COSPLAY FAN brings a proposed CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT for FRAUD against CBS, DISNEY, NBC Universal, and ANOVOS!

At first glance, it seems almost ridiculous. Most fans know that ANOVOS, a licensee that produces ultra-high quality cosplay props and costumes for Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and other genre franchises, has a well-earned reputation for taking a looooooong time to fulfill their pre-orders. And when I say “long time,” I’m often talking years!

But the wait is usually worth it. The Anovos replicas look amazing, many uniforms are custom-tailored for each individual who orders one, and all are officially licensed to look nearly identical to what has appeared on screen. While some fans complain about the long wait times—to both Anovos and to the licensors—others just seem to grin and bear it. In a number of cases, fans have learned from frustrated experiences not to pre-order new items and instead wait until they are listed as “in stock.”

But one fan, RICHARD DALTON from Louisiana, apparently didn’t get the memo about avoiding pre-order items and—over a nearly three-year period—pre-ordered 49 different items ranging in price from $10 pennants to a $9,000 starship model…for a total in excess of $40,000! Now Mr. Dalton is suing in California federal court (you can read the entire complaint here). The reason for the lawsuit is that none of the pre-order items was ever shipped, and Anovos has refused to refund any of his $40,000.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Serves him right for not getting the hint sooner! Caveat emptor…let the buyer beware!” True, there’s a certain amount of “fool me twice, shame on me…” lack of sympathy that some fans might cynically be feeling. And of course, Anovos does state on the pre-order pages: “All items are subject to change in availability, features, and delivery dates at any time and for any reason.”

But should that one blanket disclaimer get Anovos completely off the hook? Just because poor Richard was naive enough to believe that a licensed vendor would actually deliver merchandise in under three years(!!!) after being paid in full, should he be penalized for that innocent faith? If Anovos took advantage of Richard’s (and others’) trusting natures, why should it be only the customers who come out on the losing end? Shouldn’t Anovos face some consequences, too?

This case is germane to fan films because one of the the guidelines states:

4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.

Anovos uniforms are, in fact, official merchandise…and so the outcome of this lawsuit could conceivably affect Star Trek fan films. This is especially true because Mr. Dalton isn’t suing only Anovos; he is also suing CBS and Disney and NBC Universal for continuing to renew Anovos’ licenses for their intellectual propertiues despite being well aware of consumer complaints and possible fraud, breach of contract, misrepresentation, and unfair enrichment.

Let’s take a closer look at all of this…

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Why the finale of ST: DISCOVERY left me feeling ANGRY and BETRAYED (editorial review)

SPOILERS MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON!

Before I begin blasting away at the season two finale of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, I will give credit where credit is due. The entire production team obviously worked VERY hard to make “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” a fast-paced, well-acted, and visually stunning hour of television. It wrapped up a very complex season-long story arc without leaving any loose ends (that I noticed), and it was certainly an ambitious undertaking.

But as a Trekkie and, more basically, as a viewer, I finished the episode feeling angry and, to be honest, betrayed. And I’d like to tell you why.

Writers and their audiences make an “agreement” going in, a pact of trust, if you will. The writers ask that we viewers buy into what the writers are setting up in the narrative, and in exchange, the writers will create a compelling, suspenseful, emotionally engaging story to entertain us.

But in this episode, I felt that the tail (or the tale) was wagging the dog. The writers had to include certain scenes in order to cover the necessary tropes of an exciting, explosive season finale: death of a major character, cavalry to the rescue scene, hand-to-hand fight with the bad guy, etc. Nothing wrong with that in theory. But in order to hit those beats, the writers way too often had to violate the trust of the viewer. And it’s NOT simply that some scenes are inconsistent with “established” Star Trek canon. I’ve learned to expect that from this show, and I’ve mostly made my peace with it.

No, I am talking about violating the canon that the writers have already set up for themselves. And when I see these kinds of “sloppy” scenes (and there were a LOT of them this episode), I can only assume the writers simply don’t care that they’re writing something that makes no sense within their own narrative…either that or they think that their viewers don’t care.

Well, I care. And that’s why I’m sharing this longer-than-normal blog with you today…

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The SHIPS hit the FANS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST MY WAY OF SHOWING LOVE!

At first, I was thinking of titling this blog “The Big Good-bye” or “The Long Good-bye” or “We Get It Already—Everybody Is Saying Good-bye!” I also considered, “That’s Not Orange, Dammit; It’s Red!” But in the end, I didn’t want to sound harsh because it implies that I didn’t think this was a good episode.

The penultimate 13th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season, “Sweet Sorrow,” wasn’t a bad episode…far and away not! It finally showed us a redesigned bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 that didn’t feel like an Apple Store. In fact, I wanted to grab a Klingon time crystal, take this bridge back to 2007, kidnap J.J. Abrams, and shout: “THIS!!!!” In fact—looking at the uniforms, the handles in the Enterprise turbolift, the sounds of the bridge and the photon torpedoes, etc.—it might not be a bad idea to take a time detour to 2016, kidnap Bryan Fuller and whoever was the original production designer on Discovery, and shout, “THIS!!!!” even louder.

So yes, I liked the Enterprise and the people in it. And I just signed the Change.org petition to CBS trying to convince them to do a new CAPTAIN PIKE series on the Enterprise in pre-TOS. Serious no-brainer, CBS: don’t let Anson Mount get away!!!

But this episode also suffered from a number of weaknesses…many of them stemming from the fact that the season was originally set to be 13 episodes and, early on, a decision was made to stretch the finale into two parts. And there’s no doubt that the last episode will be an amazing, budget-blowing WOW!-fest. And about half of this episode was equally stunning. But there was also a lot—a LOT!—of filler. And ultimately, this episode felt (to me, at least), like being the passenger with a student driver who is constantly accelerating and then hitting the brakes hard and then repeating the process.

So for the next-to-last time this season, let’s dive into my thoughts on an episode of Discovery

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DISCOVERY’s twelfth episode: very watchable, but was it GOOD? (editorial review)

WE HAVE SPAM, SPOILERS, EGGS, SPOILERS, BAKED BEANS, AND SPOILERS!

As I watched the 3-minute teaser and opening scene of act one of “Through the Valley of Shadows,” STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s twelfth episode of season two, I was dreading having to write another critical blog. It’s not that I have anything against (of for) being negative about Discovery; I just don’t like having to sit through weak or boring episodes that don’t live up to the potential of the series.

We open on Michael Burnham (of course!) whose review of her mother’s time-logs is interrupted by a call from her adopted mother, Amanda Grayson. Yay, I thought! I love Mia Kirshner‘s portrayal of the character. But my hopes were quickly dashed as I saw Burnham yet again falling into self-pity and blaming herself for everything that goes wrong in the universe.

Amanda gets to complete her second short line of dialog just as she is interrupted by a Spock-knock at the door. Still not in uniform, Spock apologizes for the interruption, but the captain needs them. Amanda gets nine more words, and then the scene that began with such potential is over 63 seconds after it began. Sigh…

Then it’s a cut to a briefing—again! What episode this season hasn’t kicked off with some kind of briefing? But at least this one wasn’t interrupted by Tillybabble. In fact, Mary Wiseman doesn’t appear in this episode at all (she wasn’t available the week of filming)…and to be honest, I didn’t really miss her. The episode felt more “grown up” without Tilly stealing her scenes. The briefing itself wasn’t bad, although every time I hear Tyler or another Klingon say “Kay-lesh” (Kahless), I cringe. Worf managed to get through two different Star Trek series pronouncing it “Kay-less”—is it really that hard for this show to be consistent with canon???

Then we come back from the opening credits with a scene between Burnham and Tyler that, as usual, showed almost no chemistry between the two actors and characters. Some quick exposition, a passive-aggressive zinger from Tyler, and then Tyler hears a beep that starts the real episode.

And that’s when everything started getting really good (and not so really good)…

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STRUGGLE IS POINTLESS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS – THEY’RE PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST!

Last week, I wrote what was only my second negative review for an episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY for season two. And the blog resulted in surprisingly passionate responses on Facebook, particularly in the “big” (107K member) Star Trek group and the (40K member) Star Trek: Discovery group. Some folks agreed with what I said. Others didn’t. But a disturbingly high number of posts were just plain mean and confrontational.

While I won’t harp on this point too much—because complaining about nasty posts on Facebook is like complaining about the smell of animal poop at a zoo—I’d just like to point out a few examples of how to respectfully disagree with someone…

And here’s some examples of how to be a mean person…

All of this vitriol simply because someone has a different opinion from you??? When I was growing up, not everyone thought “The Doomsday Machine” was the best TOS episode like I did. But if someone thought “Spock’s Brain” was the best episode, I might quietly think they were weird, but I wouldn’t call them an “irrelevant shrub” (what odes that even mean???) or tell them to “PISS OFF” or suggest someone blow them out an airlock.

It seems lately that Star Trek: Discovery (like so many things in this world) has polarized us. And for some people, any criticism of this show is seen as an “attack” that must be defended with a counter-attack. It’s ridiculous…and so discordant with everything Gene Roddenberry ever tried to teach us.

The irony here is that I’ve actually written seven very positive reviews this season (you can read them here). I’m not a Discovery “hater” and happily praise the show when I think it’s been a decent episode. And when I don’t enjoy an episode, I share those thoughts, too. My opinion might not match yours, and that’s OKAY. We’re allowed to disagree.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling strongly about Star Trek and Discovery. But I challenge anyone to defend being obnoxious to someone simply for writing a blog review that they didn’t like.


All right, let’s move on to reviewing this week’s episode, “Perpetual Infinity”—which many of you will be happy (relieved?) to learn that I felt was a much stronger and more watchable episode than last week, and here’s why…

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NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS once again opens their TOS sets to the public for FAN APPRECIATION WEEKEND 2!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, watching Star Trek each weeknight at 6:00pm, I used to dream of one day building my own Enterprise bridge. I’d have it on the second floor of my house, in a circular area, with a turbolift elevator that would go up to it, doors whooshing open to shock and impress my friends.

Sadly (at least for me, not sad for my wife), that didn’t happen.

But miraculously, I can still walk onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. I can sit in the captain’s chair, stand in the transporter, walk through the corridors, visit sickbay and engineering, wander into the briefing room and Captain Kirk’s quarters. And I can even do it in two different locations!

The first place I can go is the officially licensed Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, NY. For $22.50/person (less for seniors, military, and kids), I can walk around meticulous, museum-quality recreations of the original 1960s sets that were used to film Star Trek. The sets in upstate New York were used to make the fan series Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase 2, and now are available throughout the year for personal and group tours.

Further south in Kingsland, GA are the sets that were originally used for the fan series Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues. A little over a year ago, those sets were sold by VIC MIGNOGNA to RAY TESI, who has opened them up for free filming (just pay the electricity costs) to any fan production that follows the CBS guidelines. Originally called Stage 9 Studios, the sets were recently renamed NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS to avoid confusion with the Virtual 3D walkthrough of the Enterprise-D that was shut down by CBS.

Last October, Ray Tesi opened his Georgia sets to the general public for a FAN APPRECIATION WEEKEND. It featured tours, photo opportunities, some fan film celebrity guests, and even two different fan productions shooting scenes in front of a live, studio audience.

However, there was also some controversy

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Who let the air out of DISCOVERY this week??? (editorial review)

THE MOTHER OF ALL SPOILER WARNINGS!

The tenth episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season was called “The Red Angel.” I call it the “Oh, By The Way…” episode. In my opinion, it was the weakest of the second season so far, and not even as good as some of the first season episodes.

Even the positive reviews I’ve read so far have acknowledged that this was a “talky” episode, filled with a lot of quiet scenes where two or three or four people were just chatting with each other—mainly about plot exposition. The first 37 minutes were almost entirely that, with only the final 10 minutes picking up the pace with an exciting and engaging ending.

So what is an “Oh, By The Way…” episode? Glad you asked!

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AVALON UNIVERSE Indiegogo gets a $1,000 DONATION from a SINGLE donor!

Right now, I’m actively watching four different Trek-related crowd-funding campaigns. I have tabs open for each one, and I check them every day or so to see how they’re doing:

There’s also a few other crowd-funders that I check in on from time to time. You can find them all listed here on Fan Film Factor under the CROWDFUNDING NOW tab at the top.

Usually, there isn’t much movement on a daily basis for these campaigns…just little increases here and there. For the Avalon Universe Indiegogo, the donation total had been hovering in the low $2K range for the last few days…not unusual for a crowd-funding campaign to slow a bit in its second or third week.

And so I literally did a double-take when I checked the Avalon campaign late yesterday to discover their total at $3.4K (bringing them to over 40% of the way to their $8,500 goal). Huh? I’d checked it earlier in theday, and it was still in the low twos. What the heck happened???

I scrolled down through the perks. One of the perks is a $1,000 “Executive Producer Package” where the donor gets their name listed in both the opening and closing credits as—you guessed it!—Executive Producer. Two of these perks were initially available, and one had just been snatched up!

I checked with Avalon showrunners JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX, and they confirmed this is a legitimate donor and someone who has supported fan films in the past (although we won’t find out who until the fan film is released and we check the credits).

I don’t usually report on single donations to crowd-funders, and $1K donations certainly aren’t unheard of. But they are indeed rare…and almost non-existent for “smaller” campaigns with goals under $10K. So for me, this is news worth sharing—and a good reminder for folks to consider donating, if they haven’t already (even if it’s just $10 and not $1,000).

I also allows me to address a recent semi-controversy that has cropped up involving me supporting this and other crowd-funding campaigns…

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ALEX KURTZMAN goes FOUR-for-FOUR in rescuing DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS WITH A CAPITAL “A”!

Remember last week when I said the eighth episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY season two was the best one yet? Well, the ninth episode, “Project Daedalus” just blew the eighth one away! I mean…WOW!

After the announcement last June of the firing of Discovery‘s previous showrunners, GRETCHEN BERG and AARON HARBERTS, fans were nervously awaiting the sixth episode of season two, the first to be produced entirely under the stewardship of new showrunner ALEX KURTZMAN, who was also officially named the Tsar of Trek (actually, only I named him that). Would Kurtzman save Discovery or ruin it? And once the sixth episode (which took Saru back to his home planet) showed a return to Star Trek values of hope and optimism, the next question became: was this one episode just a fluke, or is this the new normal for Discovery?

Well, it wasn’t the new Discovery normal; it was the starting point of a turbolift that has been ascending ever higher with each successive episode—with a trip home to Vulcan for Burnham (where she finds Spock), a trip to Talos IV (where we find Vina, and Spock finds himself), and now a trip to the very heart of Section 31 where we find…um, I did mention there would be spoilers, right?

Anyway, for a third week in a row, I watched the episode all the way through without stopping. I couldn’t look away! And with four episodes in a row that have each been, in succession, the best of the series, I feel that I can finally feel confidence in Alex Kurtzman. YAY!

Of course, a show-runner doesn’t work alone. But he does determine which people to hire and who does what. This episode was written by MICHELLE PARADISE (yes, she was born with that name) and directed by JONATHAN FRAKES. I don’t need to tell you about Frakes, as he’s done a little work in Hollywood before. But Paradise was just named as co-showrunner for Discovery in season three…and fans were again worried that this newcomer Paradise not be up for making Star Trek. Well, after this episode, as with Kurtzman—I’m not really worried anymore!

Okay, let’s start talking about this little gem…

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Take that, DR. SEUSS; TREK MASH-UP is legally FAIR USE!

I’ve been watching this case closely for nearly two years, fascinated by the question of whether a”mash-up” of two separate intellectual properties (in this case STAR TREK and DR. SEUSS) could be successfully defended against a copyright infringement lawsuit using a defense of FAIR USE.

And yesterday, we discovered that the answer is officially “YES.”

For a more complete history of this case, check out any of my previous 15 blogs on the subject (I told you I was watching it closely!). In short, DAVID GERROLD (the creator of the tribbles) and TY TEMPLETON (award-winning comic book artist) set out to create a Seuss/Trek mash-up book called Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!

Together with their publisher ComicMix, they set up a Kickstarter in late 2016 to fund a run of 5,000 printed copies of the book to sell through ThinkGeek. They raised about $30,000 when Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) contacted Kickstarter with a DMCA takedown notice. The money was never collected.

Six weeks later, DSE sued the mash-up team for both copyright and trademark infringement. The case was an emotional rollercoaster ride for both sides, with the judge at one point dismissing the trademark claims and then later (after a re-refiling by DSE) reinstating the trademark claims.

On the copyright complaint side of things (different than trademark), the judge was ready to dismiss the case outright on grounds of Fair Use, but she gave DSE one chance to prove market harm by Team Mash-up. DSE was able to make a strong enough argument for financial damages that the judge allowed the case to move forward. That was 14 months ago.

The case has been complex, to say the least! And it had the potential, according to Ninth Circuit Federal Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO, to quite literally determine the fate of nearly all mash-ups well into the future. Would this new art form die in its infancy? Was it even a true art form? All of her rulings were carefully considered, and nothing was rushed.

After more than two years of legal wrangling, filings, responses, discovery and evidence and testimony, and motions for summary judgement, it all came down to pre-trial oral arguments made in Judge Sammartino’s San Diego Courtroom five weeks ago on February 7.

So what exactly happened, and is this case finally over…?

Continue reading “Take that, DR. SEUSS; TREK MASH-UP is legally FAIR USE!”