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!
STARBASE STUDIOS is moving from Oklahoma City to Arkansas! And here’s why…
As you may have read in my blog about the history of Starbase Studios, these folks rescued the amazing TOS bridge set that had been built for the second Starship Exeter fan film “The Tressaurian Intersection.” That meticulous 360-degree set had been rotting away for years in a barn near Austin, Texas, until it was transported to Oklahoma City and lovingly restored by a group of dedicated fans.
But these folks didn’t just restore the bridge set. They turned it into an invaluable, one-of-kind resource for fan film producers. Anyone was welcome to come and film anything they wanted on this bridge set (and, later, the additional sickbay and transporter room sets that would be constructed) for just the price of the electricity that was used (maybe $50/day). Although there are two other studios in the U.S. featuring TOS sets on sound stages (Ticonderoga, NY for Star Trek: New Voyages and Kingsland, GA, originally for Starship Farragut and later for Star Trek Continues), those studio runners didn’t offer the same kind of open-door, come-any-time-you-want policy as Starbase Studios.
If it’s Tuesday, that can only mean one thing: new documents in the AXANAR lawsuit were filed at midnight last night!
But seriously, folks, these will likely be the last Axanar filings for the foreseeable future. In two weeks (December 19…a Monday, of course), attorneys for both sides will appear in court in front of Judge Klausner for oral arguments, each supporting their clients’ motion for summary judgement. After that, the next document we will see will be filed by the judge himself…and it’ll either be good news or bad news (or both!) for the two sides in this case as he makes his final rulings on these two motions.
In the meantime, here’s what came in last night: REPLIES. Three weeks ago, both sides filed motions for summary judgment (the plaintiffs filed a partial motion…more on that in another blog). These documents each asked the judge to rule on facts that were not in dispute (in other words, so obvious that any jury would reach the same conclusion, so why even waste the time to argue about it in court?). Of course, neither side agrees on what these “obvious” facts are, which kinda suggests they’re not quite undisputed. However, if the judge is convinced by the arguments of one side or the other, he could, conceivably, end this case before the trial even begins, effectively handing a victory to one side or the other.
After filing their motions, each side was allowed, two weeks later, to provide a second filing in OPPOSITION to what the other side had argued in its motion. And finally, a week after that (which was yesterday), each side could provide a brief REPLY to that opposition filing. Here are links to both of those replies from yesterday:
When I first started up FAN FILM FACTOR, I didn’t really feel the need to have a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (or whatever else) presence online. Simply organizing a blog site, writing articles and interviews, and answering comments is more than enough work, thank you very much!
There’s some bad news and some good news for STARFLEET STUDIOS (based in Iowa–not to be confused with STARBASE STUDIOS, which is moving from Oklahoma City to Arkansas…more on that in an upcoming blog). The bad news has to do with their planned new fan film, THE TNG PROJECT(working title), which launched a Kickstarter in late October attempting to raise $11,000.
They ended up raising only 1% of that amount (the campaign finished with $131 total, which means it failed to fund and no money will be collected from supporters). Show-runner DAVID WHITNEY told me earlier this week:
Frankly I did not expect the TNG project to succeed. I did not do a great job for the videos. I had no cast interviews, and did not groom the fans. But I wanted to give TNG fans something.
One of the reasons for the lackluster effort came because, during the Kickstarter campaign, the main actor for the project, who was set to play Data, became unavailable as his acting career has begun to take off. So rather than pushing hard for donations for a project that was now lacking a main character, David Whitney simply let the campaign close, unfunded.
But not all is bad news in the universe of Starfleet Studios! David also told me the following:
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.
First, I’d like to apologize if FAN FILM FACTOR seems like it’s turning into the ALL-AXAANR NETWORK.
Yes, there are still other Star Trek fan films out there, and I promise to get back to covering them. But the Axanar news these past two weeks (and for the next three weeks) is truly significant and could, very likely, affect ALL Star Trek fan films and series…in a good way, a bad way, or possibly even both. So in my opinion, this is news deserving of extensive coverage.
That said, shortly before midnight on Monday, both parties in the Axanar copyright infringement lawsuit filed briefs opposing the others’ motions for (partial) summary judgment. Monday was the deadline, and these filings were widely expected by those following the case.
The goal of each legal team is not to win the case here and now, however. In a situation similar to the old joke, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you!” the idea is to simply torpedo the other side’s motion to get the judge to issue any ruling BEFORE the case goes before a jury. As such, if/when you read the filings, you’ll notice a tendency to argue that “the facts are still very much in question” rather than “they’re just plain wrong and we’re right.” As long as the facts are still in dispute, this case goes to court, and a jury gets to decide.
Here’s a link to the Plaintiffs Opposition filing and also a link to the Defense Opposition filing. And once again, they are both brought to you by the number 20…as there is a 20-page limit in how long these “briefs” can be. Some day, I am certain, all of this filings in this case will be required reading in law school courses on copyrights and intellectual property law. Yes, this case is THAT significant, and both sides are writing textbook motions that have a lot to teach future attorneys.
In a few days, I’ll try to provide my own “briefs” on these briefs…hopefully shorter than last week! Some things to notice if you do bother to read these:
The plaintiffs are back to using pictures again!
Now it’s the plaintiffs’ turn to bring up Star Wars…and Harry Potter!
On the other side, the defense points out that Garth of Izar and Soval are not James Bond and Godzilla!
Apparently, long-time Trekkie and director of Star Trek Beyond, Justin Lin, never heard of Garth of Izar!
Apparently, no, the studio (Paramount) never bothered to register a copyright on Garth of Izar nor on Ambassador Soval. (This could be problematic for the plaintiffs.)
If the judge grants the plaintiffs’ requested injunction against Alec Peters, it could violate the first amendment! (Hey, I’m just reporting the news, folks.)
This time, the plaintiffs used a proper redaction technique. Whew!
And yes, I’m also going to include some blogs about OTHER Star Trek fan films really soon…I promise!