Perhaps the second most problematic aspect of Axanar (after the lawsuit) is the fulfillment of perks (or lack thereof) to the backers of their three crowd-funding campaigns. Two years after their second Kickstarter, which raised a jaw-dropping $638,000 from supporters, perks have still not gone out to donors. Fortunately, that is about to change with the final completion of the back-end Ares Digital 2.0 accouont management system.
But before we discuss how Axanar is finally pulling itself OUT of this sand pit, let’s take a look at how Axanar fell INTO this sand pit in the first place…
Last time: well, last time there was just way too much to summarize, so just click here to read it if you haven’t already.
Basically, with a trial date set for January 31, 2017 and no settlement announced yet, the case has entered the discovery phase. (So yes, “Star Trek: Discovery” now means two totally different things to CBS!)
During discovery, both the plaintiffs and the defendant must provide the other side with any piece of evidence they ask for that is relevant to the case. Witnesses are questioned (deposed), documents are collected and shared, and queries are submitted in writing requiring honest and open answers…and all this months before a jury is ever seated and the clerk says, “This courtroom will now come to order.”
It’s time for Star Trek discovery! No, not the new TV series. I’m talking about the next phase of the Axanar copyright infringement lawsuit: legal discovery.
Last week, former Axanar marketing director and tech guru, Terry McIntosh, posted on Facebook that he had just been subpoenaed by CBS and Paramountto be deposed as part of the copyright infringement lawsuit against Alec Peters and Axanar. Terry is not in any legal peril himself, as no other defendants other than Alec Peters were named in the lawsuit. Instead, the studio lawyers will probably just ask for copies of all of Terry’s correspondence (e-mails, IMs, chats) with members of the Axanar team, and the studios might set up a deposition to ask Terry some (maybe even a lot of) questions either in person or over the phone.
And this means that the (coincidentally named) DISCOVERY phase of the lawsuit is now in full swing. So what does that mean?
Before I begin, I’d just like to go on record that I’ve had the time of my life here in Las Vegas for the last five days. And CREATION ENTERTAINMENT founders Adam Malin and Gary Berman (and their many employees, volunteers, and celebrity guests) have outdone themselves in putting on a superb 50th anniversary tribute to Star Trek. I laughed, I cried, I kissed about $250 goodbye in the dealers room. It was the best of times; it was an incredible gift to the 6,000 fans who could afford to make it to Las Vegas and ordered their tickets before they sold out. So well done, I say to all of Creation!
Wanna see and hear what the guy who types all these blogs looks and sounds like? Last week, I was contacted by a news producer for ReasonTV and asked if I’d be willing to come in for a half hour or so and discuss Star Trek fan films. Well, gee, twist my arm!
I’d never heard of ReasonTV, but it turns out it’s the latest offering from the Reason Foundation, which was founded in 1978 and publishes the monthly Reason magazine (voted one of the 50 best magazines in 2003 and 2004 by the Chicago Tribune…for whatever that’s worth).
I was told the news feature would be about 10 minutes long and focus on the CBS/Axanar lawsuit and the new fan film guidelines. Alec Peters and Richard Hatch would also appear in the piece. We’d all be interviewed separately and edited together later.
I drove to the studio (conveniently located only about ten minutes from where I live) and sat for a very pleasant interview. The reporter, Zach Weissmueller, was well prepared with some great questions. This wasn’t just a fluff piece, and my job wasn’t to talk up Axanar. In fact, I think I only even said the word “Axanar” once during the entire interview. Instead, I was asked about the history of fan films and the introduction of the new official guidelines.
Four weeks ago, I wrote a very impassioned op-ed decrying that Trekkers should be fans and not lawyers. I am now going to turn myself into a complete hypocrite and become an armchair attorney myself…partly because of the shameless reason that it seems to boost readership of one’s blog but also because I think there’s a fascinating details about the latest Axanar lawsuit news that’s not being reported at the moment.
Three days after J.J. Abrams announced that the copyright infringement lawsuit against AXANAR and Alec Peters was “going away,” the Axanar attorneys at Winston & Strawn filed a legal Response to the most recent amended complaint and ALSO filed a Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief.
Now why would they go and do a provocative thing like that just when the studios were about to start playing nice???
I decided to ask Axanar‘s lead attorney in the case, Erin R. Ranahan. It turns out there was a filing deadline on Monday that, if missed, could have severely and negatively impacted Axanar‘s ability to successfully navigate this lawsuit. Ms. Ranahan explained the situation…
JJ Abrams and Justin Lin have every reason to think like lawyers. After all, they make a lot of money from Star Trek, and if there’s a chance something will damage that brand and result in Star Trek making less money, that affects at least part of their livelihood.
So why did Abrams and Lin put pressure on Paramount and CBS to settle and end their lawsuit against Axanar? It’s because these two producers, as fans themselves, know something that all the lawyers involved in this lawsuit (and many of the fans following it) seem to have forgotten: being a fan should be FUN (just change the “a” to a “u”), and when fans have fun, franchises thrive.
As I said yesterday, folks, mark your calendars for January 31, 2017. Just as CBS gets ready to launch their new Star Trek TV series, the gavel will fall on the judge’s desk to cal to order CBS and Paramount’s lawsuit against Axanar Productions and Alec Peters. Unless there is a settlement or mediation in the next eight and a half months, the most important case ever for fan films (in many people’s opinions) will be litigated in front of a judge and possibly a jury.
Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled as follows:
Although the Court declines to address whether Plaintiffs’ Claims will prosper at this time, the Court does find Plaintiffs’ claims will live long enough to survive Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.
According to the Axanar website:
Winston & Strawn will now prepare our answer to the amended complaint, which is due in 14 days.
In the meantime, we continue our efforts to settle this matter with CBS and Paramount so we can move forward with telling the story of AXANAR in a way that satisfies both the studios and the over ten thousand fans who financially supported our project.
Mark your calendars! The judge in the lawsuit between Paramount/CBS and Axanar has now set a trial date of January 31, 2017. This is about three and a half months earlier than the litigating parties had mutually recommended to the court.
Judge R. Gary Klausner now has all of the paperwork submitted by the plaintiffs, the defense, and even an amicus brief filed by the Language Creation Society disputing the claim by the plaintiffs that the Klingon language can be copyrighted. It’s quite an attention-grabbing case!
The judge could rule in the coming weeks on any or all of several motions filed on behalf of Axanar, including the removal of Paramount as a plaintiff, dismissing the part of the lawsuit dealing with the Axanar movie (of which, only one 3-minute scene has actually been completed while the rest of the film remains in stalled pre-production), and even the possibility of dismissing the entire case.
Even if the case continues onward, a LOT can happen between now and next January, including a settlement between the two parties. If not, then we’ll see everyone in court in less than nine months.