Three days after Abrams’ announcement, fans were surprised to read Axanar filed a 28-page response and counterclaim with the court. Fan Film Factor received this explanation from Axanar attorney Erin R. Ranahan.
We filed the counterclaim only to preserve Axanar’s rights in the event that Paramount and CBS do not dismiss their claims as J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin stated they would, do not issue reasonable guidelines, or the parties are not able to reach a settlement.
CBS both confirmed the settlement discussions and said they were “working on a set of fan film guidelines” to Buzzfeed reporter Adam B. Vary immediately after Abrams’ announcement.
The relief Axanar requested from the court in its May 23 filing is summed up in two points at the end:
Defendants pray for the following relief on their Counterclaim:
1. That the Court declare the rights and obligations of Plaintiffs and
Defendants under the Copyright Act, and declare that Prelude to Axanar and the planned Axanar scripts and film are not infringing;
2. That the Court award attorneys’ fees and costs to Defendants as permitted by law; …
(Read the original here.)
Attorney Ranahan said Axanar had been required to file in order to meet the case’s deadline for counterclaims. She described the counterclaim as non-provocative:
While we have included a single claim for declaratory relief, this claim is not “upping the ante” given that we are not seeking any monetary damages, but simply a declaration of fair use or non-infringement in the event that the case is not resolved, which we intend and hope that it will be. Of course, if CBS and Paramount dismiss their claims against Axanar, or we are otherwise able to resolve these claims, we have no intention of pursuing the declaratory relief claim, and would agree to dismiss it as part of any settlement.
Perhaps seeking to influence CBS, Alec Peters drafted his own proposed guidelines and tried to enlist the producers of other Star Trek fan films to support them.
Several accepted his invitation to look at his draft, though not all: James Cawley of Star Trek: New Voyages said no without even hearing a proposal.
“Hubcap Dave” in his post “Forging Fan Film Guidelines”, citing Peters as his source, listed these producers as participants in a conversation about the draft:
As a starting point, Alec created some suggested guidelines which he forwarded to Todd Haberkorn of Star Trek: Continues, John Broughton of Farragut, John Atkin of Yorktown, Nick Cook of Intrepid, Michael King of Valiant, Scott Johnson of Starbase Studios (who produce their own fan production as well as let other productions use their facility), Greg Lock of Star Trek Ambush, plus an unnamed representative of Star Trek: Renegades. “Everyone I sent this to agreed to at least look at the draft, and half of them became part of the ongoing discussion. As for the guidelines themselves, “It is still very much a work in progress, but we hope that we can at least have something to send to CBS so they appreciate the concerns of the fan film makers.”, said Peters.
AxaMonitor’s Carlos Pedraza made Peters’ draft public:
PROPOSED STAR TREK FAN FILM GUIDELINES
- There must be the following disclaimer at the end of each episode and in all promotional and marketing materials, on all fan production websites:
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.
- Fan productions may not sell, or give away as perks, any item with a Star Trek mark, logos or character, including, but not limited to, the words “Star Trek,” the Enterprise insignia chevron, images of the U.S.S. Enterprise, or any Star Trek trademark.
- Fan Productions may not use Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or any other commercial crowdfunding platform to raise money.
- Fan productions may take donations, but all donations must go to the production of the fan film and may not be used to pay any of the principals.
- Fan Productions may pay professional cast and crew for their time working on the production.
- If a production uses a SAG member, it must become a SAG New Media Signatory.
- Finished fan films may be no longer than 50 minutes in length, the approximate duration of TOS episodes.
- Fan film makers give to CBS an unlimited, unrestricted license to use their films, or any portion thereof, in any format CBS should deem appropriate.
In the end, the idea has backfired on Peters. Most other Trek fan film producers stayed quiet throughout the Axanar litigation, but in the past couple of days many have issued public statements distancing themselves from Peters and his guidelines.
The spokesman for Star Trek: Excelsior, which was not invited to the talks, wrote a long, negative comment on Facebook. (James Heaney is Executive Producer of Star Trek: Excelsior, however, the comment was unsigned.)
For the past few months, there’s been a drama playing out across the whole community of Star Trek fan productions. We at Excelsior have stayed out of it, but we are no longer able to do so. This is a long post, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what this page is actually about — making new episodes of Excelsior for you to enjoy — so, if you want to skip it, get out now….
Ever since Axanar was served papers, Mr. Peters has done all in his power to either (a) rally other fan productions to his cause or (b) throw them under the CBS/Paramount bus. None, to my knowledge, has rallied to Axanar, and so Axanar has done an awful lot of bus-throwing instead. For example, Peters and Axanar have consistently argued that what Axanar did is not significantly different from what other major fan productions do. These claims deliberately tried to use other, innocent productions as “human shields” against CBS/Paramount. Even if the claims were true, this would constitute a serious breach of the trust and respect between fan producers. And they were not true; it is categorically false that other major productions pay their principal producers a salary or set up coffee-licensing deals.
Fortunately, CBS, which has always been profoundly generous to fan productions, held its fire, refusing to kill off the other shows Mr. Peters offered as bait. There was one major casualty — the people behind the brilliant Star Trek: Horizon were asked to cancel a planned fundraiser for a sequel — but CBS’s easiest path in December would have been to send cease-and-desist orders to ALL fan projects in one fell swoop. That they did not is a profound testament to CBS/Paramount’s steadfast support of the Star Trek fan community… even when it makes things awkward for them, even when they do not get much credit for it in the media, and, yes, even when the fans themselves do not recognize how good we have it. (For goodness’ sake, CBS has tolerated *Kickstarters* for the past several years! That alone shows how much CBS trusts and respects Star Trek fans, especially compared to other studios.)….
However, yesterday, news broke (story below) that Mr. Peters is trying to organize Star Trek fan productions to support a set of proposed “fan film guidelines” that he has created, apparently in the hope that he will be able to represent his proposal to CBS/Paramount as having widespread support among fan producers as a sort of “compromise” between CBS and Axanar. This apparent attempt by Axanar to speak on our behalf forces us to break our silence and publicly clarify our position.
Neither Mr. Peters nor anyone at Axanar Productions has contacted Excelsior Productions or any of its principals about any proposed guidelines. However, even if we had been contacted, we would have refused to participate in discussion of Axanar’s proposal, and we hereby publicly repudiate any proposal Axanar Productions purports to make on our behalf. CBS/Paramount has not, to date, asked for any fan input into any potential fan film guidelines, and we do not presume to offer any to them without their express invitation. Even if CBS/Paramount *were* to invite fan input, we would not consider Mr. Peters a trustworthy, reliable, or community-minded representative. We encourage other fan producers to join us in this firm repudiation, so that Mr. Peters’ presumption that he speaks for the fan film community is rightly discredited in the eyes of the public, the media, the court, and CBS/Paramount….
Starbase Studios, which did take part in the group chat, also released a statement on Facebook:
It has been reported in several articles today that Starbase Studios is part of a group put together by Alec Peters of Axanar, to draft a set of fan film guidelines to be submitted to CBS studios as part of the lawsuit settlement. Scott Johnson, one of the studio owners, was contacted and agreed to view the proposed guidelines but never responded or submitted an opinion on them.
The articles published this morning seems to imply that Starbase Studios, and fan productions that film at the studio, have joined Peters and Axanar in their defense against the CBS/Paramount lawsuit. The names of the individuals and groups who have agreed to preview the proposed guidelines was released without consent. It would appear the reason for releasing the names is to create a false appearance of support for Peters and Axanar as a means to strengthen their negotiating position.
FOR THE RECORD: Starbase Studios has tried to remain publicly neutral on the Axanar lawsuit. We are now forced to state that we are in full support of CBS and Paramount on this matter and have always been willing to comply with any statements, rulings, guidelines they may issue. We have no doubt that CBS/Paramount are the true copyright owners of the Star Trek franchise and respect their ownership of the property. We are also grateful to CBS/Paramount for allowing us to support the Star Trek franchise in our own way.
In an effort to keep any productions filmed at the studio from overstepping bounds of fan films, we have publicly listed a set of guidelines on our website that we insist the productions follow. These guidelines were issued by a former crew member of New Voyages/Phase 2 and have served well so far but we will adapt to whatever new guidelines CBS/Paramount sees fit to issue.
Another inaccuracy in the article states that the studio produces several fan films. The studio itself produces only one film but invites any other productions to use our sets. These other productions are not under control of the studio and although we insist they follow the set guidelines, we can not be responsible for their releases or anything added after filming at the studio is complete.
Michael King of Starship Valiant, another chat participant, made this response:
Yes, I was invited to participate in building guidelines that I felt would help the fan film community overall as a group and although the actual guidelines listed in this article were completed and forged without my input, (as I was sick during the process), I did in fact make a few suggestions as to two of the seven listed. Then I was messaged by a friend this morning and told that our “private” discussion had been made public. Apparently, someone in the group cut & pasted our discussion and shared it with another person that I personally have never heard of, to the bewilderment of myself and my good friend Scott Johnson. Honestly, I feel that the group of people in this “chat” were used and manipulated and I am not and will not be a part of any legal dealings with Paramount/CBS vs. Axanar. To this end, I am publicly stating that Starship Valiant will play by any rules that the powers that be make. I am very thankful that Valiant has been allowed to play in the trek universe. The below article was printed without my consent and I was not asked to be a part of it or to be mentioned in it.
Greg Lock of Star Trek: Ambush, who was on the talk, was supportive of Peters:
…Firstly, I am not involved in anyway as having talks with CBS/Paramount regarding any future guidelines for Star Trek Fan Films. Alec had some ideas for potential guidelines and invited me into a Facebook discussion group to see what my thoughts were. Somehow the entire message thread was leaked to some sources, especially Axanar Haters and damming articles followed. This message leak was a breach of confidentiality and we are all very angry about this. I did not feel that Alec’s actions were unreasonable; he was not telling CBS what to do in my opinion and, if anything, it seemed as always that he wanted to help in anyway he can to facilitate the continuation of fan films. It was quite clear that he was not going to “storm” into the offices of CBS and make demands, far from it. He was also taking advice from his own legal team, still representing him pro-bono who have nothing but Axanar’s future in their interests. I therefore did not feel that Alec putting feelers out to see what kind of guidelines we would be happy with to be unjustified.
I did not feel that the guidelines were unreasonable, for starters if guidelines like those are imposed they will not affect what I have planned for Ambush at all, and would allow me not to worry about possible repercussions. I also felt that the guidelines would not drastically change the plans of much larger ongoing fan films I know of. I will adhere to any guidelines that CBS impose, whether they are drawn from Alec’s input or not. My thoughts were that if those were the kind of guidelines we would have, I would be okay with that…
AxaMonitor has a roundup with statements from many more producers — Star Trek Continues, Starship Intrepid, Star Trek: Renegades, The Lexington Adventures, Melbourne, Project NCC-1703, Starship Ajax, Starship Farragut, and Star Trek Phoenix.
Newsweek’s article on the Axanar controversy, which Alec Peters commended on Facebook, says changes have been made to the proposed guidelines due to the negative reactions:
This week, Axanar Productions’ Peters circulated a set of suggested guidelines to other fan film producers, which included proposed language for disclaimers, limits on the length of fan productions, and a clause granting CBS an “unlimited, unrestricted license” to the fan films. An early version of the guidelines included a ban on crowdfunding, something Peters had earlier said he would “certainly be concerned about” if it was part of studio-provided guidelines. Peters dropped the proposed crowdfunding ban after getting negative feedback from other fan filmmakers; an Axanar spokesman says Peters sees a crowdfunding ban as “objectionable but inevitable.”
One notable omission from the proposed guidelines: any reference what kind of intellectual property license the studios would be granting to filmmakers, something likely to be part of any studio-authored rules. As attorney [Peter Kang, a partner at the law firm Sidley Austin] puts it: “In order for guidelines to provide what I assume everyone wants, which is some level of predictability, intellectual property licensing issues are going to have to be fleshed out.”