make for profit features. Effectively, the lure of a Star Trek fan film was being used to generate money to build something else, and line the pockets of those involved.”

The producers behind Axanar condemned the new guidelines.

“These guidelines appear to have been tailor-made to shut down all of the major fan productions and stifle fandom,” Axanar executive producer Alec Peters told the Wrap in a statement. “In no way can that be seen as supportive or encouraging, which is very disheartening.

“While CBS and Paramount claim to want to encourage the passion of fans to produce ‘reasonable fan fiction,’ the restrictions presented do just the opposite, willfully ignoring over forty years of fan works that helped buoy the Star Trek franchise through some very lean years and enthusiastically spread the magic of the franchise in more plentiful times,” Peters continued. “Around the franchise’s 50th anniversary, we would have hoped CBS and Paramount would have taken this opportunity to unite with ‘Star Trek’ fans in celebration of their creativity, not seek to crush it.”

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*First Published: Jun 24, 2016, 1:02 pm CDT