In Part 1, I explained what a motion in limine is, so I don’t need to explain it again, right? Instead I can just jump into the ten motions the plaintiffs made in the AXANAR lawsuit to try to get certain key witnesses (including me!) and pieces of evidence excluded so that the jury will never see or hear them.
Here are all ten motions collected into one document:
To save you from having to read all 63 pages (!!!), I’ll be providing a nice ‘n tidy summary for you of each motion. In a few cases, I might comment on the strength or weakness of a particular argument. But for the most part, I’m going to stick to giving an overview of why the plaintiffs believe each item should be excluded, and also how that item could potentially hurt the plaintiffs if it gets in front of the jury. (After I finish going through all of the plaintiffs’ motions, I’ll do the same for the defense team.)
My apologies in advance for another long blog, but this time, there are TEN motions to cover! Read it in chunks if your eyes start to glaze.
Now that I’ve indulged my little emotional rant last Saturday, it’s time to sit down and take a somewhat less passionate look at the 19 motions in limine that both sides filed last week to exclude evidence and witnesses in the AXANAR lawsuit.
The plaintiffs are challenging TEN different items of evidence and potential witnesses (including yours truly!) while the defense team is challenging NINE. I’ve consolidated all those separate motions into two huge PDF documents:
In Part 1 of this blog series, I’d like to explore what a a motion in limineis and how and why it is used. In this way, I’m hoping to give you all a better idea of what is going on right now and why it’s so important (and also give myself more time to research and write up parts 2 and 3!).
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…
The motions for summary judgment had been filed last month by both parties in the AXANAR lawsuit, followed by opposition briefs and reply briefs from both sides. Next Monday, at 9:00 a.m. at the Ninth Circuit Federal Court Building, lawyers from both sides were scheduled to appear before Judge R. Gary Klausner to argue the merits of their motions and oppose the other side. And I was planning to be there.
Looks like I don’t have to schlep to downtown anymore. The court just sent the following message to the attorneys in the case:
SCHEDULING NOTICE TO ALL PARTIES AND ORDER by Judge R. Gary Klausner. Plaintiffs CBS Studios Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [72, 85] and Defendants Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters’ Motion for Summary Judgment , calendared for hearing on December 19, 2016, have been taken under submission and off the motion calendar. No appearances by counsel are necessary. The Court will issue a ruling after full consideration of properly submitted pleadings. IT IS SO ORDERED.
In other words, Judge Klausner will decide the motions based solely on the documents that have been filed. This is not unusual for him. In fact, I am told that it’s unusual for him to NOT cancel oral arguments!
And so his decision could come at any moment–today, tomorrow, next week–and when it does, you can believe I’m gonna post it as soon as I can!!!
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:
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!
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.”