STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, Part 2 (2010 to 2016)

dark-armadaIn Part 1, we began our ten-year journey with the crew of STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, a fan series out of the Netherlands created by Robin Hiert.  Inspired by the early green screen fan series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, Dark Armada attempted to build on the Chroma-keying advances of its predecessor to take low-budget, virtual set Star Trek fan films one step farther to make scenes appear even more realistic in a constrained green screen filming environment.

Gathering together a group of semi-professional fan filmmakers from the Netherlands and Belgium in 2005, Fan Trek Productions (as they called themselves) began filming their first episode in 2006 and released it later that year.  The 8-minute episode “These Are the Voyageswas intended to be more of a learning activity than an actual pilot.  Their first “real” episode (the 13-minute “Worst Nightmare“) would premiere two and a half years later in early 2009, to be followed shortly thereafter by the 15-minute “Choices, part one” toward the end of 2009.  By that point, more than 40 different production people were working on a single episode, and the quality had increased considerably.

And that’s where we left off.  As we enter 2010, Dark Armada owes its fans a sequel to “Choices, part one” plus an explanation of why exactly the series is named “Dark Armada…”

Continue reading “STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, Part 2 (2010 to 2016)”

TODAY IS JONATHAN’S 50th BIRTHDAY!

Yeah, totally self-indulgent, but it is my blog and my birthday, so please cut me a little slack.

Earlier this morning, I got one of my first birthday wishes e-mailed from a friend of mine in the U.K.  Apparently, in the European style, today’s date would be written as 17/01.  THAT EXPLAINS SO MUCH!!!  (And the embarrassing part: in five decades, I never noticed that before!)

So on my big FIVE-OH birthday (which CBS was nice enough to design a logo for!), I would like to thank my amazing family for putting up with me blogging all the time.  And I want to thank all of you for reading what I write.  Even if you don’t agree with me all the time, it’s still fun to know that I’m not just shouting out into an empty vacuum.

Continue reading “TODAY IS JONATHAN’S 50th BIRTHDAY!”

LEGAL EXPERT says AXANAR has more ways to WIN than to LOSE the lawsuit! (Interview)

Moses Avalon works as a leading proponent of artists’ legal rights with 30 years experience and four books under his belt.  Two of his books, Million Dollar Mistakes and Confessions of a Record Producer continue to be required reading in over 50 music business courses around the world including the music business programs at such prestigious colleges and universities as UCLA, Loyola, and NYU. His latest book 100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business is a tell-all guide to help recording artists at each stage of their music career.

In addition, Moses is also a court-recognized music business expert in New York, California, Florida and Puerto Rico, has acted in an advisory capacity to multiple State Attorney General Offices and the Senate Judiciary Committee in Sacramento regarding the music industry, and has appeared on numerous television news shows (Court TV, MSNBC, CNN Money Line, & Bill O’Reilly) seeking the inside info on the music business.  (I got the preceding two paragraphs from his website.)

Although Moses does not currently practice law himself, he knows the ins and outs of copyrights and has served as a consultant and as an expert witness on dozens of cases.  In fact, on cases where he’s testified as an expert, the party that called him as a witness has won 7-out-of-7 times.  Not bad!

He’s been following the AXANAR lawsuit closely and has been offering his guidance to Alec Peters.  Moses feels strongly that Alec has more ways to win this lawsuit than to lose it, and he spent about 45 minutes on the phone telling my how and why…

Continue reading “LEGAL EXPERT says AXANAR has more ways to WIN than to LOSE the lawsuit! (Interview)”

ALEC PETERS discusses AXANAR’S FINANCIALS and his REVIEW COMMITTEE! (Interview)

Readers of the FAN FILM FACTOR comments sections know that I’ve spent months begging ALEC PETERS, executive producer for AXANAR, to discuss his production’s financials with me on an interview.  A few weeks ago, he finally agreed!  This is NOT that interview.

That interview is still coming.  Before I conduct it, I want to invite interested people to submit questions to me that I can then present to Alec.  (Yes, that means detractors, too.  Just be aware that questions that are rude and belligerent won’t make it past the airlock.  You have a question you want Alec Peters to answer?  Fine.  Just be polite when you ask it.  It IS possible, folks.)  I’ll be inviting people to submit questions to me next week after Alec releases his financial summary to donors–and therefore, to the public–and folks have had a chance to review it.  No sense in asking questions when you haven’t seen the document yet (so stop typing, people!).

In preparation for what’s coming next week, I sent Alec a few questions via e-mail a few days ago, asking him to provide some information about the upcoming financial summary, how it is organized, and a little about the committee that was assembled to review it.  Those answers just came back from Alec, so I’m copy-pasting them here to share with all of you (along with some brief IMing I just did to clarify a few points)…

Continue reading “ALEC PETERS discusses AXANAR’S FINANCIALS and his REVIEW COMMITTEE! (Interview)”

STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, Part 1 (2005 to 2009)

To quote Scotty, “I’ve always held a sneaking admiration for this one.”  Actually, my admiration for the efforts of Fan Trek Productions (out of the Netherlands) has never exactly been “sneaking.”  These “semi-professional” (their words) fan filmmakers have consistently turned out really impressive, self-funded episodes of their fan series.  And now, after ten years, that series, STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, has released its final episode.

But that’s only the beginning!

I’ll explain that unusual comment in Part 2, but first, let’s take a look back at a decade of a truly remarkable fan series…

Continue reading “STAR TREK: DARK ARMADA, Part 1 (2005 to 2009)”

JUDGE issues TENTATIVE rulings on EXCLUSIONS in the AXANAR LAWSUIT! (Part 2)

Yesterday in Part 1, we began looking through Judge R. Gary Klausner’s TENTATIVE (important word!) rulings in the AXANAR lawsuit regarding the exclusion of evidence and witnesses from the jury trial.  The rulings were issued to the attorneys early Monday morning (before oral arguments, which is standard practice) and released to the public the following day.

Court-watchers on both sides of the case (pro- and anti-Axanar) were left confused and somewhat speechless, and neither side knew whether to gloat or mope.  Some of the rulings seemed to slam the hopes of the defense, while other rulings seemed to cripple the chances of the plaintiffs.  And a few of the rulings even contradicted each other!  (We’ll look at an example of the latter in just a moment.)

Yesterday, we began with the plaintiffs’ motions in limine (to exclude evidence and testimony).  All but one defense witness was tossed out (I was tossed out–bummer!).  And the plaintiffs were able to get the judgeto exclude any script version and any other piece of evidence produced or created after the lawsuit was filed on December 29, 2015.  But confusingly, the judge allowed Alec Peters’ revised and audited financial statement (which wasn’t produced until just two months ago).  The plaintiffs also received a nod from the judge preventing the defense from bringing up Alec Peters’ previous professional working relationship with the studios prior to his making of Axanar.  And the judge is still considering whether or not to allow the defense to mention the existence of other Star Trek fan films.

All in all, if I had seen only that, I’d have said it’s pretty much over for the defense (assuming all these TENTATIVE rulings stand, which is fairly unlikely).  Some of those exclusions are potentially devastating (especially if the judge rules the defense can’t bring up other fan films…even though the judge himself did on page 14 of his Order on Motion for Partial Summary Judgment).

But then I read his TENTATIVE rulings on the defense’s motions, and it suddenly seemed the plaintiffs could be in major trouble, too!  So today, we go through those…

Continue reading “JUDGE issues TENTATIVE rulings on EXCLUSIONS in the AXANAR LAWSUIT! (Part 2)”

JUDGE issues TENTATIVE rulings on EXCLUSIONS in the AXANAR LAWSUIT! (Part 1)

Okay, nobody cheer, nobody panic!  These are all TENTATIVE rulings in the AXANAR lawsuit.  Judge Klausner himself even made sure to put the word TENTATIVE in ALL CAPS in his ruling yesterday:

The Court makes the following TENTATIVE rulings on the Motions In Limine:

  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 1 – Denied
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 2 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 3 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 4 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 5 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 6 – Under Submission
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 7 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 8 – Granted
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 9 – Denied
  • Plaintiff’s Motions In Limine No. 10 – Granted

 

  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 1 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 2 – Denied
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 3 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 4 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 5 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 6 – Granted
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 7 – Denied
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 8 – Denied
  • Defendant’s Motion In Limine No. 9 – Granted

So what the heck just happened?  Well, first of all, each party submitted motions in limine to Judge R. Gary Klausner on December 16 asking for certain pieces of evidence and witnesses (including me!) to be excluded from being presented or mentioned during the trial.  I wrote about all of those 19 motions in a 4-part blog starting here.  (It’s nice light reading.)

Then, last Friday, both the plaintiffs and the defense submitted 19 separate OPPOSITIONS to those 19 motions in limine…which I’ve collected for your reading pleasure into this single 143-page PDF: Oppositions to Motions In Limine.  (Yeah, talk about light reading!)

I’d actually begun preparing one of my meticulously entertaining  (or entertainingly meticulous) blog analyses of those oppositions, but I got sidetracked on blogs about the Judge’s ruling on fair use last Wednesday , the likelihood of a successful appeal, and a possible trip to the Supreme Court.  And and much as I was looking forward to reading through and summarizing 143 pages of dense legal arguments, that all seems like “old news” now that we’ve got this TENTATIVE (ALL CAPS!!!) ruling to look at.

So let’s look, shall we…?

Continue reading “JUDGE issues TENTATIVE rulings on EXCLUSIONS in the AXANAR LAWSUIT! (Part 1)”

Could the AXANAR LAWSUIT go all the way to the SUPREME COURT? (Part 2)

Yesterday I began taking you on a journey through 250 years of fair use in copyright law.  My information came primarily from this excellent 70-page article by University of South Carolina School of Law Professor Ned Snow: “Judges Playing Jury: Constitutional Conflicts in Deciding Fair Use on Summary Judgment.”

For more than two centuries, the determination of fair use in copyright infringement trials was left to juries to decide.  After all, the Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial in civil cases (like copyright infringement).  But sometime between the 1970s and 1990s, fair use suddenly and inexplicably switched to being a matter of law determined by judges before trial at summary judgment.

This just happened last Wednesday to Alec Peters in the AXANAR infringement lawsuit, as I explained in this recent blog entry.  Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled that, in his opinion, fair use was invalid in this particular case and could not be used as a defense during trial (taking away the primary path to victory for Alec Peters in this lawsuit).  Although Judge Klausner also provided his personal opinion that Axanar was substantially similar to Star Trek, in that matter, at least, he chose to let the jury decide the ultimate question of whether there is substantial similarity.  But on fair use, his opinion also became a court order and took that decision entirely out of the hands of the jury.

Two days ago, I told you that this ruling by Judge Klausner gave Team Axanar valid grounds to request an appellate review of the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  But as I said, judges invalidating fair use before trial is now a commonly accepted practice in federal courts throughout America, and has been for three decades.  There’s a fairly decent chance that Alec Peters’ appeal will be denied at the federal level.  And that leaves only one more stop on the train…

The Supreme Court of the United States.

Continue reading “Could the AXANAR LAWSUIT go all the way to the SUPREME COURT? (Part 2)”

Could the AXANAR LAWSUIT go all the way to the SUPREME COURT? (Part 1)

Imagine it’s about three or four years from now, and you’re watching the news.  Suddenly, you start hearing William Shatner’s voice, “Space, the Final Frontier…” as the news anchor says, “Star Trek fans are about to go where they’ve never gone before. The Supreme Court has just agreed to hear a case involving a 2014 Star Trek fan film called Axanar…”

So you think I’m trippin’, huh?  You think I’ve been smoking la weed a’ toka (now legal here in California, but still not my thing).  Or maybe you just think I have delusions of grandeur about Axanar and I’m completely out of touch with reality.

Well, possibly.  After all, the Supreme Court gets more than 7,000 petitions each year to hear cases…and accepts only about 100-150 of them.  And Supreme Court cases generally involve very important and complex issues of law that have national implications…especially if someone’s constitutional rights are being violated in some way.

So you probably don’t think that a copyright infringement lawsuit against a small Star Trek fan film could possibly rise to the level of having national implications.

But thanks to Judge R. Gary Klausner’s ruling last Wednesday during summary judgement that fair use is an invalid defense at this trial, the Axanar lawsuit is now very much a constitutional case with national implications…

Continue reading “Could the AXANAR LAWSUIT go all the way to the SUPREME COURT? (Part 1)”

Can AXANAR win on APPEAL if they lose at TRIAL?

When I was preparing my previous 2-part blog–THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY!–the first thing I did was to reach out to my legal eagles and ask them what from Judge Klausner’s Order on Motion for Partial Summary Judgment that they thought should go into each of the three categories.

I was surprised when one of my birds of prey typed back: “Ruling of Fair Use to be Invalid – Good.”

Huh?

That seemed like the baddest of the bad!  Fair use was the only realistic way Axanar could win!  Now, the best chance they have is to convince a jury that a fan film full of Vulcans, Klingons, Starfleet, phasers, and Garth of Izar isn’t substantially similar to Star Trek…a bit of a Herculean task.  I was sure my eagle meant to type “Ugly” and not “Good.”  So I asked.

Nope.  They confirmed it was a good thing–and then explained why…

Continue reading “Can AXANAR win on APPEAL if they lose at TRIAL?”