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CBS/Paramount Sets Phasers to Kill on Star Trek Fan-Fiction with New Guidelines

by June 29, 2016

The Star Trek fan-fiction controversy that resulted in legal battles between CBS/Paramount and Axanar Productions may have concluded last week. CBS/Paramount have finally put forth its long-awaited guidelines intended to clarify acceptable fan-fiction so that it won’t get the creative Star Trek fan sued for copyright infringement. But in doing so, it may have launched Star Trek fan-fiction’s torpedo casket into space with a solemn salute. And this isn't the kind that will soft land on the Genesis planet to re-animate a dead Spock. This is the kind that blows through shields and destroys your chances of winning the no-win scenario.

On June 23, 2016, CBS/Paramount issued an open letter to the Star Trek universe that read like a love letter to its most creative members. The letter even went as far as crediting fan-fiction creators with keeping the fictional Star Trek universe alive during franchises dry spells where it was an all but forgotten curiosity making rounds on syndicated television.

CBS/Paramount Open Letter to Star Trek Fans


“Dear Star Trek fans,

Star Trek fandom is like no other.

Your support, enthusiasm and passion are the reasons that Star Trek has flourished for five decades and will continue long into the future. You are the reason the original Star Trek series was rescued and renewed in 1968, and the reason it has endured as an iconic and multi-generational phenomenon that has spawned seven television series and 13 movies.

Throughout the years, many of you have expressed your love for the franchise through creative endeavors such as fan films. So today, we want to show our appreciation by bringing fan films back to their roots.

The heart of these fan films has always been about expressing one’s love and passion for Star Trek. 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.

We want to support this innovation and encourage celebrations of this beloved cultural phenomenon. It is with this perspective in mind that we are introducing a set of guidelines at Star Trek Fan Films.

Thank you for your ongoing and steadfast enthusiasm and support, which ensure that Star Trek will continue to inspire generations to come.

CBS and Paramount Pictures”

After reading this letter, you might be satisfied that the guidelines themselves are sure to be generous to fan-fiction creators. You’d assume CBS/Paramount would be doing everything it could to promote and diminish the barriers to fans’ do-it-yourself Star Wars entertainment projects. Surely, these new guidelines will offer the full weight of CBS/Paramount support to the fans.

Sadly, the guidelines are ridiculously draconian with arbitrary rules regarding titles, props, feature length and even budget. These rules seem tailor-made to sink Axanar Productions. Axanar Executive Producer Alec Peters expressed his disappointment with the guidelines.

While CBS/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 40 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 said in an interview with FOX411.

New Rules

Some of the new rules for making your own Star Trek movies and posting them to YouTube include:
  • 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.

Part of the non-commercial requirements include:

  • 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 cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.

And let’s not forget:

  • 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.

I guess that means I better hide that hour-long “Spock Sings” video, starring me singing all your favorite Vulcan numbers including a rendition of Taurus by Spirit, which sounds suspiciously like Stairway to Heaven.

Note: These guidelines don't include audio or written works of Star Trek fan fiction.

To Be or Not To Be

General ChangCBS/Paramount wanted to make a point with its lawsuit against Axanar earlier this year. But the point that was actually made loud-and-clear was that the big production companies are threatened by amateurs who seemingly could potentially turn a fan film into a production enterprise. Why? That’s because only amateur fans are interested in truly “fan-friendly” Star Trek stories. Meanwhile, Paramount’s latest round of productions only seems to want to turn Star Trek into Star Wars-lite by plumbing the depths of action sci-fi instead of making thoughtful, character driven films that would rather raise questions about the universe than … blow it up.

Sadly, the new CBS/Paramount guidelines are a stab in the back to Axanar. Even after the Star Trek copyright owner had apparently said it would relent its existing lawsuit against Axanar. J.J. Abrams himself announced that CBS/Paramount had agreed to drop the lawsuit because Beyond director Justin Lin didn’t want a fan-fiction lawsuit to sully the karma of the latest Trek movie, Beyond due out July 22.

Apparently Abrams doesn’t have the pull he thought he had with Paramount, because the guidelines threaten to squash the upcoming Axanar fan-film. Now we’ll just have to wait to see what happens as both sides continue to grind it out in this legal battle. 

If CBS/Paramount succeeds in killing Axanar, and other fan fiction endeavors, what happens to the Star Trek universe when the lean years return? It may seem a long way off now with a new Star Trek movie immanent and a new TV series on the way, but Star Trek will inevitably cycle back out of pop culture. We hope that CBS/Paramount isn’t paving the way for the beginning of the end of Star Trek, and potentially, all geeky fan fiction universes out there.

To Be or Not To Be is the question which we ask about the future of Star Trek fanfilm. What do you think? Share your thoughts in our forum thread.


About the author:
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Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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