FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 1) – DO WE FIGHT ON?

When CBS and Paramount jointly announced their new fan film guidelines last June, most of us in the fan production community (both filmmakers and viewers) were horrified, furious, indignant, grief-stricken, and depressingly convinced that these ten Draconian rules would spell the end of world for Star Trek fan films as we knew them.

And few out there felt more strongly about this than yours truly!  I used words like “carnage,” “eliminate,” and “destroy.”  I proclaimed in a blog I posted on June 23, 2016:

In short, these new guidelines would obliterate the majority of fan films…

And I quickly moved to set up a new protest campaign, Project: SMALL ACCESS, endeavoring to use the threat of fewer subscriptions to CBS’s new All Access paid video streaming service to try to encourage the studio(s) to revise and revisit these overly-restrictive guidelines.

SMALL ACCESS quickly grew to over a thousand members in a group on Facebook, and we examined the guidelines one-by-one.  Through polling and discussions, we determined that about half of the guidelines were actually just fine as they were and didn’t cause much angst.  Another quarter of them could benefit from a little tweaking of the phrasing to explain them better.  And the final quarter of them, well, they pretty much pissed most of us off completely.

Eventually, we created a 38-page Focus Group Report, and members mailed 115 copies to various executives at both studios.  Yes, it was a stunt, and no, it didn’t work.  Eight months later, the guidelines are still in place, and the studios don’t seem to be inclined to make any changes.

So what in the name of James Tiberius Kirk do we do now?

I’ve been sitting with this question for a few months now.  It’s right up there with:

  • “Did we completely fail?”
  • “Was there something else that could have been done differently to make us succeed?”
  • “Should we just give up, accept the inescapable reality, and move on with our lives?”

These aren’t easy questions to answer.  For example: “Did we completely fail?”  Well, if the goal was was to get the guidelines changed (and it was), then yes, we’ve failed…but no, we didn’t fail completely.  We did actually get noticed.  In one of the depositions from the Axanar lawsuit, a CBS executive acknowledged receiving copies of our focus group report.  This means that not all of those 115 copies were just tossed into the garbage by the secretaries.  And I know this sounds kinda silly, but I actually consider that a bit of an accomplishment.  We weren’t completely ignored…only mostly ignored.  (Any Princess Bride fans out there?).

Did the studio executives ever take us seriously?  Probably not.  But at least they know we’re out there.  Yeah, we’re small and easily discounted, but at least we got their attention long enough to be noticed.  And that’s why I don’t consider this a complete failure.

You see, eight months later, and all those angry calls to boycott and petitions that were hastily assembled and signed have pretty much gone nowhere.  The main Change.org petition (which is currently at 2,209 signatures) posted this disappointing comment back on August 2, 2016:

Thank you all SO much for your support! We have just hit 2000 signatures! Unfortunately, 2k isn’t enough to change CBS and Paramount’s minds. We need YOUR help sharing this petition so that it can reach as many eyes as possible! Thank you all, and may you live long and prosper!

And there’s been no update since.  By contrast, Project: SMALL ACCESS still has an active Facebook group with 1,283 members, many of whom post often about fan films and the latest news in the world of Star Trek.  We’ve become quite a fun fan community…although our raison d’être (reason for being) still remains unfulfilled–getting those darn guidelines loosened up!

But here’s the reality: no matter how you feel about SMALL ACCESS–a good try, a total failure, a joke, a waste of time, a way for Jonathan Lane to drive traffic to Fan Film Factor, or just a bunch of delusional Trekkies who think they can fight the system and the big studios–the fact remains that we’re it.  There’s no other option left.  There’s no other organized group of fans right now trying to get a message through to the studios.

So if we give up, then yes, it’s over.  Done.  Finished.  The guidelines stay the way they are because there’s no reason for the studios to make any changes.  Now granted, we might not have even a snowball’s chance of getting the guidelines changed anyway.  This might totally be a fool’s errand.  But if Project: SMALL ACCESS throws in the towel–then we guarantee our own complete failure.  We decide, as a group and community, that the fan film guidelines are here to stay as is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

To be honest with all of you, I’m not ready to do that yet.

John Van Citters of CBS Licensing said in his podcast interview last July:

All of this is definitely a conversation. We hope very much that this helps settle things with Star Trek fan films, that it provides some clarity for everybody, and that we can see what is working and what is not working…and we can follow up accordingly with that.

I believe we can still have that conversation.  But in order to do that, I think we first need to know what we want to say.  And that’s why I’m writing this series of blogs.  It’s a way to collect our thoughts…starting with mine and hopefully pulling in all of yours, as well.  Yeah, we probably won’t all agree, but at least we’ll have talked it out.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to continue this line of discussion with all of you…trying to figure out the answers myself as I think out loud, and hoping that you’ll join me in comments here and also over on SMALL ACCESS (feel free to join the group if you haven’t already; our main rule is: “Be excellent to each other”).

There’s no right or wrong answer, but if we’re going to try to keep on fighting the good fight, then it’s important we all get on the same page.

And first up–and for the next installment of this blog series–I’m going to ask another complicated question: what exactly are we fighting?  Are the guidelines really all that awful?  Might they also be a good thing in some ways?  Do we need to wipe the guidelines off the face of the planet, or can we find a way to live together in peaceful coexistence (because we probably don’t have much of a choice anyway)?

We’ll take a closer look at these challenging questions next time…just as soon as I figure out what I think!

82 thoughts on “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 1) – DO WE FIGHT ON?”

  1. Good start, Jon… for me the guidelines that hurt fan films most is the two 15 minute rule and no storyline continuation. Now I know many may not think 30 minute episodes won’t work well, but let’s revisit ST:TAS. Writers were still able to tell compelling stories that worked within that time frame. But to have meaning in live action format, the “continuing story line” should be revised to be allowed. Terminology is needed to remain viable to the ST world.
    These are the first few thoughts I have.
    Kind regards,

  2. ok… my suggestions:

    1. get consensus from the STFF producers on what revisions they would like to see

    2. create a new petition to CBS and determine best host site – i.e. change.org etc.

    3. create email campaign supporting petition, and distribute to all applicable email lists repeatedly, urging viral exposure – i.e. forwarding

    4. write a little blurb and beg takei to put it on his media outlets

    5. deliver printed signatures with much fanfare and publicity!

    6. organize picketing as needed, and/or excuse to party…

    7. rinse and repeat as necessary… 🙂

    1. Okay…my comments:

      “1. get consensus from the STFF producers on what revisions they would like to see”

      Might be a little challenging to get consensus from that many people, but it’s on my “wish” list.

      “2. create a new petition to CBS and determine best host site – i.e. change.org etc.”

      Maybe. The last petition only got 2.2K signatures. We’d need 100 to 1,000 TIMES THAT to get noticed.

      “3. create email campaign supporting petition, and distribute to all applicable email lists repeatedly, urging viral exposure – i.e. forwarding”

      That’s kinda a full-time job there, Not Herbert.

      “4. write a little blurb and beg takei to put it on his media outlets”

      Also on the “wish” list, but even George Takei only helped bring in a few thousand donors to Axanar. I’m not sure he’d get that many more to sign a petition.

      “5. deliver printed signatures with much fanfare and publicity!”

      Deliver to whom? John Van Citters? Jonathan Anschel? Les Moonves? These people work in locations with security to prevent people from doing just that.

      “6. organize picketing as needed, and/or excuse to party…”

      I was in front of Paramount Studios in 2005 for the SAVE STAR TREK rally. That was the complete cancellation of all Star Trek from television for the first time in 18 years, and only 300-400 people showed up. Fan films? I think we’d be lucky to get a dozen, dude.

      “7. rinse and repeat as necessary… ”

      REPEAT????

      I’m exhausted just reading it!!!

      🙂

  3. First, I’m on the side this is CBS’s IP and they have the right to decide how it is used. So you need to start from that mindset.

    Second, remember that the guidelines came about mostly likely because CBS was seeing an “arms race” in fan films that culminated in a lawsuit (and this is about debating the merits of the lawsuit) and it seems they felt a need for things to get pulled back a bit from the direction they were going.

    Is it possible CBS didn’t have to go as far as they did with the guidelines? very possible. However, if you come from the standpoint that CBS felt things were going a little too far them the best thing for the fan film community right now is to for a litlte while just operate within the guidelines and see what works and what doesn’t work and build some faith with CBS that fan films are going to play nice. Discussions like I’ve seen on some boards trying to find loopholes and ways around the intention of the guidelines is not helpful. Luckily so far nobody has actually do a “it technially meets the guidelines even though it is clear it breaks the spirit of the guidelines” thing in an actual film. That would hurt what you want to do.

    Give things a year or two. See how the guidelines work in practice. Show fan films are willing to play by the guidelines and THEN approach CBS with an attitude of “the community has played nice with the guidelines. Would it be possible to get this one or this one modified some? As an example, this film here could have done such and such extra if they could have done 3 parts or this one here really wanted to do X which would have been cool but guidelines didn’t allow it. Go in with facts about how changes would have made some films better and a record of fan films sticking to them will get you much furthur.

    The current attitude I see on facebook of “guidelines are horrible. let’s find a loophole we can use.” is not an approach that is going to work IMO nor to be honest is trying to threaten revenue of CBS All Access. Even if CBSAA lost some revenue they are not going to assume it is because of he guideline. The causal relationship won’t be there.

    1. You’re going to argue film quality with the very people afraid that fan film narrative quality will outshine theirs? What, precisely, do you expect beyond “That’s ok, it’s just a fan film, after all”?

  4. I’m all for continuing the fight for revisions on the worst of the guidelines (such as the 15 minute rules and non continuing series). We did just fine before those rules came about. Also at least one is illegal. (Anyone ever slip a copy of these guidelines to W&S and Erin R. I’d be interested on their take and whether they’re enforceable). Personally I think Alec Peters set the example we need to follow. He didn’t lay down and roll over when faced with a seemingly insurmountable fight and neither should we. If this is what we want and believe in (I for one do wholeheartedly) the fight on. To quote another famous franchise “NEVER GIVE UP; NEVER SURRENDER!!”

    1. It’s easy to say you’re willing to fight on when two billion-dollar Hollywood studios aren’t suing the pants off you for millions of dollars, Brian. 🙂

      As for the guidelines being “enforceable,” that’s an interesting point. In order to “enforce” them, CBS/Paramount could do something as simple as sending a cease and desist letter or making a phone call. Then, if a fan filmmaker ignored the request, then the studios could opt to take legal action by filing another lawsuit. I’m not sure they would, but if they did, that production would have to defend itself just like Alec did, and I doubt lightning would strike twice in being able to find a top intellectual property law firm to take the case pro bono (especially after what happened last time). Winston & Strawn put in over a half million dollars of free legal work. Were a fan filmmaker to get sued by the studios, they’d likely have to come up with that money themselves. I know I don’t have it.

      1. There has GOT to be a way to keep fighting, because I know that some of CBS’s guidelines couldn’t POSSIBLY be legal – Telling people what projects they can and cannot work on for example, even if it is something they’re not being paid for or something they’re doing on their own free time – That’s bordering on people’s civil rights right there – That’s why, while I’m anxious to see what Alec and company does with the 30 minutes they have to work with, I’m still so disappointed with the outcome of this lawsuit – No-one should have to follow guidelines that might have some non-legal elements to them, no-one – So, yes, I say that we find someone to keep fighting – I have a crazy idea of my own if anyone wants to hear it – I don’t know, but there’s GOT to be a way to keep up the good fight…

        1. “I have a crazy idea of my own if anyone wants to hear it”

          As the Ferengi say, “I’m all ears.” 🙂

          And yes, guideline #5 violates a statute in California Business and Professions Code – Section 16600.

      2. Its very easy to say indeed but I never would’ve said it unless ii meant just that. I came into this believing we were ALL fighting for something we believed in. If this has changed then maybe we all should know so we can be on the same page.

        I wish I had a crystal ball to be able to say what CBS/Paramount would do. If I did we’d have all seen Axanar coming. But if we choose to do nothing, especially when the possibility exists that TPTB might consider a dialogue, then we all pay the price. It has to start with one voice. I listened to yours Jonathan perhaps there are others who haven’t spoken out yet who’ve also listened. They may be waiting to see our next move as well. It might embolden them to step up but I’d need that crystal ball again to know for sure (maybe Carlos Pendraza’s Magic 8 ball would work. Not an insult, just something were talking about on the SMALL Access FB page [cleverly inserted plug placed here]). I just know yes I’m willing to do what I have to do (I sent out 10 packets I believe), tell whomever I have to tell, but I’m not ready to give up.

        1. At the very least, we have nothing to lose by keeping up the fight and everything to gain. At worst, the studios keep ignoring us, and all we “lose” is the time we put in. But if even one guideline is loosened, that’s at least something. I’m willing to stick with it.

    2. The guidelines are neither “unenforceable” or “illegal”. They are guidelines, not rules or laws.
      They are requests that you stay within these bounds.

      If you step out of the bounds, they *may* go after you to stop you. They will do so with the tools of copyright, not this list of guidelines. At no point is a judge going to ever look at the guidelines and judge on that.

      1. True…although there is the question of whether the guidelines represent an implied contract. If so, then any cause of action against a fan film at this point ceases to be a claim of copyright infringement (since a “soft license” was granted in the form of the guidelines) and becomes instead a complaint of breach of contract. It’s an intriguing legal question that is far from a slam-dunk for a fan film, but it’s not an impossibility either.

          1. As I said, it’s not a slam dunk. But just as guideline #5 is unenforceable under California law, so too are some of the clauses in the guidelines written with the hope/assumption that they are legally valid. The studios can SAY it’s not a license or approval, but then the question becomes: what is it, then? Legally, the guidelines must represent something. And it can be argued that, despite the final paragraph, these guidelines do, in fact and in execution, represent some kind of a stipulated agreement two parties. If the party of the first part (a fan production) adheres to these 10 guidelines, then the party of the second part (CBS and Paramount) agree not to initiate any legal action. That sure sounds like a legal agreement to me. Will a judge agree…assuming it ever gets to that? Impossible to say. But I still find it an intriguing question.

  5. this is for everyone to see this befor. you just got from them that i don’t know much about this subject here. But you will not like what i am going to tell you that they want to kill all of the fan films around our country. I went to some SROFA
    and other sites that a writers guild of america west need to by the same rules but a lot harder. You should see the rules that they have here by.
    Just look for this word here:
    wga.org under rules.

  6. As always, Jonathon, I’m impressed with the way you think and the clarity with which you express your thoughts. I would like to swell the ranks of SMALL ACCESS, but I’m one of those who won’t participate in social media. If there is some other way I can add one very small voice, I would be glad to hear of it. (Even though on a limited personal budget, I have contributed financially at times.)

    But as to your theme; I think the fight must continue (easy for me to say), at least on the length of a fan film, and preferably on the ability to pay professional participation at some union-acceptable level, provided the films remain non-profit making and freely available to the consumer (standard requisites for fan films, so probably an unnecessary statement). I am still at a loss to see why CBS/Paramount don’t get that the fan film universe only enhances and sustains the markets for their professional product.

    Let’s face it, the best fan films often have better story-lines than many of the pro releases. Without the continuing outpouring of fan films, I suspect Paramount may have found their market to have dried up years ago, and CBS would not be thinking a new TV series was financially viable.

    So, the fight is not futile, it’s a worthy cause and the fight for the cause is greatly strengthened by what you indefatigably give to it – and, I might add, with an almost surprising level of impartiality. (And no, I’m not being patronising, or any such thing! – you also need support.)

    1. “If there is some other way I can add one very small voice, I would be glad to hear of it.”

      Well, there’s always e-mail…and the telephone! Old-fashioned, I know. 🙂

      1. Oh no Jonathan, not version two of the guideline ranting ! It’s bad enough that those office girls at CBS and Paramount filled two garage cans (32 booklets -lol) with delusional guideline stipulations, not to mention the stomach pains from laughing hysterically!
        Now your contemplating a email attack on these poor girls, who’ll be wearing their pretty fingers out hitting the multiple delete button, or a telephone attack which will result in your callers being dumped into the voice mail box and then group deleted! Please don’t treat these girls like this !-

  7. The guidelines will loosen either the minute Axanar is released or Industry Studios goes under and AP slinks off into the darkness.

    1. I’m not sure how either of those events convinces the CBS executives to loosen their guidelines, Ronald. Axanar must be made under the terms of the settlement, not the guidelines. And if Alec never produces another fan film again, the studios are not going to suddenly change their minds and invite Tommy Kraft to make a $250K 2-hour long sequel to “Horizon” called “Federation Rising.” I mean, I dream of such things, but then I wake up.

  8. Discovery hasn’t aired yet, Paramount Leadership got axed today for poor performance, all this talk of failure is premature.

    I watched a buch on the Trek Award Nominees, 15 minutes is too short, like trying to do a novel on twitter,

    1. I think fan films like Chance Encounter and even Prelude itself (about 15 minutes without credits) show the amazing things that can be done in 15 minutes. And remember that it’s not just 15 minutes…it’s 30 minutes in two parts. The animated episodes told great stories in less than 24 minutes!

      1. The animated stories were continuous though, not restricted to 30 minutes with no follow-up episodes – Also, as for my idea – I’m thinking that we don’t watch Discovery, and then, when the ratings for the series are poor enough, CBS goes, “Why aren’t people watching our show?” Then we can tell them as fans why we’re not watching – That’s one idea I had – Another idea, would be to simply write to these people and let them no in advance what we as fans would want to see in a true, genuine Star Trek story – We could maybe even slip in something about Axanar in the process, if either of these ideas make any sense to you – Anyway, I know these are both long-shots at best, but one or both of them could very well be worth a try, maybe… P

        1. I think your plan would require us to be a group larger than 1,300 people, Amil. When CBS needs 3 million subscribers, the entirety of SMALL ACCESS totals only One-thirtieth of one percent of what they need. As for writing to them, the studios typically do not listen to fan suggestions for a number of reasons. First, fans seldom agree on anything. Second, fans don’t always have a realistic idea of what is doable in Hollywood in terms of budgeting and resources and what makes a story and production work. We may all think that Axanar is the next, great Star Trek, but that’s not necessarily true on a grander scale. Jerry Lewis movies were huge in France, but that didn’t translate at all to the American box office. Studios would rather control their own destiny…even if that means fallen flat on their face. And finally, fans who send in suggestions sometimes feel entitled to sue for idea theft if the studio ends up making something that seems similar…even if the ideas developed entirely in a vacuum. That’s why studios purposefully keep mail with “suggestions” as far away from the writers and producers as possible…as a legal protection for them.

          1. “Jerry Lewis movies were huge in France, but that didn’t translate at all to the American box office. ”

            But market sizes change over time, as do tastes, and simply deciding that something that was the cast 40 years ago will be the case today is pretty poor practice. Which leads to:

            “Studios would rather control their own destiny…even if that means fallen flat on their face.”

            A pretty bad idea. As marketing guru Philip Kotler points out, “Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires.” and “the goal is “meeting the needs of your customer at a profit.” How on earth are you going to fulfill needs and desires without actually talking with the consumer base – especially the most loyal ones?

            Anyone operating in a market in never in full control of their own destiny (hence Porter’s five forces in business strategy). Suppliers, competitors, customers and others influence to varying degree what can and what can not be done. Running after a pipe dream more often than not is a guarantee to fall flat on your nose, not just a risk.

          2. Good points, OH−. But Gene Roddenberry once reportedly said, “If I listened to the fans, Star Trek would be sh*t.”

            Remember that Star Trek fans represent only a small fraction of the total audience that the studios want to attract. And us hard-core fans are an aging breed (sorry, but we are). Sure, there’s some younger ones in the mix, too, but in general, we’re no longer in that coveted 18-39 demographic.

            It’s not that CBS is ignoring the market completely. It’s just that they do their own research and track their own market trends. They keep their own counsel when it comes to figuring out what to do with their properties…and that’s their right. We fans like to believe that we’re closer to Star Trek than we really are. In truth, over the 50-year history of the franchise, few decisions were made because “fans demanded it.”

          3. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if CBS snatched up my fan film ideas, just as long as they allowed people to make some freaking decent length, genuine Star Trek films, but I do get what you’re saying Jon – In the meantime though, I’ll keep thinking and trying to come up with new ideas here – Although, if CBS had any good sense at all, they would do a better job of maybe working with fan film makers to come up with a more agreeable understanding that everyone can be happy with – Ugh, this is what happens when the people upstairs have no real vision… *smdh*

          4. To be honest, I think John Van Citters knows and understands exactly what fan films are and how positive and beneficial they can be to the studios, but his bosses don’t. So he’s stuck in the unenviable position of having to be the first line of defense when dealing with fan filmmakers and having to tow the company line, regardless of how he might feel personally. To be honest, if I were in John’s position (and at one point, I was working with him directly and spending hours in his office, so I know how hard he works), I would probably do exactly what he’s doing, as well. If you’re a Trekkie, being in charge of Star Trek licensing is a dream job. And if you really know your stuff–as John does–you can do so much good to keep Star Trek “true” to canon. That’s not the kind of job you risk just because you’d like to help fan films. In fact, John can probably do more to “protect” fan films from the inside. We want him where he was. But when John’s bosses decided to sue Axanar and create these guidelines, he was a team player. I don’t begrudge him that. He can can fan films…but he can only do so much.

            So what I’m getting at is that the “people upstairs” at CBS/P don’t get fan films and what they can be…and how they’re not really threatening to the property. So the higher-ups issue the orders, and the people on the floor just under “upstairs” have to follow those orders. And unfortunately, the fans pretty much have to go to and through John Van Citters. There’s no express elevator past him to the people upstairs…and so our voices don’t reach the executives they need to.

  9. Just curious if anyone has investigated actually licensing CBS/Paramount’s Trek IP.

    Maybe a happy medium would be for CBS/P to offer discounted licensing for fan films that want to go beyond the standard FF guidelines?

    1. It’s an interesting idea–and one that I think a LOT of fan projects would so with if possible. I know that the new Deep Space Nine documentary, “What We Left Behind,” is licensing footage. But that’s different than licensing a new fan story.

  10. Yes, you have lost.

    First of all, CBS was never going to take notice of a few dozen letters with surveys from a few hundred people.

    More importantly the Fan Film community hasn’t died. While a few productions have stopped or removed Trek from their ideas, many others are excited and are continuing their projects or starting new ones. Nearly all of the producers I’ve seen that have commented on the guidelines have welcomed them and are thankful that CBS wasn’t more strict. It seem that the only people who are still indignant about the guidelines are you and Axanar supporters.

    The bottom line is that CBS has absolutely no reason to relax or remove the guidelines. Nothing has changed to prevent another Alec Peters so they have to stay. If the lawsuit went to trial and the Plaintiffs won big they may have chosen to relax them after that precedent was set. Get used to them Jon, they’re here to stay.

    1. Sock Puppet,

      I can’t resist – put a sock in it! Your comment that “You have lost” is both a little premature and also mis-directed. Jonathan may be a focus point, but he’s far from being the only one not to believe the fight, at some level, must go on. And it’s not only Axanar enthusiasts. It’s far too soon for a verbal ejaculation that all is lost. The real final outcome on this may take years to become clear.

      Whilst we have seen that it’s possible to make excellent short-subject films, we still desire extended stories in the S.T. realm, as well as other Sci-Fi themes. CBS/Paramount, because of demands of keeping all producers happy, are rarely game to take risks in story lines. Fan films, while aware they need to retain their audience, also know that audience is prepared to be much more adventurous in what they’re willing to see than the commercial sources are willing to provide.

      1. “Jonathan may be a focus point, but he’s far from being the only one not to believe the fight, at some level, must go on.”

        Look, after putting so much time, effort, and spirit into this campaign, I’m not going to simply fold up and go home just because Sandy Greenberg writes an anonymous comment and tells me to. I have no respect for Sandy whatsoever (not even nano-respect), so how could I respect myself or ever look my son in the eye again if I did anything just because Sandy or any anonymous poster tells me that I’ve “lost.” I think I can decide for myself when and how to give up…if that is ever something that I decide to do. And if it’s not, then please get out of the way while I charge at that windmill over there.

        There’s an old saying that I’m assuming Sandy and most detractors are not aware of: “Those who say something cannot be done should not interrupt those who are already doing it!” 🙂

        1. Excuse me?

          I stopped posting comments because you threatened to ban me and haven’t on this post.

          1. Ah, so your threats about banning me without a retraction were hollow.

            I hear through the hatervine that you’re doing a hit piece on STC and the guidelines but it’s not Axanar related. This mere hours after Alec gets roasted on the Axanar page for posting a sour grapes post. Keep pushing the narrative Jonny, I’m sure Alec will eventually reward you with stock or more patches.

          2. That’s not what I told Gabe Koerner. Here’s the exact quote:

            “It’s not an Axanar-related piece at all. It’s just part of a list on the guidelines that STC might be running afoul of and how it’ll be interesting to see how the studio(s) react(s). STC seems to believe they will be left alone, and I hope they will be.”

            You’ll see the full blog later on this week, and you can decide if it’s a “hit piece.” Personally, I don’t think so, as it’s not really about STC but about the predicted “death of fan films” that seems not to have happened. It’s a good blog piece–I think folks will like it.

  11. When the guidelines came out I was pissed… at Alec for pushing CBS and Paramount so that far that they had to sue and for loudly insisting on guidelines. Well, he got what he wanted! He screwed it up for everyone.

    There was ONE guideline before all of this: Don’t personally profit from your fan film. Alec crossed the line and now we all have to pay.

    #ThanksAlec

  12. Getting any of this to work will rely on the one tool that our current executive administration is ranting against: the press!

    So long as we’re an isolated community, easily ignored by CBS, there will be no change. We need to be in the public eye and preferably immediately before CBS’s new hope (get the reference?), Star Trek: Discovery is about to open its doors.

    If the number of CBS ALL Access subscribers is noticeably fewer than CBS is banking on them being, preferably because of Small Access and the others, then this might well be the only way of getting the idea across to the media. And, from there… who knows?

    1. Yeah, I tried to get media attention last time (when we sent in the focus group reports). I wasn’t surprised to find little interest in covering a campaign that only resulted in 115 pieces of mail sent the the studios.

      Hey, live and learn. Next time we try a different approach.

  13. “So what I’m getting at is that the “people upstairs” at CBS/P don’t get fan films and what they can be…and how they’re not really threatening to the property. So the higher-ups issue the orders, and the people on the floor just under “upstairs” have to follow those orders. And unfortunately, the fans pretty much have to go to and through John Van Citters. There’s no express elevator past him to the people upstairs…and so our voices don’t reach the executives they need to.”

    Then I almost don’t see the point of even trying to continue fighting, since CBS holds all the cards, and they, apparently, don’t care worth spit about the fans opinions – I mean if they’re just going to do their own thing, regardless of how the fans feel about it, then really what is the point – I’d hate to admit defeat, but I don’t where we can go from here if CBS won’t bother listening to us anyway :/ On kind of a different note though, I kind of wonder what Paramount thinks about all this, not that their opinion would, necessarily, hold much wait with CBS’s final decision(s) either – I’m just wondering what they think more out of curiosity than anything else, really… P

    1. As I said, this might be a fool’s errand. But if WE don’t fight, then no one will…and we guarantee that nothing will change. A tiny chance of success is always better than no chance at all.

      1. Okay, so, what else do we have really if we can’t even get past the front door (this John Van Citters guy)? – I mean what else can we really do at this point?…

          1. I’m always reading your blog Jon – The suspense is slowly killing me though lol… P 😉

          2. Lack of sleep from writing blogs all night long is slowly killing me…but what ya gonna do? I stay up late to take Jayden to the bathroom so he doesn’t wet his bed. Blogging is just another way to stay awake until 1:30am. 🙂

          3. We can always keep each other alive a little longer with our shared optimism of a better future for all Star Trek fans… P 😉

  14. I’m rejecting Discovery (beyond pilot) due to principle objection of forcing new subscription service; but also Small Access concerns, and financial inconvenience.
    Agree that media could be vital factor in garnering support/ recognition. Submit press release type article to various fan film sites/ communities and sci-fi/ Trek fan sites (Youtube channels?) summarizing our dilemma/ grievances; suggestion call to action. Spread message through social media. Then attempt larger mainstream media outlets who might be sympathetic/ interested.

    I’m not convinced CBS (being a Corporation) has any understanding or Give A Damn about fan films, or fans. Fan film production is both irrelevant and nuisance to them. CBS doesn’t take any of these productions or protests seriously. Unless indie efforts/ fans disrupt Corporate profits or Company/ brand reputation or IP control, they won’t really care/ improve. They don’t accept or appreciate that fan films offer free publicity and opportunity to ‘up their game’; only contradiction & interference. They’ll do whatever they want to do, for reasons. They can’t be bargained with, or reasoned with… unless coerced/ manipulated. They want domination, not partnership or cooperation. CBS resents Axanar because it challenges their dominion/ is superior to what they provide.
    Corporate prefers to ignore & undermine fan film as infringing/ combative, rather than supportive or collaborative.
    They disrespect/ disregard making independent, original & artistic yet commercially viable movies absent extraneous products/ marketing.
    Regulations are meant as suppressive.
    Ultimately, I’m ok with their regulations EXCEPT:
    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.
    >AS LONG AS NO PROFIT IS MADE, THIS IS NO BUSINESS OF CBS.
    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.
    >CBS HAS NO RIGHT TO PROHIBIT/ PUNISH PROFESSIONALS FROM CHOOSING TO PARTICIPATE.
    THIS IS MERELY INSECURITY ABOUT AUTHORITY BEING CHALLENGED, SHOWN AS INFERIOR.

    6.The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD.
    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.
    >AS LONG AS NO PROFIT IS MADE, THIS IS NO CONCERN FOR CBS.

    1. I think #4 is actually reasonable…based on the clarification from John Van Citters that they just don’t want fan productions buying from bootleggers who are selling larger quantities of unlicensed merchandise. You want your Aunt Edna to sew you up uniforms? Fine. But if she turns it into a business selling TOS tunics to cosplayers…then it’s a problem.

      #5 has definite issues, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere. Contractually, it’s unenforceable under California law.

      #6 – well, when you say “as long as no profit is made,” how do you define that? No fan film is allowed to make any profit, but if you’re giving away as a perk an unlicensed set of TOS tunics, then your production is, in fact, making money off of unlicensed Star Trek bootlegged products. Even if you’re ultimately spending that money on your fan film, it costs CBS money. Remember, you can buy TOS tunics from a licensee and distribute those as perks. Yeah, you probably won’t clear as much money, but it doesn’t have to be tunics. Maybe you provide a set of Star Trek playing cards for a donation of $35. You still clear $25 on the donation, and you give the donor something. Most donors don’t really care which specific perks they get. Sure, a cool original patch design can be fun, but a Shuttlecraft Galileo collector’s pin isn’t bad etiher.

      In this way, I actually think fan films have an opportunity to show CBS how valuable they can be. Doing a crowd-funding campaign? Find a “partner.” Send an e-mail to John Van Citters and tell him you’d like to distribute licensed merchandise as perks and that you’d like to contact some licensees about carrying their product(s). Maybe there’s even some kind of quantity discount you can negotiate. Star Trek PEZ dispensers cost $10.95 retail; maybe you can bulk-order 100 for $8.00 each? It’s free advertising for the licensee plus additional sales vectors into a vertical market for them. (That’s business-speak for you’re selling to Trekkies.) Then, with CBS’s permission, maybe the licensee can talk up their support of your fan film while you talk them up. Win-win. Eventually, maybe other licensees want in on this sweet deal, and suddenly fan films work their way into the “system.”

      Or not. Just thinking out loud. 🙂

      1. Jon, they could just give away perks that they made themselves to whomever wants them, whether they’re donors or not – It would like free promoting for their fan film, and that could cover the no profit issue as far as the perks go… P

        1. If those perks they made themselves are related to their fan film, like a T-shirt with their logo on it, then CBS has a problem with it…although apparently not so much of a problem that they stopped Starship Republic from offering posters. So we’ll see.

    2. I agree with everything you’re saying, Sean – Accept I would add that the time length is not business of CBS’s either, JUST AS LONG AS NO PROFIT IS MADE 😉 Keep preaching on man – I’m with ya… P 🙂

  15. This is appearing in advance of the latest exchanges I’ve received in emails and is in reply to them.
    About the possiblity of the guidelines being loosened – as has been observed before, they’re not totally tight. They say no-one will be sued if guidelines (not regulations or rules, let it be noted) are followed. But they haven’t affirmed the reverse, that someone definitely will be sued if they’re broken. And what about the illegal guideline 6; does that weaken the lot?? Just curious as I’m no lawyer.

  16. Addendum, I meant No 5! And I guess I’m asking; in consequence of the points I made, just how tight are the guidelines. As well-informed minds have accepted them (although STAR TREK CONTINUES seems to be continuing regardless), it’s apparently a case of my non-lawyer mind not really understanding things that to me seem diffuse whereas to the informed the sisuation is relatively inflexible.

    1. Although I doubt CBS would ever admit this, the guidelines work mostly on a combination of the honor system and a don’t-ask-don’t-tell. For example, let’s say that you pay people to work on your fan film. How is CBS supposed to know that or prove that? Well, you could advertise that fact in interviews and on your website…which would be pretty stupid (as certain people found out). Or you could just not say anything. Also, if you buy some tunics from a bootlegger, don’t be stupid enough to SAY that! What CBS doesn’t know won’t hurt you. 🙂

      Not that I’m suggesting anyone try to pull a fast one, but CBS is kinda trusting in the honor system. Y’see, CBS doesn’t want to sue any more fan films unless they really, really have to. The publicity would be horrendous, and God forbid the fan producer lawyers-up like Alec Peters did, the guidelines create a whole other potential avenue for proving non-willful infringement. So if a fan film is 17 minutes long, I doubt they’ll get sued. And if it’s 22 minutes long, I would suspect that John Van Citters would be more likely to send an e-mail saying, “Hey, next time keep it under 15 minutes, okay?” rather than call Loeb & Loeb at $600/hour.

      Now, if a fan film is suddenly 52 minutes long, don’t expect such a nice letter from CBS. Or if you create a Kickstarter with a $350,000 goal…CBS will probably notice and tell you to shut it down. And if you don’t? Well, they might have to wait until you make an actual fan film (possibly not), but imagine putting all that time and effort in just to have CBS waiting at the finish line with a subpoena.

      But most likely, that scenario would never happen. I doubt any fan filmmaker is that ballsy and obnoxious (not even you-know-who). And that’s what CBS is counting on–the honor system. Here’s the guidelines, please respect them. I’ve been told that STC was in contact with CBS (I have no confirmation, so I didn’t include it in the blog entry). But if true, then this is a case of CBS striking a one-time deal in a unique situation. And that’s their right to do. Likewise, Ray Tesi of Starship Republic got a tentative okay to have unlicensed perks. This seems to be a case-by-case situation. How far fan producers can push this by reaching out to CBS directly still remains to be seen. But at least for now, the guidelines are simply that…guidelines. They are not hard rules or laws that carry severe penalties if violated. But they CAN carry consequences, the studios retain that right. And as I plan to discuss in two weeks, they do own Star Trek. 🙂

  17. With respect to, say, T-shirts relating to a fan film in the ST realm. If such a T-shirt has a logo related to the fan film, but has no specific © Star Trek content, then surely it’s just a decorative T-shirt. On the street, who would connect it to Star Trek? To say, “…well, it relates to the fan film, and that in turn relates to our Star Trek © …”, seems to be the start of drawing a long bow. ???
    P.S. I always wonder if you ever sleep.

    1. I get some sleep, but not enough. Having a six-year-old who is a very deep sleeper with a small bladder, I need to take him to the bathroom between 1am and 2am each night. Rather than setting an alarm and waking u Wendy, too, I just blog to all hours and then head upstairs. On school days, my alarm goes off at 6:30am.

      As for perks with your fan film’s logo, if said doesn’t have ANY elements of Star Trek on it–the name, arrowhead emblem, a starship design, etc.–then I think you could contact John Van Citters at CBS and ask if the studio would be okay with that perk offered. But CBS has the final say of whether or not it’s okay with them. If it’s not okay and you do it anyway, they reserve the right to go medieval on your fan film.

  18. Hi Jonathan,
    Of course the abusive guidelines must be fought again and again !
    If you really want to get the attention of CBS, you can create an award ceremony of the worst failures in the showbusiness (or submit the idea to the Razzie Awards) !
    You can create different categories as “most badly used money”, “most ineffective talent handling”,”lowest awareness on business opportunities”, and so on. And if you are cruel and/or just motivated, you can have CBS win them all. With proper communication, such an event won’t get unnoticed…
    In the french version (“Les Gerards” for its similarity to the Cesars and Oscars), the prize is a golden construction block. 🙂
    Have fun !

    1. Why do so many people make suggestions that involve so much work? Isn’t writing a blog and trying to keep a protest movement growing enough? And if it’s not, then add in raising a six-year-old. 🙂

  19. My own thoughts and responses to the Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines:
    1. The length of a fan production or independent film or series has zero to do with copyright law and therefor is unenforceable.
    2. Font has zero to do with copyright law. The rest is whatever.
    3. Of course fans are going to create their own stories rater than rehash something that has already been done. Duh, that is what fan films are all about and the reason they exist in the first place.
    4. While I understand P/CBS want to make money off the fans, most fan productions can not afford to buy official merchandise, and many of the official “merchandise” are very obviously cheaply made and do not show well on camera. Let people build their own sets, create their own props, and sew their own uniforms.
    5. Enforcement of this is not only impossible, it is also illegal because no production company can deny someone from working for someone else just because they worked for you. Also, saying that people can not be compensated for their work on a fan film is also not enforceable because doing so falls under expense just as buying the materials to make the sets, props, and costumes falls under expenses.
    6a. Putting a monetary cap on how much funds a production is allowed to raise in order to pay for the expenses of its creation is again not enforceable as it does not apply to copyright law. Only selling things after the fact to earn money can be classed as “making a profit” and thus falls under copyright law.
    6b. Acceptable.
    6c. Again, unenforceable, especially when DVD’s are easy and cheap to make and can be given away for free, therefor making no profit and thus not violating copyright.
    6d. Acceptable.
    6e. No selling merchandise is acceptable. No giving away for free is not enforceable as it does not violate copyright since no profit is being made from giving free items to people.
    6f. Again, giving things away does not violate copyright thus not enforceable.
    7. Hypocritical on many points as Star Trek has depicted violence, racism, sexism, alcohol, drugs, swearing, and implied sexual actions, etc in its official films and shows. Again, unenforceable outside of no explicit pornography. No privacy violations or defamatory/libelous content – Acceptable.
    8. Acceptable.
    9. Unenforceable and marginally illegal. Original content can not be claimed by P/CBS just because it was in a fan film and doing so infringes on the copyrights of the creators of those original elements/stories. If a fan writes a Star Trek fan fic, then takes that story and removes/changes all Star Trek specific elements to be original, that person can then release and make a profit from said story as an original work copyrighted to them.
    10. Acceptable.

    Frankly, I think P/CBS are chopping off their own nose to spite their own face on this one. They are alienating their fans and doing everything to kick the fans out of their sandbox, one they didn’t even build themselves. As Richard Hatch has said many times, “These big corporate studios just don’t understand scifi because it simply does not fit their business model.” So they kill it as quickly as possible and piss off the fans who love it at every turn. This is a perfect example of that, along side lost shows like Firefly, Max Headroom, VR5, Battlestar Galactica ’78, Alien Nation, Knight Rider ’08, M.A.N.T.I.S., Manimal, and others just like them.

    That being said, P/CBS are only interested in continuing the Kelvin Timeline, leaving the Prime Universe abandoned by them. But the fans refuse to abandon what they love and want to show how much they love that universe by creating more stories within it, even if they are not canon, endorsed, approved, or even acknowledged by the studios and their bureaucracy. The fans are no threat to them, they never were and never will be.

    The fan’s love of Star Trek is sincere, passionate, and relentless. As a result, no fan would choose to bring harm to what they love and their creations are faithful to the heart and soul of Star Trek as Gene Roddenberry envisioned it. How can non-profit fan creations harm a big studio when for 50 years those same creations have kept that vision, that dream alive and thriving against the worst tides of society’s troubles and upheaval.

    The dream of Star Trek endures because it represents hope and a guiding compass towards a better future and the fans seek to make that dream a reality. That’s why technology has advanced the way it has – communicators into flip phones, personal computers, laptops, touch screens, datapads into iPads and Kindles, the development of Transparent Aluminum, the discovery of a trans-warp bubble created by an EM drive, and so many other pieces of technology – all thanks to the dream, to Star Trek.

    No one would hurt something they love so much. A fact the corporate bureaucrats fail to see or understand…

    1. I think you might have a misconception of what the guidelines represent, Elley. If a fan film goes over 15 minutes in length and CBS decides to sue them, it will not be a lawsuit where they sue for the fan film being too long. They will simply sue for copyright infringement, as they did with Axanar…assuming CBS decides to sue at all (which is not a given). The guidelines simply say, “If you do ALL of these things, you will NOT get sued. This is the sandbox you get to play in.” Now, if you leave the sandbox, you may or may not be asked to leave the playground. But if you are asked to leave the playground, the reason given will not be because you played on the swings or see-saw but rather because the playground is private property and you were trespassing. And simply arguing that’s it’s not enforceable to keep someone off of a see-saw, it is enforceable to keep someone off of private property entirely.

      I’m not sure if that’s gonna make sense, but stay tuned for Parts 3 and 4 of this series. You might not like what I have to say, but it’s important to understand the situation. This is, after all, a reality check. 🙂

      Oh, and CBS cares very much about the prime timeline. That’s the universe that Star Trek: Discovery will take place in…mostly. Those Klingons still look weird, and the “no circular nacelles” rule feels like a bad, arbitrary production design decision.

  20. I mentioned this on Project Small Access, but I’ll suggest it here too. I think it’s time we shifted our attack, though, I admit, I have not yet figured out how to do this, but thought I might get some suggestions here. What if, instead of focusing on just one company’s fan film guidelines, we went after that larger problem of broken US copyright laws? This expands the sphere of interest audience beyond just Star Trek to all of fandom everywhere. Furthermore, Mickey Mouse is set to go into the public domain in 2023, six years hence. Does anyone really expect Disney to just sit still and watch that happen? Maybe we should look into the larger battle? the current law is life of the author plus 70 years for individuals and 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from the date of first creation, whichever expires first. Do we really want to risk letting Disney lengthen it again? We are the very first generation to deny our own cultural works to itself. At the very least, it has a nice story line built in, and it might be a way to get beyond the more petty differences and unite a much bigger base in a larger cause.

    1. The phrase “that’s way beyond my pay grade” is now going through my head. While I agree that copyright laws have gotten out of hand in America, I don’t think that’s our battle at the moment. First of all, we don’t have the time or the tenacity it’ll take to convince Congress and the president (whichever president it is by then) to write and sign a law DECREASING the duration of copyrights. It’ll be hard enough to to keep them from being extended again as Mickey Mouse gets closer to becoming public domain. If you think taking on CBS and Paramount is tough, try taking on Disney!

      Also, even if we’re somehow successful, CBS still gets the copyright on Star Trek for decades more (you ain’t lowering those numbers by much even if you somehow convince Congress to act…which you probably won’t). Fan films need something quite a bit more immediate.

      Right now, our focus is directed at convincing just a few people (maybe five or ten at the most) to revise a limited number of legally unenforceable guidelines for one aging sci-fi franchise. What you’re suggesting involves convincing over half of 538 representatives and senators (plus one commander-in-chief) to change a major law in this country that will affect countless businesses and individuals. The former I can maybe handle. The latter, and you need a much more advanced D&D character. 🙂

  21. Robert,
    The problem is not the law but how it is used.
    The law is a protection and it is up to rights owners to sue anyone they find infringing their rights. What is absolutely obvious in the Axanar lawsuit is that the alleged infringement is due to CBS’ inability to evolve with the current time. They do not promote the franchise as it could, should be. They do not want to discuss with fans. Then they sue without warning. This is not good practice !

    No change in the law is needed for the studios to consider different levels of licensing.
    Were the studios granting intermediate licenses for high quality fanfilms, they would quickly forget the limit for crowdfunding because the more the project collects, the more they could get. CBS simply does ignore the supply and demand principle.
    And no, Jonathan, I can not accept the response “it will not earn them enough” because they moved on Axanar for zero and even lost money, it is then they thought it was important enough to represent a threat to their interests. Unfortunately they think as lawyers when the matter is business. Axanar and other fanmade projects are not the ennemy. On the contrary, they might be valuable (profitable) partners. They just have to look from the other side of the lens to find where their real interest is.
    In fact, the current guidelines are OK as a frame where fans will be normally safe. But between the guidelines and the licensed business level remains a void that was the field of fine webseries. As long as there is nothing to fill this void, the only thing to fight is the guidelines. Of course, it would be better to get some studio to give it a try because it is far beyond ST or Axanar, it affects all fans/owners relations. Maybe to enlarge the circle to other actors would be interesting.
    An other question is: for whom is it interesting to fight since there is almost no more series left to fit the level between the guidelines and the licensed business ?

    1. I read somewhere recently that, despite agism when it comes to actors, the real power in Hollywood rests with the old-guard super-elite who are, in fact, quite old. Les Moonves was born in 1949 and spent half a century living his life without the Internet or e-mail and nearly six decades of his life without YouTube or Netflix or Facebook or any of a host of other social media platforms that young people these days almost have written into their DNA.

      As such, Les and many studio heads who are like him (pretty old) just don’t get it. Fan films simply do not compute (as the “Lost In Space” Robot would say…Les was already finishing high school when that show was first on). Social media really doesn’t computer either to guys like him. And truth to tell, the heads of CBS don’t really understand what makes Netflix tick either, and they think they can just copy it and succeed the same way “The Partridge Family” copied “The Brady Bunch” and just added musical instruments. Hollywood is used to looking through a telescope across the street to see what the neighbors are doing and then trying to replicate it.

      And who knows? Maybe some day soon a studio will embrace fan films and licensing independent amateur and semi-professional productions and social media successfully, and CBS will try to copy that. But I doubt it. In the meantime, don’t count on the “old guard” to suddenly “get it.” Until they start retiring and getting replaced by the next generation, we’re gonna be stuck with renovation over innovation.

      1. I agree, and our fight is to keep making noise for the next generation not to miss it too. It is important that they see the signs that the market is ready, that fans are ready, and that it might be a tool for keeping in touch with the audience.
        Among those fan-directors might be the next Spielberg, lucky the one spotting him first. And among those writers, one might find a formidable idea that the studios could pick up to raise it to professional level (saving the cost of a pilot).
        After all, music companies always used talents to discover new artists. Strangely no one seems to see how close the fan-film domain is with music. There are just production teams instead of artists or bands. Singers always begin as amateur prior to eventually enter the pro circle. It is the way it has always been, why not for filmmakers ?
        Oh, I hear from here that schools provide the best professionals on the market and short films are meant to be the royal way to show a director’s skills. What about the guy that successfully
        runs a whole series ?
        I think the “fight” needs some fine éléments to be developped and made public knowledge for studios to consider it. As long as they are not told, shown and demonstrated fanfilms are a good thing for many reasons, they will have no reason to think so. It is our fans’ job to establish this demonstration.
        😉

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