Just when you thought you were out, I pull you back in! Yes, it’s AXANAR lawsuit time again…and I really didn’t expect this part to be quite so significant. Man, was I wrong!
As you may recall, the next major event in the Axanar case was supposed to be oral arguments for the motions for summary judgment in front of Judge R. Gary Klausner on Monday morning. But the judge canceled the in-person hearing and will be making his pre-trial rulings based solely on the documents filed by both parties. (This is not unusual. I’m told that Judge Klausner usually cancels oral arguments and rules based on filings.) This means that the judge’s rulings could come at any time…and this lawsuit could possibly even be over before it begins!
But if this case does go to trial on January 31, then yesterday (Friday) was an important deadline. It was the last chance each side had to challenge evidence and/or witnesses that the other side wants to use in court and present to the jury. This can potentially be pretty big. Imagine going into the big game with a few of your best players disqualified and benched. That could happen if the judge excludes one or more pieces of potentially key or damaging evidence from being used at trial!
The plaintiffs are challenging TEN different items of evidence and potential witnesses (like little ol’ me!) while the defense team is challenging NINE. I’ve consolidated all those separate motions into two huge PDF documents:
You probably don’t want to read all 140 pages (although there’s some interesting stuff in there!), so I’m gonna help ya out and do a summary…later this week. Assuming the judge doesn’t end the case before then, I’m gonna need at least a few days to parse through all this!
Except for the motion about me (starting on page 25). That one I wanna tackle right now because, dammit, it’s my frickin’ blog and I should be allowed a bit of self-indulgent righteous indignation every once in a while!
So let’s take a look at why the plaintiffs don’t want me ruining their case…
This time, we look at the equally fascinating Defendants’ reply to the Plaintiffs Opposition to the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. This is the way the law works, folks, with each side being given a fair chance to rebut the other side’s arguments and then to reply to those rebuttals. It is important to know copyright law even when dealing with owned property. If you are interested in finding out more about copyright law, you might want to check out somewhere like Bonamark to learn more.
As I mentioned last time, the plaintiffs’ latest filing comes in like a wrecking ball, angry and indignant and looking for strong emotion to carry the day. They want justice…and they don’t get particularly specific in describing what aspects of their intellectual property was copied and how. They give some general descriptions, like Klingons being “…a fictional, war-like species, speaking Klingonese, hailing from the planet Qo’noS and are known for engaging in battles with the Federation.” But they don’t go much further.
As you’ll see in a few moments, the Axanar defense team utilizes a very different approach. Less emotional and more (dare I say it?) logical, they go much deeper into the precise elements of copyright law and legal precedent. (As such, yeah, this is gonna be another long blog, folks…sorry.)
It’s the hammer versus the scalpel, and it’s time to see how an intellectual property “surgeon” operates…
We are now at the “Did, too!” point of the summary judgement phase for the AXANAR lawsuit. Motions for summary judgment were filed back in November with each side asking the judge to make certain rulings before the trial even begins…rulings that could actually make the trial (or most of it) unnecessary.
The plaintiffs want the judge to rule that Alec Peters infringed on the intellectual property (Star Trek) of CBS and Paramount and order that he be forbidden to make any more Axanar anything. The defense wants the judge to rule that the Axanar works fall under the protection of “fair use” and so any trial is unnecessary.
The stakes are high. A decision one way or the other could change the world of Star Trek fan films forever!
Both documents are 20 pages long and intelligently written. However, there’s a lot more to cover in the defense brief, so I had to split that portion into two parts in order to cover everything properly. This isn’t to say one side or the other made better arguments–only that there’s more to go over with the defense.
Moreover, even if the Court were to construe Plaintiffs’ unsubstantiated and self-serving speculation that they could theoretically be harmed by Defendants’ Works as “evidence,” this would only create a factual dispute on fair use.
This shows that the defense isn’t just opting for a “We’re obviously right, and they’re obviously full of crap…” approach like the plaintiffs did. (That’s not an actual quote from the plaintiffs’ filing, but it’s a pretty good summation.)
Instead, the defense is going to also cover their flank and protect themselves against the judge going with the plaintiffs. In other words, yes, they’re saying “We’re right and they’re wrong,” but they are also saying, “But if you think they’re right, then we really need to let a jury decide.” Summary judgments only happen if there is clearly NOT a factual dispute. So pay attention to how many times the defense suggests that a the facts need to be brought in front of a jury. The plaintiffs don’t do that at all.
Two legal teams…two different strategies. Fascinating, ain’t it? (Well, I think it’s fascinating, at least!) So, let’s look at what the defense has to say…
Yes, it’s that magical time again! Jonathan is going to play tour guide to take anyone who is interested on a journey through the latest two major filings in the AXANAR lawsuit, each submitted to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court this past Monday.
For a better idea of what is going on at the moment, check out my (not so brief!) four-part blog on the motions for summary judgment (start here). In that analysis, I flipped a coin and began with the defense. This time, to be polite, I’m going to begin with the plaintiffs.
The first question you might be asking is why the plaintiff’s motion is only for a partial summary judgment. The answer is actually rather simple. They aren’t asking for the judge to stop the entire case, only the parts where the plaintiffs could lose and the defense could win. In other words, they want Judge Klausner to say that the defendant Alec Peters infringed and shouldn’t be allowed to make any more Axanar anything. But, you ask, isn’t that all there is…is there nothing more? Oh, there’s one more thing still to determine…
The attorneys for CBS and Paramount also filed a PLAINTIFFS Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, and I look more thoroughly into that in my next blog. But the defense won the coin toss (yes, I actually flipped a coin to see which side would be analyzed first!).
When last we left off, we had just gotten to the “meat” of the defense’s motion:
It was the best of crimes; it was the worst of crimes…or was it even a crime at all? (Actually, this is a civil trial, not criminal…but I needed a word that rhymes with “times.”)
Looking at the two motions for summary judgment filed late Wednesday night by the two parties in the AXANAR copyright infringement lawsuit, one might wonder if he or she had just read a tale of two completelydifferent fan films. The defense, unsurprisingly, had that “What…little old us?” look as they discussed a mostly original piece of creative fiction that used just the smallest sliver of Star Trek–and only the “minimum” that was necessary to tell its story that was actually a “critical commentary and analysis” of “the present-day military industrial complex.”
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs painted a picture of a nefarious fan who maliciously tried to line his own pockets with ill-gotten gains taken from the good and just studios who have made Star Trek lo these 50 years. His fan film contains nothing original and was simply a “…copy from the plots, themes, settings, mood, dialogue, characters, and pace of the Star Trek works.” The very existence of Axanar in any way will “…cause irreparable harm to the market for the Star Trek Copyrighted Works…” and must be ended immediately “in the public interest.”