Now that Project SMALL ACCESS has picked up nearly one thousand active participants on Facebook in just three days, we’re getting noticed. Obviously, we have a fair number of supporters–and still growing!–but there are also detractors out there calling out our campaign for all sorts of reasons…some valid, and some very much not.
In an effort to make sure there are no misunderstandings about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and who is behind it, I’ve put together the following list of questions and answers that I hope will be widely shared…
Q: Is this some kind of boycott? I see a lot of people saying they’re boycotting.
A. While this group welcomes anyone who wants to raise their voice to protest the new fan film guidelines–including boyotters–the stated purpose of SMALL ACCESS is to allow fans to actually watch the new Star Trek series rather than avoid it entirely.
The organizers of this group LOVE Star Trek with all our hearts, and we wouldn’t want to miss seeing it when the new series debuts in January. But we also love fan films–ALL fan films–and we feel that the only chance we have of making our voices heard loud enough to get the studios’ attention is through this campaign. Hopefully, we’ll be successful.
Q: If it’s not a boycott, then what is it?
A: Honestly, it’s just a whole bunch of viewing parties! Studios seldom take boycott threats seriously because, c’mon, we’re Trekkies! You might say you’re not going to see the new movie or you won’t subscribe to watch the new TV series, but the studios don’t believe you. You’re a Trekkie, and that’s a guaranteed dollar sign in their mind, no matter how much you argue otherwise. In fifty years, no boycott threat by Trek fans has ever worked…except the 1968 threat to boycott advertisers if NBC didn’t renew Star Trek.
But this idea doesn’t require fans to miss the new series..and that could actually scare CBS because the plan is believable and quite workable. We can still watch it…just with a “designated subscriber” who pays the monthly cost of All Access, and the others chip in. If two fans get together to watch the new series and split the cost, CBS loses 50% of their potential revenue (or $3/month for each person). If six people get together in a “collective,” CBS loses a potential $5/month for each of the six people, or 85% of potential revenue. Hence our name: SMALL ACCESS.
Q: Is this idea even legal?
A: People have “Game of Thrones” viewing parties all the time, and not everyone there is an HBO subscriber. Yes, this is legal…I checked.
A good analogy is to imagine that five people go into McDonald’s and each gives a dollar to one guy who then buys a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets. The one guy pays the five bucks, goes back to his friends, and they each have four McNuggets. McDonald’s can’t tell their customers what to do with the food after they buy it.
What would be illegal would be copying and distributing the episodes of the new digital STAR TREK TV series. But showing it in your living room to a bunch of friends? That’s called a viewing party, and it’s pretty common.
And hey, if you’re really worried, then don’t give your friend cash directly. But him or her a snack. If the “designated subscriber” pays his 6 bucks a month and his friends chip in to buy him five dollars worth of pizza, it all comes out even in the end, right?
Q: Someone in your SMALL ACCESS Facebook group recommended downloading the episodes illegally via a torrent. Do you condone piracy? It was even mentioned in your first survey.
A: No, no, a hundred thousand times NO!!!! No piracy! That is NOT the way to approach the studios respectfully. The only reason that downloading the episodes in some other way was even mentioned in our first survey was in order to figure out how vigorously we needed to work to stamp out such considerations by our members. As you can see, it has resulted in this very entry on our Q&A list! Had the piracy answer been the #1 selection on our survey, there was consideration of actually shutting down this group immediately, as it would have obviously been attracting the wrong mindset of people. But since only 15% of respondents indicated their intention to download illegally, it was decided to keep the group going and simply dissuade members from piracy (through strong reminder posts and this Q&A list).
Q: So what precisely are you hoping to accomplish, and how will you accomplish it?
A: Our goal is something we’ve decided to call “REVISIT AND REVISE.” Most Star Trek fans seem to agree that these new guidelines will kill most, possibly all, Star Trek fan films forever. So our goal is to convince CBS and Paramount to revise the guidelines and make them more flexible and less Draconian. We want to be fair to BOTH sides. Some of the guidelines are fine as they are. Some just need a little tweaking and clarification. One actually violates the California Business and Professions Code section 16600 and is unenforceable. And yes, some need serious rewording or perhaps elimination entirely.
But we want to be reasonable, and we want to be united. That’s why we’re going through the guidelines point by point, discussing each, and voting on the changes we want with hundreds of unified voices.
Q: And why do you think the studios will even listen to you at all?
Let’s say that each member of our Facebook group represents an average potential loss to CBS of $4/month or about $50/year. With 1,000 members, we’d cost CBS perhaps $50,000/year in revenue…not very significant. But with 10,000 members, we could represent a potential revenue hit of a HALF MILLION DOLLARS per year. And that, my friends, might be enough to get someone’s attention at CBS…probably someone whose job is to make sure CBS All Access is profitable. It’s already a big risk for CBS. Will people pay to see Star Trek on television? There’s little margin for error on this gambit for CBS and their shareholders.
Our goal is not to destroy Star Trek. The new series is already being made and will launch on schedule (we hope). But anything that could directly and negatively affect the All Access bottom line is something that the studio will want and need to before it turns into a significant loss in revenue. Is the potential loss of revenue worth holding the line on a set of arbitrary fan film guidelines that are clearly alienating the fan base in the first place?
Our goal is to get noticed by the giant long enough to have a reasonable discussion. All we ask is for a chance to make our voices heard and hopefully get these horrendous guidelines revised.
Q: Aren’t you just being run by Axanar and isn’t Alec Peters pulling your strings?
Absolutely, positively not in the slightest! The three moderators behind the SMALL ACCESS campaign are, admittedly and proudly, Axanar supporters…but we support ALL fan films. We LOVE them. And these guidelines threaten nearly every Star Trek fan film and series ever made or yet to be made. It’s not about helping Axanar or blaming Alec Peters…to us, that argument is so last week.
Instead, we have a singular focus to convince CBS and Paramount to REVISIT AND REVISE. If someone joins our group and starts Axanar-bashing, we ask them politely to stop…using the simple analogy that you don’t bring a soccer ball to a hockey game.
And yes, a few people have joined our group with the goal of talking us out of this “crazy idea that’ll never work.” Maybe it won’t. Maybe we’re titling at windmills. But we’ve got nothing to lose. These guidelines are about as bad as they can be; so it really can’t get much worse.
So if you don’t believe in the cause, fine. Then don’t join. We’re still going and growing strong. And if you want to try to talk us out of it, that’s fine, too. You’re pretty much spitting into the hurricane, of course, but we won’t stop you.
But if you do believe, as we do, that these guidelines are toxic and need revisions, we invite you to join us, share your opinions and ideas, and possibly even save Star Trek fan films. In every revolution, there is one man with a vision. We’ve already got a thousand of them!