Just imagine: going to FAN FILM FACTOR and not seeing the words “AXANAR LAWSUIT’ at the top of the home page…
It could happen! Yesterday, the two sides had a court-mandated meeting to discuss ways to settle the case before going to trial. Most lawsuits settle before ever reaching trial (like 90-95%, I’m told) because it’s usually not worth the cost and the risk of losing to ether side.
Also, full trials take up a LOT of time in court. So far, the Axanar case has required only a few hours of a judge’s actual time on the bench (plus some extra time in chambers reviewing filings). But an actual trial can take days or even weeks to finish, plus the costs of sitting and potentially sequestering a jury. So it’s often in the best interests of the legal system, as well, for cases to settle rather than coming to trial.
And so Judge R. Gary Klausner (the main judge in the Axanar case) ordered both sides to try–really try–to come to an agreement…a compromise where both sides give a little and get a little. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick, who had just made two major rulings in the discovery phase, was told to facilitate the settlement talks on Monday.
So my best one-sentence summary of Magistrate Judge Charles Eick’s ex parte order in the Axanar lawsuit would be: “Move along folks; nothing to see here.” In other words, nothing really surprising happened (at least if you read my previous blog).
In short, the plaintiffs asked for three main things and got two and a half of them…maybe two and a quarter. But the thing is, they got what the defense was already offering. You order a drink, the waiter brings it. Done. So it was kind of anticlimactic.
Remember back in the first half of this year when the initial documents were being filed in the Axanar lawsuit? Remember how each time one side or the other would submit their latest filing, it would suddenly look like it was “game, set, and match?” And then the other side would respond, and it would seem like a knockout blow for that side. And on and on.
Man, just when you thought we’d go at least a few days without a long AXANAR post! But hell hath no fury like a pair of studios compelled by a judge to produce a ton of discovery documentation and new witnesses to depose.
So what the heck just happened? Well, long story short, yesterday the plaintiffs attorneys in the case filed a 122-page ex parte (emergency) application for a judge’s order of relief while still in the discovery phase of the case. Time was running out (discovery ends on Wednesday!) and the plaintiffs couldn’t wait to jointly approach the judge for a fast resolution. And what are they trying to resolve?
Well, now it’s time for short story long. Strap in, folks–’cause a LOT has happened in the last seven days!
Some of you may know the not-so-secret origin of FAN FILM FACTOR. Back in 2015, I was writing a regular weekly blog for the Axanar website called “Fan Film Friday,” and it was becoming quite popular. Shortly after the infringement lawsuit was filed, however, a couple of my interviewees requested not to appear on the Axanar website. Other fan filmmakers were fine with being featured on the Axanar site, but I lamented the fact that I would no longer be free to feature all the fan producers that I wanted to.
I mentioned this concern to Alec Peters, and he suggested that I create a separate blog site independent of Axanar. That way I could talk about anything I wanted…and arrange my content any way I wanted. “But I have no idea how to set up a blog site,” I told Alec. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said, “Mike Bawden can do it for you.”
So far, the four previous episodes of STARSHIP TRSITAN from Potemkin Pictures have ranged in length from six-and-a-half minutes to ten-and-a-half minutes. (You can watch them all here.) Their latest episode, “Be Careful What You Wish For,” has a 15-minute run time and a much larger cast than usual. The episode was an ambitious endeavor that required a lot of on-location shooting. It’s a very impressive effort.
William C. Searcy, who plays the lovable and colorful character of the half-Vulcan Dr. Skep Anderson, wrote the episode and produces the Georgia-based series. Note that, from their second episode onward, in order to comply with the CBS/Paramount fan film guidelines, the series is no longer known officially as “Starship Tristan” and is instead just a collection of separate fan films, each with a different name (the title of the individual episode). That said, Dr. Anderson has appeared before and will (hopefully!) appear again. Will that constitute an “ongoing series” and violate guideline #1? Hard to say, but it’s such a minor quibble, one would think the studios wouldn’t bother making a big deal of it since the series complies with all other guidelines.
At this time, according to the Potemkin Pictures website, two more episodes of this series have been filmed and are currently in post production. With luck, we’ll be seeing them soon!
And so we come to the fourth and final part of this blog series. (Time sure flies when you’re writing 2,000 words a day!) Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. If you haven’t read them yet, to quote Pavel Chekov, “Now vould be a good time.”
It’s probably pretty darn busy right now at CBS and Paramount. What are been asked for (or rather, ordered) by the judge will most likely require all hands on deck for much of the week–tracking down documents and e-mails and financial records, compiling them, composing careful answers to submitted inquires from the defense, and creating a full privilege log. Plaintiff’s Attorney Jonathan Zavin said as much in court last Friday toward the beginning of his presentation (I’ll post the court transcript when I receive a copy) and even called the amount of documentation requested “unduly burdensome” 25 different times in the plaintiff’s responses in the Joint Stipulation document.
Before we jump back into the legal battle of Axanar, I strongly recommend you read Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog analysis if you haven’t already. There’s a LOT that happened last week involving the Axanar copyright infringement lawsuit, including a 2-hour long court hearing and a ruling by Magistrate Judge Charles Eick of the Federal 9th Circuit Central District.
The judge’s ruling gave the defense (Axanar) nearly everything it wanted from the plaintiffs (CBS and Paramount) that the studios were refusing to turn over during the discovery phase. Discovery is when both sides in a lawsuit get to ask the other side to show them all the cards in their hand (or, in this case, documents, e-mails, and answers to questions during witness depositions). The idea is that neither the plaintiff nor the defense should be bringing out some surprise piece of evidence during trial that the other side never saw coming. Yeah, I know it happens all the time on TV, but it’s not supposed to. Both plaintiffs and defense should be allowed to prepare full arguments based on all the evidence that will be presented in court. If one side doesn’t see the evidence, how can they put together a proper rebuttal?
If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, go read it now. Then come back.
Welcome back. Shall we begin…?
When last we left off, the focus was on J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin and their public comments about Axanar. The studios have now been ordered in a ruling by Magistrate Judge Charles Eick to turn over:
All Documents and Communications relating to the statements made by J.J. Abrams on or about May 19, 2016 that (a) Justin Lin was “outraged” by this lawsuit; (b) this lawsuit “was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans”; (c) “fans should be celebrating this thing”; (d) “[f]ans of Star Trek are part of this world”; (e) Justin Lin “went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit”; (f) “within the next few weeks, it will be announced this is going away”; and (g) “fans would be able to continue working on their project.”
And Atlas shrugged. Many of the Axanar detractors, and indeed, even the plaintiffs and their attorneys have said, “So what?” These two men aren’t spokesmen for the studios. They were hired out as directors, and therefore, any opinions they might have are hardly relevant to the case. Who cares what they both said in their e-mails to the studios about Axanar? We already know what they think anyway!
Okay, so everyone is talking about, cheering about, cursing about, and analyzing Friday’s ruling by Magistrate Judge Charles Eick after the hearing to determine Axanar‘s motion to compel discovery from the studios.
Rather than summarize exactly what just happened, I am going to humbly direct you to the blog website of my delightful counterpart over on the other side of the Internet fence, Janet Gershen-Siegel. Unlike me, the Boston-based Janet actually went to law school, graduated, and practiced insurance defense law for a few years back in the 1990s. She’s been analyzing and writing about the Axanar lawsuit in painstaking detail almost since it was filed. And while we all have our little biases (yes, even me!), Janet’s meticulous reviews are sprinkled with a generous helping of comedic flairs to be very accessible for the lay-person. And when I say I do my research before writing these blogs, hers is one of my never-miss sources of information and insight.
So instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m going to send those of you who are curious over there to Janet’s blog to read more about what the judge actually ordered the studios to do…and then come back here for the follow-up. What I’m going to talk about is how the defense is planning to use all of this newfound “bounty” (an amazing amount of new discovery documentation and verbal/written answers to defense questions ordered by the court) to try to win their case…or at worst, not lose too badly.