At the end of Part 2, I said that, in order to move forward with our goal of getting CBS and Paramount to revisit and revise the fan film guidelines, some of us more–shall we say–passionate fans are going to have to face a very unpleasant, inconvenient truth.  And here it is:

CBS owns Star Trek.

I’m sorry, they just do.  And yes, I’ve heard all the arguments that it was the FANS who saved Star Trek and supported it all these years.  It was the FANS who spent billions of dollars keeping the franchise commercially viable, watching it on TV and in movie theaters, and buying an endless parade of licensed merchandise.  We fans MADE Star Trek what it is today!

You know who else made Star Trek what it is today?

The studios.

For forty years, Desilu and then Paramount and Viacom poured literally billions (yes, with a “b”) of dollars into creating Star Trek for us all to watch.  And I don’t care how many DVD sets and action figures you own or how many Pez dispensers and TOS bathrobes and 25th anniversary collector plates you’ve bought over the years.  I don’t care if you’ve attended every Creation Convention ever.  The is no way that you’ve spent a billion dollars on Star Trek!  (Well, maybe if you bought the premium Admiral’s package at every Creation con, then you’re probably close to a billion dollars.  But otherwise, no.)

And even though CBS has only owned Star Trek outright for just under a decade, they have continued to invest money into the property through licensing management and now through the development of the first new Star Trek television series to be produced in the past dozen years.  (Has it really been that long since the finale of Enterprise??  Sheesh!!!)

And yes, I know that, along with SPENDING billions of dollars, the studios also MADE billions of dollars from Star Trek.  But that’s understandable.  You won’t find many out there spending billions of dollars with no expectation of financial return (outside of the U.S. government).

But the point is that if it weren’t for the studios actually MAKING Star Trek for five decades, we fans wouldn’t HAVE Star Trek.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you think the J.J. Abrams movies sucked or whether you think Star Trek: Enterprise should have gone seven seasons with Shran joining the crew in season 5 (yes, that was apparently the plan).  And it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking forward to Star Trek: Discovery or dreading it.  The fact remains that, in fifty years, the owners of Star Trek never turned their back on the property or let it languish (too long) or sold it or walked away.  (You can’t say the same about Star Wars, y’know!)

The studios have earned the right call the shots…whether we fans like it or not.  And despite what Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin tweeted, Star Trek does NOT belong to “all of us.”  It belongs to CBS.  And I am truly sorry if that statement upsets some of you.  To be honest, it kind of upsets me, too!  But that doesn’t make it any less true…and this blog is all about reality.

CBS and Paramount decided to issue fan film guidelines.  The guidelines were more restrictive than most fans expected (or wanted).  But they exist, and they are not going away.  That is reality.  Arguing “should” or “needs to” doesn’t really get us anywhere.  And I really want us to get somewhere.

And to get somewhere, we need to start with something that I only realized recently, but it’s quite important in learning to accept the guidelines as a reality.


Most fans who hate the guidelines (and that included me for a very long time–not that I love them now, mind you!) see the range of possibilities as follows: “NO RULES!” on one side and these Draconian “GUIDELINES” on the other side.  Good versus evil.  Happy versus sad.  Or as my dad often says, “Chicken salad versus chicken crap.”

Here’s the way many irate fans see the guidelines…

But that’s a fantasy.  Yes, fan filmmakers operated in a utopia of “No rules!” for fan films (except for the commonly accepted “Don’t charge to see it/No profit” rule) for decades.  But at the other end of spectrum is NOT the “evil” guidelines but rather the much worse “No fan films!  EVER!”

CBS and Paramount could, relatively easily, enforce that absolute moratorium on fan films if they wanted to.  Few fan producers have the resources to fight in court, so for the cost of some cease and desist letters and a few simple court filings, CBS could quickly scare off all but the tiniest number of super-ballsy fan producers.  Sure, the public relations backlash would be horrific for the studio to deal with (which is why you will likely never see such a thing), but it’s there as an option at the other end of the spectrum from the “NO RULES!” side.

So in reality, the spectrum of “really good” to “really bad” looks more like this…

And that, therefore, actually puts the guidelines in a middle “compromise” area.  And when you look at it from that perspective (as I’ve begun to), the guidelines don’t seem like such a travesty anymore.  And believe me, the Jonathan Lane from last July would NEVER have believed he’d be typing that sentence barely eight months later!

But it’s true.  As John Van Citters mentioned in his podcast interview, the guidelines provide a new, official “safe harbor” that no studio has ever offered to its fan base before.  For the most part, the uncertainty is now gone for those who want to follow the guidelines.  Suddenly there is an option for Star Trek fan filmmakers that allows for total peace of mind.

And remember, prior to last summer, if a group of fans wanted to create a Star Trek fan film, there was always the possibility of a lawsuit waiting at the finish line (or even before the finish line, as it turned out in the case of Axanar).   Now there is a way to make your fan film and not have to worry about any repercussions from the copyright holders.  True, it’s a very restricted creative area in which to produce your project, but it’s far from impossible…and some very decent fan films have been released in the past eight months following these guidelines (see my list from at the bottom of Part 2 of this blog series).

And believe it or not, it’s not like you CAN’T violate any of the guidelines.  You won’t trigger some automatic lawsuit if your fan film goes to 21 minutes or you pay some guy to write you original music.  You just do so at your own risk….just like it was BEFORE the guidelines were released.  Yep, back in 2015 or 2009 or 2004, any fan film could have been the first Axanar.  Any production could have drawn the short straw at any time and been the unlucky first fan film that Paramount or CBS decided to make a harsh public example of.  It could have been Star Trek: Hidden Frontier or Star Trek: New Voyages or Starship Exeter or Starship Farragut or Star Trek: Of Gods and Men or Star Trek Continues or Star Trek: Renegades.  It was a game of Russian roulette for the longest time because there was no guarantee for any fan film.  Now there is.

And if you want to spin the Russian roulette wheel again, no one will stop you.  Star Trek Continues plans to do just that when they release their final four episodes, each in violation of multiple guidelines.  But the studios’ decision whether or not to take legal action is on a case-by-case basis, and STC is going to take the chance when they release episode 8 next month that maybe, hopefuly they won’t get sued.  And perhaps another fan film can do the same at some point.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps the studio will take legal action.  Perhaps they won’t.

The point is that, if a fan production chooses to ignore one or more of the guidelines, they are merely transporting themselves back to 2015 or earlier in terms of uncertainty.  Or they can follow the guidelines and be “safe.”  The choice of how to produce their project has not been taken away from any fan filmmaker.  There has always been the option to take a chance.  Only now there is a new option: play it completely safe by following all the guidelines, and you won’t have to worry at all.

And if a fan production does that, there’s also certain other advantages beyond just not losing sleep over getting a cease and desist letter or, worse, a subpoena!  As John Van Citters said, your fan film can now be shown at licensed Star Trek conventions, and you can even have a con table where you can show your film and collect donations.  Fan filmmakers never had that opportunity before…and it’s pretty major.

Now look, I know it sounds like I’m just being an apologist for the guidelines and that someone at CBS has probably kidnapped your favorite blogger and replaced him with a pod person or pre-programmed postironic android.

“What have you done with the real Jonathan Lane???”

But that’s not the case, folks.  This is reality.  We’ve now had eight months to look at the effect of the guidelines on fan films, and as I said in Part 2, mass prognostications of the death of Star Trek fan films from the guidelines have proved (so far) to be unfounded.

So now we’re left with a bunch of guidelines that are somewhere in the “compromise” zone.  And that part is fine.  I just personally think they have been placed a little too close to the “Draconian” side.  And while “overly permissive” might be on many fans’ wish lists–where fan films can run 2 hours long and raise up to a million dollars in crowd-funding–that isn’t realistic either.  And just as the “too restrictive” side doesn’t feel fair to the fans, the “too permissive” side isn’t really fair to the studios.  (Yes, I just typed that.  And I am NOT a pod person!)

If CBS and Paramount don’t feel comfortable with fan films having a “space race” (as John Van Citters called it) where they’re constantly trying to one-up each other with bigger budgets and more celebrity actors and other professionals, then that’s their right as the copyright holder.  You and I might believe the studios are missing out on some amazing marketing and licensing opportunities, but as I said, we can’t dwell on “should” and “needs to.”  It’s their sandbox, and we need to respect their ownership.  That, my friends, is reality…since Star Trek isn’t for sale, and we couldn’t afford the $4 billion price tag to buy it anyway!

So that brings us back to the same question I asked last time:

Then why bother keeping up the fight at all?  If I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the bomb, er, guidelines, then it’s time to move on to other things, right?

Well, no.  I still think there’s room to make these guidelines work a little better for both sides.  As I said last time, change can be for the better.  That’s what I’m hoping for the guidelines: to nudge them ever so slightly (but significantly) away from “too restrictive.”

Now that I’m over my initial shock and indignation from last June, maybe we all can concentrate on figuring out which guidelines are the ones to really focus our attention and resistance efforts on.  And perhaps, if the studios don’t think we’re just an irrational mob out to get rid of the guidelines entirely, and if we can point to just one or two guidelines that we really, REALLY think have pushed the restrictions too far…

…then maybe we might have a hope of succeeding where we didn’t before.

So what one or two guidelines do YOU think are the most problematic?  Feel free to comment.  And I’ll share MY choice(s) next time

111 thoughts on “FAN FILM GUIDELINES: Reality Check (Part 3) – THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH”

  1. Fair points Jonathan.

    I think the guidelines on length, and funding and who can appear are a bit too strict.

    some restriction is only fair, they do own star trek after all, but despite how well Alec and co did with Prelude, 30 mins is very short. an hour for stand alone or 90 mins total as 2 parts would be nice.

    funding, nowadays money doesn’t go very far, now leaving it open is too much but say 100K with the stipulation that any money over goes into a trust for next project and if you do not do another project then it must be donated to someone else’s ST film project.

    Also turning round and saying former trek actor can’t take part in your project is very rude? mean? jerkish? not sure of the right word but it was not very nice. If the an actor chooses to appear in a film that should be his/her choice. If the problem is using their status/fame to draw more money then that has been addressed with the funding cap. not a lawyer so not sure, but my understanding is that particular guideline is not enforceable anyway.

    Paying those behind the camera. Never understood this one. If a fan film wants to spend some of it limited budget on getting professionals behind the camera as well as in front then that is up to them and those who do the work. again I am lead to believe that this might not be enforceable.

    the other guidelines are not a huge problem and can be worked with, though the costs of props can be pricey. if there are restrictions on much the project can spend then there has to be some control of the price of props.

    1. I’ll be hitting a lot of those points in my next two parts as I go through each of the guidelines and their impact. But you mailed a lot of the salient issues, Martyn.

    2. In other words the studios should just turn over and change everything you don’t agree with.

    3. Saying Trek alumni can’t do Fan films is CBS’s right I live in CA and I’ve hired and terminated individuals for years.

      And if a SAG actor may have a chance to work on direct real Trek or do pretend Trek i. e. Fan films which do you think they are going to take? Which do you think will pay more? Does anyone thing Gray Graham or Jeffrey Combs would turn now a role in Discovery to play in any fan film?

      1. I think the argument was more about someone like Walter Koenig, who would at his age (80) be unlikely to appear in any other film (Star Trek or otherwise). Why keep him from appearing in a fan film and having a little fun? Or how about Michael Dorn? He would LOVE to play Worf again…or to appear in any fan film. It’s fun for him (he was the voice of the computer in STC’s “Fairest of Them All”). But he’s not getting casting calls from Paramount or CBS to appear in Star Trek, and at 64 years old, such opportunities are becoming ever less likely. So why take fan films away from him?

      2. Brenda, I’m not sure what having hired and fired people has to do with Trek alumni being in fan films, but…

        Of course a professional actor will take a paying job over a freebie…but what if they’re a fan and really WANT to do a Star Trek fan film? That should be their right and choice…it’s not like actors are under contract to studios anymore…

  2. There’s the slavery one where people who work on Trek have sold their lives and souls to CBS/P and are forbidden to work on fan films. I wish someone would challenge this one in court.

    The time limit on episodes, of course, along with the no sequel %$*(#.

    The fund raising limit although fund raises should offer official Trek merch along with other goodies – that’s a fair point.

    1. Technically, nobody forbade anyone from working on a fan film. CBS just said that if you follow these guidelines (including not using former Trek actors), you’re in a safe harbor where you won’t get sued by them.

      Also, I’m not sure the concept of enforcability in court is relevant here. This is not a legal contract and nobody is bound to it, so who would have standing to challenge it in court? It’s just CBS making a statement about their intentions regarding potential legal action against future fan films.

      If I call up Patrick Stewart and offer him a cup of Earl Grey in exchange for not pursuing U.S. citizenship, have I violated his rights? After all, he has the right to pursue citizenship if he wants it, and I have no right to stand in his way. But that’s not what I’ve done. Instead, I’ve offered him an incentive to persuade him towards a particular course of action, just like CBS has done here with the guidelines.

      1. I’m not sure it’s a perfect analogy there, Shawn, but I get your point. But it seems to be an unknown question among the few lawyers I’ve spoken to whether the guidelines could be considered an implied contract. They’ve all told me it could go either way and would depend on a lot of research and shrewd legal arguments…and I’m not paying any of them to do that kind of work for me! 🙂

  3. You are wrong, DEAD WRONG. I think that Star Trek as I want it to be is dead, and until I am given what I want I have every right to bitch and moan the things that I don’t have. I want the Post Nemesis storylines to continue, and don’t tell me that Star Trek Online fills that void because it doesn’t and never will. A supernova powerful enough to destroy that much is impossible. It isn’t plausible science like most of the rest of Star Trek. So Discovery is prime universe okay big deal, it isn’t post nemesis so I’ll watch it and may like it may hate it, but I am getting really jaded about everyone not doing something to fix this big concern. Hell they could cannonize the typhon pact novels for a start but then that might make someone happy so fuck CBS.

    1. Please don’t swear on this blog, Alex. We say “shat” and “frack” here…or “sh*t” and “f*ck.” I know it’s prudish, but them’s my rules because I want our discourse to remain on a higher level. Thanks.

  4. I would like to see Items 1 (time and episode limit) & 5 (no professionals involved) modified since if you keep the $50,000 limit of fundraising guideline in place, Items 1 and 5 are self-limiting. If someone can produce a 45 minute fan film for under $50,000 with professional actors more power to them.

    1. Actually, the $50K limit is only for using Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, or a similar online service. As John Van Citters said, if your rich uncle wants to write you a huge check, that’s fine. This means you can still have a million dollar fan film. You just need a REALLY rich uncle…or several. Private fund-raising is allowed to go over the $50K limit.

  5. John Van Clitters did fans a HUGE solid by doing that podcast. More anti-guidelines folks need to listen to it to get a more informed understanding of the situation. I have seen many videos since the podcast, and it just pisses me off to no end HOW MANY raging uninformed assholes out there bitching about aspects of the rules in such a way that makes it clear that: 1. They didn’t listen to the podcast, or 2. They misunderstood what he said because they were too busy throwing a tantrum(I know that that is inflammatory and in some cases unfair, but I am SICK of these uninformed whiners bitching about points that they have incorrect). They’re making us look like whiny morons.

    No, the situation is not super ideal, but fan film producers are very likely not curing cancer either. Get over this, people.

    I am probably gonna get SO flamed for this. Ah, well.

    1. I think you’ll like much of my next two blogs in this series as I look at the guidelines one by one to find the most troubling one(s). Oh, and “a-hole” would be a nicer word to use if you wouldn’t mind please. 🙂

      1. Sorry about the a-hole thing. I routinely try to watch on YouTube/listen to podcasts made by those who oppose the guidelines looking for salient points to dislike about the guidelines and not just umbrage for it’s own sake, but I continually come across a point of contention that the Van Clitters podcast makes clear is not what people seem to think.

        It’s confounding to try to remain informed when the people who comment on the situation clearly aren’t.

        1. Yeah, I’ve watched a few of those commentaries, too, Jason. In fact, a few weeks ago, I posted on Oh, FYI” correction to some misinformation one of them was inaccurately complaining about. You can, in fact, hire your Aunt Edna to sew all your costumes…just as long as she isn’t a bootlegger. 🙂

  6. Very fair post Jonathan.
    My beef with the guide lines has always been that CBS/P were being foolish in being as restrictive as they are, and I have disagreed with you on the effectiveness of the viewing party approach to protesting the over restrictiveness of the guidelines, but I never had a problem with the idea of guidelines, or even with protecting IP, Even though I think copyright has gotten way too Mickey Mouse, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do away with all copyright protection.

    It is also worth pointing out something else about the fan film guidelines. Do you know of any major studio that formally allows any ongoing fan productions using it’s IP on a continuous basis other than CBS/Paramount? Disney is often sited for this, but fan films are, as far as I can determine, only good for the duration of their fan film contest. The rest of the time it is not allowed if I am reading the rules right. If this is correct, then that makes Star Trek the first and only IP to get that privilege. Seen in that light, that’s a huge victory for the fans.

    My two most problematic fan film guidelines are the combination of the fifteen-minute time limit per episode and the two-episode limit. I could live with either one alone, but not both. I would llike one to be loosened up a bit, If I had to pick one to loosen up, it would be the limit on the number of episodes. Six would be a good number, more if possible. It allows for a movie-length story, but no sequels to a movie and a decent episodic miniseries. If the time limit per episode could be lengthened to 30 minutes as well, that would be great, but I’d be happy with 15 minutes and six episodes. Having seen some of the excellent work from people like Lin Oeding(check out Wake and Interpretation on YouTube for examples), I am sure it is entirely possible to create a good short film on anything in under 30 minutes–so long as the storyline is fairly simple. But the more complex stuff in Star Trek, IMO, needs a bit longer to really develop properly.

    1. Hey Robert you should TOTALLY checkout my guidelines that I came up with for Star Trek Fan Films – I think you’d probably like them… P

  7. The two most problematic of the guidelines are:
    1. 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.

    two 15 minute is excessively restrictive. While I could agree that a 5 hour epic story might be great for the fans, it is a bridge too far for the studio’s. A more reasonable limit might be two 45 minute or 1 60 minute film.

    2. 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.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with their copyright or trademarks. This is prior restraint of trade. If a person that was involved in Trek wants to participate in a fan film in some way that is their business not the studio’s. If the producers of the fan film wants to or needs to pay someone for their services that isn’t the studio’s business. If Tim Russ wants to direct a fan film, he should be allowed to and he should be able to be compensated in some way for his time. If Tim Russ want to play Tuvok and be the main character of the story that is a different issue. Trek actors should only be allowed to do brief cameo’s of their characters or be playing an unrelated character

    1. Guidelines #1 and #5 seem to be at the top of the hit list. Interestingly enough, both guidelines have two different parts to them. #1 has the 15-minute limit AND the no series rules. #5 has the no Trek veterans AND the don’t pay anyone rules.As such, I’ll be treating each as an a/b in my analysis next time.

    2. “If Tim Russ wants to direct a fan film, he should be allowed to and he should be able to be compensated in some way for his time.”

      I know I’m not alone disagreeing with this last part… Doing a fan film is *not* a job. You can’t want to do a fan film and be compensated. Compensation is not what makes fan fiction happens .

      Now, a fan film might have to pay a pro lighting or electrician person, that’s the weakness in that guideline. Somebody somewhere, behind the scene, might get paid for security or practical reasons (catering, studio maintenance).

      The whole renegade thing was shady, imho. It looked to me like Tim Russ trying to kick start his career again by producing a professional Trek series he no doubt was hoping CBS would buy and re-distribute. Very similar to some early part Axanar. It didn’t look like a genuine real fan project to me, but more of an hollywood pitch. Tim Russ doesn’t really want to be a fan film producer and just do things for love, he wanted a job.

      1. Possibly, Fred, but that doesn’t fit the narrative of the detractors that Alec Peters was the first and only person to do such a thing. So be careful not to let the detractors hear you. 🙂

        That said, there are certain SAG guidelines that must be followed. SAG actors are not allowed to work for free. Granted, they can get paid in the hundreds of dollars (which is amazingly cheap!), but they have to get something or else be in violation of the terms of their membership in SAG. However, the fan film guidelines say no one gets paid, meaning no SAG actors at all in your production. That rule doesn’t affect most fan films, but it could affect some. And taking work away from union members is generally frowned upon by the union itself.

        In other words, CBS and Paramount might find themselves facing way more political pressure from the Screen Actors Guild than they ever would from a small bunch of Star Trek fans. 🙂

  8. Bottom line.

    Without fans, there is no Star Trek. No studio, no production company is going to spend “billions” of dollars on movie no one is going to go see. No company or corporation is going to fork out “billions” of dollars of its advertising budget to sponsor a show no one is going to watch. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this…

    Yes, CBS owns the rights to Star Trek. It is us fans, however, who make that franchise valuable!

    Or not…

  9. There are only two that are problematic:

    1. Is time restraint. Two 15 minute parts to tell a story can certainly be done, yet two 25 minute parts would give more room to tell a story without if feeling rushed.

    2. The ability to have a series would be nice, yet then the episodes would have to keep the 15 minute format. Maybe a limit on how many episodes per “season” would be in order.

      1. It simply makes sense. I personally would prefer a series over longer episodes only because with a series you can tell the story and that’s what matters.

  10. I pretty much always knew this, and I was the one who kept saying let’s at least propose a set of guidelines that everyone can be happy with to CBS – I guess that’s still a misguided idea though, for some reason… P

      1. In that case, I know which one or two I think we should propose revising…

          1. Well, I agree with Robert – 15 minutes with no follow-ups is a little much – 15 minutes with maybe 6 episodes to follow-up with sounds a little better to me – That would be about 90 minutes or so I believe – Also, that other guideline about no professionals working on the fan films, if they were already a part a professional Star Trek film needs to go as well – I know 90 min’s is bordering on 2 hours, but then again not quite – I mean it would be a reasonable revision I think… P

          2. On second thought, maybe just 5 additional follow-ups would be better, since the first 15 min’s would start that 6 episode storyline, if that makes any sense – So, then, THAT could be the 90 minute mark that might work a little better, I think… P

  11. Jonathan, you’re not insane. What you have just described is called reality. Here’s a possible compromise. Instead of 15 minute installments, make them 25-30. And instead of 2 installments/no continuing series, how about a 6 episode limit? That’s 3 hours of storytelling. Thoughts?

    1. My thoughts are also reality-bases, James. The studios don’t want fans making a 2-hour movie and just releasing it in eight 15-minute parts. And I get that. I personally think the “no series” rule should be reconsidered, but leave the two 15-minute segments for each storyline…line the animated episodes did. You can totally tell a decent story in 30 minutes. You might even be able to sneak in an extra 3-5 minutes if you absolutely need to. But it’s doable. “Prelude” told an amazing story in only 20 minutes (less if you remove the credits). And to be honest, some longer fan films could really use a little extra trimming. 🙂

  12. Does CBS legitimately own Star Trek? They didn’t create it, only inherited it (partially). Had the copyright law of the 1970’s remained in effect, ST would be in the public domain by now.

    I accept CBS has control of Star Trek, and fans will have to negotiate with them for access to the sand pit. However, the more important fight I believe is to have copyright law reformed in favour of small scale creators and consumers, as it was originally intended to be. I’m not suggesting Small Access get directly involved with this fight, but I think group members should be encouraged to do so.

    1. I won’t deter or discourage folks from getting politically involved in a cause, but it’s a long game to play. The guidelines are here right now. We don’t need to beat the entire Klingon empire, just this Bird-of-Prey in front of us. 🙂

    2. Chris – when Paramount Television was separated from Paramount Pictures and made part of CBS in the big CBS/Viacom reorganization in 2005, everything that was held by Paramount Television became the property of CBS, most importantly, the Paramount Television catalog, which includes such well known titles as The Brady Bunch, Cheers, Mission: Impossible, and of course Star Trek. CBS gained the trademarks, copyrights, licensing and merchandising rights, and so on to all those shows, so yes, they own it. The only thing they don’t have is the movie rights, which were of course held by Paramount Pictures, not the Television side. They likely also still hold movie rights to Mission: Impossible and The Brady Bunch as well…

      1. Actually, after the separation of CBS and Paramount in 2009, CBS got sole custody of Star Trek. Paramount just has visitation rights. When new Star Trek feature films are released by Paramount (from 2009 onward) they are licensed from CBS. Yeah, I know…boggles the mind!

    3. “…the more important fight I believe is to have copyright law reformed in favour of small scale creators and consumers…”

      Define “small scale”.

    4. Judge said they did and Axanar’s legal counsel agreed they owned Trek. It’s a done deal dude.

  13. Right on the mark ! Everything you said in this blog is actually the truth and I’m not 100% sure this is Jonathan Lane writing this …
    And my gosh, is this Anthony Shuh agreeing with Jonathan Lane – the day of miracles isn’t over !

  14. Kudos to you Jon for finally seeing the light of reality. It’s nice to see you progressing through the stages of grief. There is however one thing you said that I don’t agree with:

    “Yep, back in 2015 or 2009 or 2004, any fan film could have been the first Axanar. Any production could have drawn the short straw at any time and been the unlucky first fan film that Paramount or CBS decided to make a harsh public example of. It could have been Star Trek: Hidden Frontier or Star Trek: New Voyages or Starship Exeter or Starship Farragut or Star Trek: Of Gods and Men or Star Trek Continues or Star Trek: Renegades.”

    I think you’re completely wrong there and are doing a great disservice to those productions you mentioned. The question always has been “What has Axanar done differently than other productions?” that brought on the lawsuit. Alec built a studio space with donor funds that was intended to be a commercial enterprise after Axanar. He had a donor store that added to the commercial enterprise. He claimed he was producing Trek independently and as good or better than the studios. These are all things that no other productions have done. Yes, James studio is a commercial venture NOW, but it wasn’t a stated intent from the beginning. I am sure that if Alec used the existing model of other fan film productions and didn’t let his ego make all of the claims he did then the lawsuit wouldn’t have happened.

    There is also one other difference between Axanar and the other productions. They all have finished projects while Alec has an empty bank account and no film.

    As for the guidelines themselves, the only one I find annoying is the time limit. While you can tell a complete story in 15 minutes a longer format would be desirable.

    1. I’ll approve this comment, Sandy, because you’ve been polite this time. Also, there’s a few points I’d like to respond to…

      1) “Alec built a studio space with donor funds that was intended to be a commercial enterprise after Axanar.”

      New Voyages now has a studio space that is a commercial venture, Sandy. In fact, CBS has specifically allowed it to be one. So I don’t think the “commercial venture” was primary on their list of reasons to sue.

      2) “He had a donor store that added to the commercial enterprise.”

      Other fan productions offered perks beyond their Kickstarters, namely Star Trek: Renegades. In fact, the first time I ever purchased swag for Star Trek: Renegades wasn’t from their Kickatarter but rather from a merchandise table at their L.A. premiere at the Crest Movie Theater in Westwood. Here’s a photo:

      Renegades merchandise

      This photo was taken five months BEFORE the lawsuit.

      3) “He claimed he was producing Trek independently and as good or better than the studios.”

      Now here’s where you’ve hit the nail on the head, Sandy. But it wasn’t simply what he was saying. It was that he was also doing just that. The following is from Alec’s February 10 podcast:

      ALEC PETERS: “The Vulcan scene is why CBS sued us…because they saw it, and they said, ‘Prelude we weren’t worried. When we saw the Vulcan scene, we knew we had to do something.'”

      ROBERT BURNETT: “By the way, that’s true. That came out in discovery. I mean, we’ve read those e-mails; we’ve seen all that.”

      But you have to admit that at no time did the studios ever state that a fan film couldn’t look TOO good! So yes, Alec crossed that line…but it was never a line he even knew existed. None of us did. Now we do.

      “There is also one other difference between Axanar and the other productions. They all have finished projects while Alec has an empty bank account and no film. ”

      And of course, the only difference you conveniently left out is that Axanar was the only fan film to go toe-to-toe with CBS and Paramount for a year in court. THat kinda has some bearing on not being able to finish their project. But you know that. Everyone know that.

      Thanks again for playing.

  15. Did you get hit on the head, Jonathan? You are finally starting to make sense. CBS owns Star Trek, and they are being incredibly generous in crafting any guidelines at all. The smart filmmaker will follow them and be thankful.

    And no, it wasn’t a matter of time until someone was sued. They sued Alec Peters, and only Alec Peters. They let him off with a slap on the wrist – very gracious of them.

    John Van Citters knew Peters from working with him on the archive. They knew he wasn’t going to stop with a simple C & D. They knew he was way over the line and wouldn’t stop unless he was dragged into court.

    Your boy is the problem – no one else. I hope one day you can finally see the light. You’re getting there, and I am glad.

    1. “They let him off with a slap on the wrist – very gracious of them.”

      Here’s what I don’t get. What makes you think that, after nearly 13 months of cutthroat legal confrontation and nearly a million dollars in lawyer fees that CBS and Paramount suddenly turned “gracious”? Do you really believe that, or are you just hoping someone else will? ‘Cause I read this book once where the mean guy goes to sleep one night, gets visited by three ghosts, and wakes up Christmas morning totally nice. Maybe that happened at CBS and Paramount!

      Seriously, there was no sudden “graciousness,” and the studios now know that they fracked the dagget on this one. They didn’t expect the resistance that they got (it certainly wasn’t futile, as Alec absolutely came out ahead of where he would have been had he taken the first settlement offer that required him to never work in, on, or with another Star Trek fan production for the rest of his existence), and they know now they should have called first before suing.

      “Gracious”? No one is gracious after a year of litigation, Jo. Trust me on this; my wife’s a litigator. 🙂

    2. Nobody “let him off”…in case you missed it, the case ended in a settlement, not a verdict. Neither side necessarily won or lost, as the settlement was a give and take for both sides.

      Care to divulge how you know what you say about John Van Citters with such assurance?

  16. The time restriction isn’t really that much of a problem. In the early days of television, there were many dramatic series that ran in a 30 minute times slot. Consider shows like “The Rifleman”, “Sea Hunt” only ran for 30 minutes. The original “Twilight Zone” for most of its life was only a 30 minute show (25 minutes with commercials). Your average network TV show only has anywhere from 44 to 50 minutes of film.

    A good story teller can tell a good story in 30 minutes.

    1. Agreed. The Trek animated series episodes wrapped up in 23 minutes (the other 7 were commercials). “Yesteryear” was a magnificent episode…23 minutes. Trek fan films will even get 30% MORE time than that!

  17. Number 5 will have to be eliminated since it is in violation of California labor laws and possibly numerous other state and federal labor laws. If they were to sue someone for violating number 5 CBS would likely lose. The fact that not following number 5 opens you up to a potential lawsuit may make that guideline illegal.

    1. It’s not quite that simple, Borg. Assuming one gets sued by CBS for copyright infringement (for violating guideline #5–although the complaint would simply be “copyright infringement” since the guidelines aren’t law), the first step for the defense would be arguing that permission was given by the studios to use their intellectual property and that the guidelines serve as an implied contract (despite language in the guidelines saying otherwise–I can say, “My name is not Jonathan Lane!” but that doesn’t make it true in court). And if the defense can convince the judge that this is indeed a breach of contract lawsuit and not a copyright infringement lawsuit, then–and only then–does California labor law apply. And Business and Professions Code Section 16600 says that guideline #5 would be considered–not illegal!–but simply null and void. So if that were the only guideline violated (and not the 15-minute limit or issuing perks), then there would be no material breach of contract and the case would likely be dismissed.

      Lots of if’s, Borg…not a slam dunk for either side.

  18. “It could have been Star Trek: Hidden Frontier or Star Trek: New Voyages or Starship Exeter or Starship Farragut or Star Trek: Of Gods and Men or Star Trek Continues or Star Trek: Renegades. It was a game of Russian roulette for the longest time because there was no guarantee for any fan film.”

    It could have been, but it wasn’t. It was Axanar. I know that amongst those in the Church of the Axafaithful there is a rejection in the notion that Axanar went further, and did things other fan films did, but they did. Other fan films didn’t license (permit others to create and sell branded merchandise that had some proceeds returning to the production) third parties, the way Axanar did. And while, I get that the idea of Axacoffee seems like a rather insignificant reason to sue, it isn’t.

    One of the ways CBS has promoted Star Trek in the 12 years of TV drought we fans have experienced is in the creation and promotion of strategic partnerships with licensees… Anvos, Think Geek, just to name a few. Axanar’s third party licenses (Coffee, Models, game Pieces) diluted the Star Trek brand… and I suspect, that the licensees played a role in getting the Studios to move forward with the Lawsuit to begin with.

    And while I fully concede that other fan films sold products under the guise of accepting donations through crowdfunding sites, Axanar went a step further, by permitting others to sell Axanar Branded merchandise.

    This has always been about commercialization, that was clear in the Wrap article from 2015… The guidelines further clarify what they believe is commercialization…

    1. I don’t think Alec ever licensed others to sell coffee. That was only available through the donor store.

      And anyway, as Alec revealed from the discovery documents (in his February podcast), the reason CBS and Paramount moved ahead with the lawsuit was the quality of the Vulcan scene…not the coffee.

        1. I stand half-corrected. The coffee guy did, in fact, sell it through his website and donate a portion of the proceeds to Axanar. But I just confirmed with Alec that there was never a formal licensing agreement. It was the coffee guy’s product to sell. He made the packaging. Alec simply said he didn’t mind it the guy sold it himself, as well. And if he wanted to donate a portion of the proceeds, even better. But no, there was never any licensing contract signed stipulating a legal approval from Axanar to use their intellectual property on coffee packaging in exchange for a pre-agreed percentage of every sale.

          Also, as has been said elsewhere, it was the quality of the Vulcan scene that spurred the studios into legal action…not the coffee. That revelation came out in discovery.

          1. He was given permission by Alec to produce and sell an Axanar label product in exchange for some of the proceeds going to Axanar….

            If it looks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, guess what, It’s a duck… no matter how you or Peters try to spin it….

          2. A licensing agreement is very different from an e-mail saying, “Okay, no problem.” But either way, the studios didn’t sue over coffee. It was a single product (or four) with limited revenue potential. John Van Citters once told me, “Jon, unless you’re making more than $10,000, we really don’t care. It will cost us more to try to stop you.” (This was back when I was producing these fun “iTrek” T-shirts, taking in $2/shirt with a virtual online store. I cleared, maybe, $70-$80 all told. I doubt much more was taken in by the coffee guy. CBS didn’t care.)

  19. I get your point, and agree. But in your opening paragraphs you say that CBS/Paramount have spend big-B billions making ST, and again you are right. But this is not philanthropy.

    I just read a 2002 TIME article where Paramount claims Star Trek had generated (at that point ) over $4 billion in revenue from merchandising. Box office MOJO peggs current Star Trek box office at $2.2 billion. None of that counts sales of the shows (although I imagine “merchandising” includes books.)

    Let’s just say Star Trek fans have been very good to Paramount/CBS over the years.

    1. Call it a symbiosis, then. But CBS still owns Star Trek. The traditional relationship is “We make Star Trek for you, you watch and enjoy it. We spend money to provide you with your show, and you spend money to reimburse us our costs and make a little profit on top.” Everybody wins.

      Fans were trying to switch some of those traditional roles. CBS didn’t like it. But instead of eliminating the “playing dress-up” entirely, they’re still allowing it…just with limits. No wearing Mommy’s best dress or Daddy’s most expensive suit.

  20. > “The studios have earned the right call the shots…”

    For the most part, I agree with your analysis, but this is a point I have to disagree with. In fact, I’d say this point is *exactly* the reason why so many fans are up in arms. To be clear: I’m not saying their justified. But there is a sense, in my opinion, that CBS has failed to produce what fans would like out of the series.

    Or to put it another way: The only sense according to which CBS has earned this right is that they do actually own the IP. Yes, legally, that gives them absolute control. We all know that. (Well, maybe not. I haven’t been following fan channels that closely, maybe some people really don’t know it.)

    But I’d argue that it’s also not entirely unreasonable to be frustrated. From my perspective, Star Trek as I knew and loved it essential came to a half with the end of Voyager. Everything since then has either been a prequel, or a “reimagining” of TOS. Now, I understand that TOS has its fans, but what I really wanted to see was the story *actually moving forward*. And that is something CBS has absolutely not done, and shows no evidence of doing in the near future.

    So it is reasonable to be frustrated? Certainly not in the “I have a right to this” sense. But that doesn’t make the frustration any less real.

    1. Hey, I didn’t like “Phantom Menace,” “Clones,” or “Sith.” And then Lucasfilm stopped making any more Star Wars films for a decade. That doesn’t mean they waived their rights to call the shots.

      You might not like Star Trek in its most recent forms, but that isn’t for lack of trying on the studios’ parts. They attempted to give you more Star Trek, hoping that you would like it. Failure to succeed doesn’t abrogate their claim or their rights, my friend.

  21. How many people here watch Big Bang Theory they tell a great story in less that 30 minutes I watch commercial free on All Access. Most sit coms do, and CBS knows s good stand alone Stiry can be told in 30 minutes. They won’t change anything.

  22. Jonathan I wrote 2 longs paragraphs about how you were wrong about it being any production that could have drawn the short straw, but I deleted it because I am tired of this. You have been proven wrong about Axanar time and time again yet you still favor them above all. If you haven’t seen the light by now I doubt my 2 paragraphs were going to do it. You and the other extreme Axanar supporters just aren’t worth it anymore.

  23. “The fact remains that, in fifty years, the owners of Star Trek never turned their back on the property or let it languish (too long) or sold it or walked away. (You can’t say the same about Star Wars, y’know!)”

    Debatable. They have never turned their back on the trademark, but they have been playing fast and loose with the concept that “Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.” (Gene Roddenberry) for quite a while already. When they now refer to Star Trek as a “military drama” in the court documents you posted, I have precious little trust in their actually doing honor to the franchise. All the more in this day and age when a significant impulse in that direction would be sorely needed.
    And so to me, Star Trek looks increasingly like an old circus bear – still milked for money when every minute of its existence is pure agony and when the humane thing would have been to end its misery ages ago instead of turning its existence into a travesty, a mockery of its true being. Is it still being fed? Certainly. Is it still putting on a show for people in the ring? Certainly. But watching it makes you hate yourself and all the more so find yourself thinking it’s entertaining enough on a certain level.

    Frankly, I’d prefer “no official Star Trek” to having the franchise turned into “Star Fleet:Above and Beyond”. Blame it on it being 2AM here, but I’m tired. Tired of seeing a franchise the philosophy of which I always looked up to turned into military popcorn entertainment. I’ve had that discussion long ago when telling people why I prefered an early DS9 episode such as “Duet” to any SFX orgy of the Dominion war.

  24. I do think having guidelines is OK, and even needed, but not any guidelines.
    Remember that these guidelines were issued in a hurry because Alec Peters/Axanar attorney clearly demonstrated that they will base their non-willfull infringement defense on the fact there were no guidelines. CBS reacted with setting guidelines to ensure the kill of Axanar and did not write them with a cool mind nor business considerations.
    That said, I share the general opinion that:
    – Duration limit in fact kills some projects. Not all fanfilms, but the most famous ones though.
    Duration is what allows you to develop properly a story. If you have to trim everywhere, you loose big on storytelling quality and give a bad image on both the fanfilm and the series that inspired it. There is a reason for 52 minutes being a standard of tv shows duration…
    No sequels is not a big issue since there are plenty of possibilities, but some actual sequels have been excellent.
    But no series is a real trouble too, because peoples need time to assimilate new faces. If the process is to be repeated each time, it is at the expense of the story. Plus, this is an error to reduce fanfilms only to short films. A series is just a totally different thing and the very concept of a series is precisely that it can not fit short duration. If the current guidelines do not kill fanfilms, they kill webseries.
    – No Vets, no pros:
    Well, TOS Veterans and others will not be there forever, it is good to see them again, not only in their former characters.
    Fot it be actors or technicians, ther professional status absolutely does not pevent them from being fans ! That is what Renagades and Axanar are based on. They use their pro skills but act as pure fans.
    In the essence, no Trek alumni is not a problem since the majority of fanfilms do not have them and still are OK. Can anyone demonstrate the harm it does to have a former technician working on his spare time ?

    So, CBS owns Star Trek, OK, but they can not change the principles of a series, nor the basics of storytelling. These are fundamentals and it does not make sense to say “you’ve got to adapt” when there is no room for that. Some of the guidelines are perfectly suitable, but the duration/series one is a big problem for amateur producers. These constraints will result in lower quality productions that will split in two categories: those able to access an existing shooting facility, and those who can’t and will shoot on green screen or outside. CBS goal is there: suppressing quality competition, and the guidelines are very effective doing that. I do not think a lot of teams will endeavour to rent a place and build sets for so little perspective. Maybe it is a way to protect some studio museum from competition too ?

  25. I’m rather surprised that no one appears to be upset about guideline #9.

    “Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.”

    Basically, what this means is that if a fan film producer creates an interesting original story, CBS/Paramount is free to use it in a professional production of their own without compensating, or even acknowledging the original creator. For example, CBS/Paramount could take an episode (or an entire story arc) from Starship: Oingo Boingo reshoot it professionally, using the same dialogue, word for word, use all of the characters etc, and incorporate it into an episode of Star Trek: Discovery, and they would not have to compensate, or even acknowledge the original production.

    1. That’s highly unlikely to happen, though. First of all, most fan films aren’t good enough for professional movie studios to want to copy (sorry, folks, I love fan films, but let’s be real here). Also, despite not being registered, these fan films would still be copyrighted by the fan filmmakers. Not registering the works might limit their ability to sue for certain elements and include legal fees in the judgment, but the copyright itself is still secure. And the fan film could still register the work after CBS steals it and could still sue them.

      The studio is aware of this, and they are very careful to make certain that all ideas are original and developed internally by writers with work-for-hire contracts that lets CBS own the IP outright. #9 isn’t a dragon to slay. It’s barely a gnat. 🙂

  26. I just don’t see Dorn doing Fan films. And to be honest we really don’t know who may or may not guest on Discovery would you risk working on play Trek to be on real Trek? I wouldn’t.

    1. Oh, it’s not a risk at all. Michael Dorn has already been a part of two different fan films–STC and an animated episode of Starship Farragut. If CBS or Paramount want Michael Dorn, they will ask for him through his agent. No one in castings gives a shat if he was in some fan film. Hollywood doesn’t work that way, Brenda.

  27. Just that I’m familiar with the hiring “laws” the cans and can’ts. And you as the employer state what is a conflict of interest you. Now a good many here have said CBS and Paramount sued because they were afraid of Axanar’s quality which means they were also afraid of brand confusion.

    Which most corporations wish to avoid, just that on more than one occasion Jonathan has said the studios couldn’t keep Trek Alumni from working on Fan films I was merely commenting on the information I had as to the numerous classes I’d taken. In CA unlike other states you must be extremely careful with every step of the hiring process.

  28. Well Jonathan unless you know something more than you should about the settlement you like the rest of us really don’t know that CBS wasn’t being gracious. I’m sure you know large corporations have huge law firms on retainer. Hugh corporations have nothing to loose and everything to gain from protecting their IP and lisencing agreements with those folks who paid out the yeeing-hanging for the right to see official Trek.

    Look neither side got everything they wanted, it let’s be honest if the money had been spent and at least the film shot we might not be having this discussion. You can’t boast fully professionally then miss a promised start date and claim we’re learning as we go.

    And before someone brings up the delays in Discovery, I will remind you can’t defend Axanar’s delays and slam Discovery’s.

  29. Exactly Jonathan I watched TOS first run, loved it. Took a while to warm up to TNG, but I think it’s is so much better than TOS, DS9 was great from season 1, but Voyager not so much loved Enterprise. My point is hey we original fans are getting older. The franchise has to change to reflect the current potential fan base. And that’s not us, like it or not a hard pill for some to swallow. But it’s the fact it’s going to be our children and grandchildren who will carry on the love of Trek and it’s message of IDIC like I’m sure Jonathan’s son.

  30. I think that probably arose when it was learned that Axanar planned to Trademark their operations.

  31. Having listened to the JVC podcast I don’t think k there is a problem with professionals to make a safe work environment..

    1. As written, the guidelines don’t provide for anyone to be compensated, Brenda…not even professionals to make a safe work environment. It says “creators, actors and all other participants” and folks like electricians and stunt coordinators would be considered “participants.” If they’re not participants, then you could also claim that the musical composer and VFX guys aren’t participants either. Where is the line drawn?

  32. Biggest problems:
    CBS has no right/ legal merit in prohibiting anyone from working on/ participating in fan films (unless stated in individual contracts with Studio), just because professionals have worked on Trek.
    Nor does CBS have any right preventing what material used in production can be offered as funding perks (as long as it remains non-profit).

    How much money a fan film raises is no business of CBS.

    Time limits given are too restrictive, unreasonable.

  33. The problem is CBS and Paramount had no idea Axanar wasn’t serious, I remember reading it on the Axanar fan page and hearing it on a podcast. Why lead people to believe one thing if you have no intentions of doing it? Why mislead your fanbase?

    1. You do remember that Alec Peters met with CBS executives four separate times…in person? Plus there were countless e-mails. Alec explained everything he was doing to CBS as he was doing it.

  34. Then you should know while it’s not necessarily easy to terminate someone it’s not that hard to keep from hiring someone. But in the entertainment business how hard would it be to not hire a certain actor, because they worked on a fan film in defiance of the guidelines. I know one graphic artist who is great, but can’t work on real Trek because of his work on Axanar.

    You might be right and they may not be able to keep them from working on pretend Trek, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever work on real Trek again or even be hired by any show on the studio. So yeah, would you trade work even at scale for working for free?

    1. Let’s take Michael Dorn as a for instance. He’s been lobbying for a Captain Worf series for years. He’s no stranger to approaching the studios. So far, they’ve said no. This has nothing to do with him working on two fan films, CBS simply does not want to do a Captain Worf series. So Dorn has been knocking for years, and CBS just hasn’t been answering.

      Not, let’s imagine that a game developer licenses Star Trek and wants to create a post-DS9 scenario that includes Michael Dorn playing Ambassador Worf. CBS would put the developer in contact with Michael’s agent, they would negotiate terms, and Michael would be signed onto the project. At no point in this process does someone with a chip on their shoulder (I don’t even know who that would be–John Van Citters? Jonathan Anschell? Les Moonves?) pop in and say, “No! Cancel the contract! We’re pissed that Dorn did a fan film, so we’re punishing him!!!”

      That simply doesn’t happen at this level. Sure, it can happen if a major star jumps ship from Universal to Fox or Sony and Universal is now pissed. But even then, business is business. If you need a specific actor in Hollywood, you do what you have to in order to get them.

  35. Maybe it doesn’t Jonathan, but if you had a chance to work for CBS on Trek if they said Dude drop all the fan film nonsense? Would you or would you stay right where you are, especially if they said hey bring your son to work with you. Gates McFadden has talked about her son growing up on the set of TNG.

  36. I didn’t mean out of the blue, but if I were doing a fan film and needed clarification, you loose nothing by asking. Curious did you listen to his podcast?

    1. “Curious did you listen to his podcast?”

      Four times. Most recently, last week as I prepared Part 4 of this blog series.

      I’ll be contacting John in the next few weeks about something else that’s very serious (not related to the guidelines). Because of my involvement with SMALL ACCESS, I might not be John’s favorite Trekkie at the moment. So I’d rather save my next outreach to him for this serious matter and not for a minor guideline clarification.

  37. So then Alec mislead his donors by leading them to believe something he wasn’t going to do. Maybe CBD didn’t know which story to believe. The one he told them or the one he told his donors and those who listened to his podcasts.

  38. I mean telling the fanbase one thing and doing something differently or in some cases not telling the fanbase anything at all. And remember Jonathan I am one of those who read every email, Captain’s Log, Donor blog from Diana and listen to every podcast.
    1) Alec talks about trademarking Axanar and other things to the fanbase, if he changed his mind or simply did not follow through fine, or found out not a good idea from CBS, he should let his supporters know.
    2) Tony Todd left the production a couple months before anyone knew, instead of saying hey Tony got a great job and we wish him the best, nothing was told to the fanbase at large. What we got was a p*ssing contest between Alec and Todd over who couldn’t read and who couldn’t act. Really what are we back in grades school?
    3) 2015 budget shows Alec, Diana and Rob all taking a salary, heck Rob even defended his salary in a discussion I read on FB. Now Alec’s saying I never took a salary, either he mislead folks in the 2015 budget or he is now which is it?
    4) Alec decides he’s no longer playing Garth, his reason were he was too old to play Garth at Axanar and if that is what he felt I respect his decision, we find out in Jan. 2016 when he says he had made this decision two months earlier. Why keep it a secret, it’s not big deal.
    5) He touted FFF as being the only source of accurate information concerning the lawsuit and Axanar. And in your interview with Erin Ranahan in the comments you said Alec commingled funds placing donations in his personal bank account. On the IGG comments I asked Alec “And is Jonathan Lane correct that donor funds were commingled with personal bank accounts? How is that smart business practices?” Alec’s answer: “The financials will be released this week. And no, Jonathan Lane was not correct.” I’m sure you had some information to base your statement on, as I don’t think you would pull something like that out of thin air.

    What I see Jonathan is a pattern of Alec saying something and then maybe changing his mind or deciding this is not a good move, which is all fine. But don’t sit there and tell donors you are the most transparent fan film ever if you’re not. It’s not fair to the people who believed in Alec, who trusted him with their money on the promise of we are transplant but we’re really not.

    So you see how easy it is for anyone to believe that Alec did intend to trademark Axanar, and maybe after a meeting with CBS they said don’t do it, or he realized this wasn’t in Axanar’s best interest. He should have told his supporters something, because when it comes out and 99% of the time it always comes out and then Alec is standing there looking like he’s not the most transparent fan film producer ever and he hides things from his donors. I did not say he did, just how it appears and when you depend on donations to make your dream come true that is not best business practices. After a 40 year career in retail working for two of the largest retail corporations the one I retired from is a multibillion dollar international cooperation. I ran million dollar departments, did my budget, forecasted sales and knew what every line of what the P&S meant. So when I say it’s not the people who scream and complain about bad service or rude employees the company worries about, it’s the customer who has the bad experience with a rude employee or poor customer service who never complains they worry about because they never come back and never give you another sent of their money.

    1. Well, those somewhat valid points–I agree with a few and disagree with others–but I do think there’s a general misconception out there about Axanar’s transparency. I think fans mistakenly believe that, when Alec says “Axanar is the most transparent fan production ever” (and it pretty much is) that this translates into “EVERYTHING is shared with EVERYONE as SOON as it happens.” That’s not what “most transparent fan production ever” means.

      Let’s take a look at some examples of other fan productions and how transparent they are. And when I say “transparent,” what I mean are updates from the production itself on what the latest important news might be. Of course, transparency could also mean just the financials, but no other fan production has ever shared the details of what it spends where and on whom to its donors. Even Star Trek Continues never released that information to the fans or supporters…only to the IRS in its 501(c)(3) filing (and it’s unclear if fans were ever meant to see that, as the production never supplied a link to it, and it was only found because the application, once approved, became a matter of public record).

      And as long as we’re looking at STC, their announcement a few weeks ago about their upcoming plans to release a final four episodes (and information about the April premiere of their next episode) was the first news we’ve heard from them officially since last August when I posted information from my discussions with Vic Mignogna and James Kerwin from Las Vegas.

      Now, can you imagine SIX MONTHS going by without hearing ANYTHING from Alec Peters??? No podcast, no blogs, no posts on Facebook, no tweets…it’s inconceivable! (I keep using that word, and it means what I think it means.) But that kind of months-longvcommunications “blackout” is not unusual from other fan productions. Oh, it’s not like STC was totally radio silent. Photos were uploaded almost daily to their Facebook page. But in terms of hard news, like that episode 8 “Still Treads the Shadow” will guest star Rekha Sharma from Battlestar Galactica, those kinds of updates have been completely absent between August and February.

      Now, that’s certainly STC’s prerogative. There’s no requirement to share casting information until you actually want to or feel it’s necessary. But when Alec Peters doesn’t tell anyone about Tony Todd leaving the production or that he’s considering recasting the role of Garth, there’s some double-standard that says he’s not being transparent (or that he isn’t the most transparent fan film ever).

      Another example is/was Star Trek: New Voyages. Reliable updates from them were usually few and far between. And when James Cawley announced that NV would be be suspending all production, most of us learned that through rumor first and then through an angry post James made to Facebook that half of us didn’t know whether to not to believe because he’d been saying such things in frustration sporadically for years, and then production continued. However, when NV announced the conversion of Retro Studios into the officially-licensed Star Trek Set Tour, pretty much all of us were taken completely by surprise. So compared to New Voyages, Axanar was infinitely more communicative.

      Other fan series that don’t tend to have many updates between actual releases include Starship Farragut (soon to release its final episode, but with the exception of its newest trailer–oh, crap! I forgot to include a news item when it came out…crap!–there’s been almost no news from them in many, many months. Starship Valiant, Intrepid, Dark Armada, Starship Grissom, Dreadnought Dominion, Pacific 201, First Frontier, Starship Antyllus…the list of fan productions that aren’t nearly as prolific in their communications as Axanar is goes on and on.

      And that isn’t a slight against any of those fine productions. Usually, they don’t have as much ongoing news as Axanar does anyway. And that’s kinda the point. With Axanar, almost anything is considered newsworthy, and Alec Peters will blog about it daily in his Captain’s Log, podcast about it monthly or semi-monthly, write Facebook updates, tweet about it, do interviews, and generally spread the news far and wide. In the past, this has occasionally come back to bite him on the butt…like when he produced his 2015 annual report and got the financial section wrong by using the word “salary” instead of “reimbursement” because he didn’t have an actual accountant work on it. And let’s face it, accountants cost money and, at the time, Alec didn’t want to apply donor funds to what he considered an unnecessary expense. (Yes, hindsight is 20/20.)

      Anyway, the point is that saying that Axanar is the most transparent fan production ever is, indeed, a valid claim. But the bar isn’t exactly set that high. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Axanar shares every little thing every moment of every day just as soon as it happens. And if Alec changes his mind about something, he’s allowed to do that and not necessarily share it immediately with everyone. Personally I don’t remember Alec ever saying that he was trademarking the name or logo for Axanar. But even if he did say it, it obviously never happened. So there was never any reason to provide news updates about something he decided not to do when there was so much news about things he and Axanar were planning TO do. Maybe it just slipped his mind. After all, what nefarious motive could Alec have for not mentioning that the name or logo Axanar would not be trademarked? It must have been long before the lawsuit happened, right? (Since I doubt he would try to trademark anything once he was being sued–that’s not just poking the bear, it’s tickling it!)

      Sorry to be so rambling, but it just kinda makes me scratch my head sometimes that fans and donors expect Alec Peters to share SO MUCH about his production and then have no problem whatsoever with the sparsity of updates from other productions. As I said before, it’s a true double-standard. And it’s a pet peeve of mine.

  39. Mine was a bit long as well, and with all due respect Jonathan I didn’t donate to any other fan film Axanar was my first and sadly my last. I made a leap of faith and love and learn.

    But as someone who worked for a major corporation I was taught say what you mean and mean what you day. Don’t give a customer an answer that sounds good because on the long run it will come back and bite you. I didn’t expect Alec to be perfect, just to do what he said when he said he would.

    And just an aside I’ve seem Rob Burnett say and justify his getting a salary fr Axanar.

    1. Rob and Diana, I believe, got paid in the same way that contractors like Tobias Richter and Dean Newbury did–for services rendered. They both worked very hard. Personally, I think Alec deserved to be paid, too. I think he did a fine job raising money. It’s simply that, legally, any payments to him made by the production would count as reimbursements before they would ever be considered a salary.

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