We should be FANS, not lawyers

By May 22, 2016 Blog 16 Comments

Law and Order - Star Trek

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.

Ironically, in an attempt to “save” Star Trek, the lawyers at CBS and Paramount almost killed it, or at least damaged it severely. During this amazing 50th anniversary when Trekkies and Trekkers should have been coming together to celebrate this amazing, world-changing phenomenon known as Star Trek, fans instead began taking sides and digging in. This lawsuit tore a painful rift among the very people who need to be united in their love of Star Trek in order for the series to continue to live long and prosper.

What’s worse is that, in taking sides, fans stopped being fans and instead began to become copyright police and legal experts. And as my own attorney wife is so fond of telling me, “Jon, you are NOT a lawyer. You didn’t go to law school, you didn’t rack up a lifetime of student debt, you didn’t study for months to pass the bar exam, and you don’t bust your ass for 70 hours each week swimming in a sea of litigation.” (That’s pretty much a quote, folks.)

And yet, suddenly fans were armchair attorneys, sharing their “wisdom” and opinions and predictions and hoping for one outcome or the other. And ultimately, there would be a loser. Either the Axanar feature film would get made and the studio would have to eat humble pie or else Axanar would get the ax, Alec Peters would be humiliated and forced to go bankrupt while the studios did their victory lap. Either way, a large number of fans would feel frustrated, angry, and hurt because of the outcome.

By initiating this lawsuit, Paramount and CBS were creating what many fans were seeing as some kind of warped sporting event where they would pick a side, root for every small victory, jeer at the other team, and do a lot of trash talking…sometimes in the most vile and disgusting language imaginable (I’m talking to you, GandT Show!).

That wasn’t Star TrekStar Trek brings fans together.  This lawsuit was tearing fandom apart!

And JJ Abrams and Justin Lin realized that.

As fans themselves, Abrams and Lin understood that this situation was, in fact, a Kobayshi Maru scenario for Star Trek itself…and especially for the studio. Even if CBS and Paramount won, what exactly would they win? They’d protect their intellectual property, but from whom? From the fans who loved it and supported them? Even if the studios had won, they’d still have lost by turning a wonderful outlet for fan FUN into fan FEAR and FRUSTRATION.

JJ annoouncement

Photo of JJ Abrams’ announcement at Paramount on Friday night, courtesy of TrekNews.net. (Used with permission.)

Whereas the studio attorneys saw Axanar as a great white whale to be hunted and slaughtered, Abrams and Lin looked beyond (oh, sorry, unavoidable pun!) that to the potential fallout. Together, they both put pressure on the studio to settle this case amicably so that their movie could premiere without every other news story between now and July (or January!) mentioning that Paramount and CBS were suing Star Trek fans. The details of the case wouldn’t be as important to the media as the “David and Goliath” story, and reporters seldom show sympathy for Goliath. That certainly wouldn’t help ticket sales, and it would likely discourage new fans from wanting to participate in Star Trek because, well, who wants to start throwing their support into a franchise whose owners are willing to sue their own fans?

As I read some the posts by angry and frustrated Axanar opponents who had hoped to see the utter decimation of Alec Peters and his production, I noticed many of them suddenly turning on JJ Abrams and hoping there might still be some major wrist-slapping and humiliation coming from the settlement discussions.  And I realized that these folks haven’t realized a very important thing…

JJ Abrams and Justin Lin have given fans a precious gift: permission to stop being lawyers and start being FANS again.

Whether you were on the side of the studios or the side of Axanar, it’s no longer anything you need to worry about. Seriously. Show’s over, folks, nothing to see here anymore. Unlike the U.S. presidential election, the public doesn’t get a vote in this. Lawyers for the two sides will be moving toward a settlement, and CBS will (finally!) be issuing guidelines for fan films to follow in order not to get into this kind of struggle again.

So I say, REJOICE!!! This is a GOOD thing! Star Trek fan films will no longer have to hide in the shadows, constantly fearing the subpoena as if a Sword of Damocles were hanging over their heads. We can go back to just having FUN.  Can’t we?

And let’s face it, fan films are COOL! Sure, they’re not all Oscar-caliber (some are more Oscar the Grouch caliber), but they all come together to celebrate Star Trek in new and creative ways we never could before. But now we can! Thanks to JJ Abrams and Justin Lin pulling the studio legal team out of their Captain Ahab stupor, we can go back to being just fans again…and not lawyers.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s a wonderful gift. I just hope that the rest of fandom will decide to ACCEPT that gift, to abandon the anger and vitriol, and just go back to the paradise of Trekkiness that awaits us.

This year promises to be the best year ever for Trekkies: the 50th anniversary, a long-awaited set of official guidelines for fan films, a new movie which actually looks like it won’t suck, and a brand new TV series that’ll only cost you six bucks a month to watch. Okay, maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s so much more, so much better than we fans have had for a long time.

Let’s please all go back to being just fans again…because Star Trek is so much more fun without lawyers everywhere!

Header-mainOriginally posted on Fan Film Factor.


  • EJCox says:

    Six dollar, u say um six dollar? No way… A month 72 dollar a year??? No wont be seeing that I guess..

    I’m all set for Axanar to take center billing on my stage…

    I can’t get over it, six dollar?!?!?!!?

  • John Willis says:

    I would hope the settlement would be easy to implement and monitor on both sides. One way I would think would be for Press releases must be “filtered” through CBS/Paramount, or final production must be “approved” or tacitly “licenced” through CBS/Paramount. The alternative would instigiate a breach which they would have the right to follow up on or not pursue. It would certainly ratchet up the quality of the Production, give CBS/Paramount some leeway in release schedules.. and perhaps give a shot in the arm to burgeoning Fan Moviemakers as doing something “approved” as opposed to a production in “a vacuum”.

    Another way might be to “limit” Production costs to some percentage of the most recent Commerical Production. This would be harder to monitor and enforce since auditing and accounting practices could be spoofed or disputed. But if its a “fixed” amount over time it could drift in value downwards and ratchet the quality downwards.. which I’m pretty sure CBS/Paramount should see this as a “Value Add” to the Commerical projects.

    The real problem up until now is the Commerical business has seen no “value” in a Fan sponsored production effort. Things like Comicon or Marvel or DC Comics have been seen “by them” as low to no value with little potential for generating or enhancing real profits. — dispute that if you will, they have been focused on “long term viability” and “eternal never ending copy rights” which is a bit distorted since until the 20th Century all of the stories and literature were essentally “built on” expired copy rights.. Word were built from the Alphabet for example.. what if Sumeria has Copy Righted .. literature? with 20th Century Laws.

    • Michael Snyder says:

      Geez, what is so difficult for some of you people to understand???

      Axanar is NOT nor it ever was supposed to be for non donors! PERIOD. It’s never ever been for CBS/P profiting. Please get that through you thick skulls. I really wish that persons like you John Willis would stop saying what you did in your first and possibly second paragraphs.

      Maybe if the nutjob, NON capitalists at CBS/P had actually done something smart like make a damn star Trek movie ever 2 years and IF they would have actually used some of the already rich history in star trek to make the aforementioned movies. Axanar might have already been done! But NO the greedy little crappers at CBS/P saw a project that isn’t for PROFIT being made under their greedy noses and thought they could just swoop in and take it.

      It’s just possible that JJ and Justin actually made the stupids at CBS/P really understand what fans are in the Profit equation… WE the fans control your profits.

      Oh an Axanar is called just that… Axanar. It’s not Star Trek Axanar. SO i’d really appreciate it if you’d stop inputting the words Star Trek in front of the actual name.
      One of the major reasons that it did so damn well is that it was ONLY FOR THE DONORS. We, the donors want this story told to us in a digital format.

      And your comment about “Ratcheting up the Quality of the Production”….. PLEASE you obviously never watched Prelude, because that short film about the Axanar film is JUST as high quality as any recent studio production has been! It’s the first that HAS been of “Studio Quality” and that also pissed off the stupids at the studios… because NOW the secret was out.. namely that others can make “Studio Quality” things without being a studio.

      Last point, The “Star Trek” Universe is so vast… hence the word “Universe” that to me why would anyone be STUPID enough to bring a lawsuit against anyone that is going to BOOST your bottom line in the future.

      Yes, this suit will fade but the negative publicity that it’s generated will cripple CBS/P star trek viewing a lot.

      Well Done Greed! It’s no wonder that in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek greed, poverty and the ideas of Capitalism have all been eradicated. well capitalism and greed are only in the Ferengi area.

      I DO understand that out growing the silliness of present day greedy capitalism done in the USA is growth item that lots of adults wont willingly take. But it is the better way.

  • Michael Miyabara-McCaskey says:

    This is certainly good news… although the Studios still effectively cost Axanar $80,000 (in rent to rent a building they weren’t allowed to use to make the movie). So I’m still on the fence as to CBS and Paramount… but I continue to wish Axanar all the best… and by all accounts as I said many months ago… you all have effectively been the Crucible of Truth (aka Babylob 5: Into the Fire). You all rock! Can’t wait to see what you all will produce.

  • Rafael says:

    Congratulations. I saw the preview and was really bummed about the lawsuit. I just hope that Paramount/CBS does not drag its feet while coming to a settlement.

    I am looking forward to seeing this project. It is by far the best fan film I’ve seen so far.

  • David L says:

    Hi all,

    The title almost made me spit out, a mouthful of pop. Soda for you east & west coasters. But I totally agree with the article. I wrote something very similar on a site that broke the news after an email from the petition holder. I gotta tell you, for me, it was a real head scratching issue that fans would be so negative against any efforts to bring content to loyal Trekies. It’s because of finding Axanar that I was introduced to the vast amount of fan films and more. I have watched every series, and movie ever made, and like many, watched them over and over again. Learning about these great fan films has only made Star Trek that much more fun and exciting. I have also read many of the books for all the series too. Always wishing, hoping, that some would be turned into movies, or a continuation of a series. Especially TOS . Someone should put together a big Thank You, electronic card, that all us fans can sign for the great gift JJ Abram’s and Justin Lin have given us all.

  • W Ted Jones says:

    from this fan thank-you

  • Romulan Steve says:

    Don’t know if I can totally forgive Abrams for destroying Vulcan, trans-warp beaming, Spock stealing Kirk’s “Khan” yell or augment blood transfusions that raise the dead, but he’s certainly Trek fandom’s hero today. He may not have started out as a fan, but it looks like the ST ethos may have rubbed off on him.

    “The Eminians keep a very orderly society, and actual war is a very messy business. A very, very messy business.”

    I’ll still be wearing the “Defend Axanar” T-shirt I made to the Beyond premiere, but I’ll enjoy it a whole lot more knowing that the Battle of Axanar will take place in space, and not in court.

  • Brian Heite says:

    Very good points made, and a lot of reality and truth. The Axanar fan base is just that, a fan base. They got excited and upset that something they put their money and intense devotion to, might be taken away, and headed into the arena that was doing it. Now, it is time to just wait for the settlement, put this behind us, and hope that Axanar can make up lost time and still be made in time for the 50th year. Good luck to Alec and company, and again, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Winston and Strawn for standing with us, and providing the top notch legal help they did. We still stand with Axanar, and I hope Alec can tell us what is needed now to make it reality.

  • Bob Franklin says:

    At first I was overjoyed at the news, but now more & more I’m feeling uneasy about this sudden change of heart, ostensibly inspired by Abrams & Lin, & what these as yet unseen guidelines might contain. I’m reminded of an old folktale I once read, wherein the Devil takes an apprentice. the boy whom the Devil selects is quite cunning & consistently gets the better of his master. In one instance, the Devil gives the boy a loaf of bread & an egg, telling the boy that he may eat as much bread as he can fit within the yolk of the egg. Without hesitating, the boy produces a goose quill, procured earlier in the story (I forget exactly when & how), & dips it in the yolk. He then draws a circle around the bread, telling the devil “I must have the entire loaf, if I am to serve you well.” The premise For Abrams & Lin stepping up & applying pressure seems likely enough, but I can’t help but suspect some sort of trickery down the line…

    • Alec Peters says:

      While possible Bob, JJ and Justin are good people who truly appreciate the fans. JJ was very gracious to me and we are very grateful to him and Justin for going out of their way for us.


  • Lance Ripplinger says:

    Spot on here Jonathan! People forgot that Star Trek brings people together. That is something that I always love about it. People need to get stop being armchair lawyers and get up and make Star Trek great again (err no pun intended)! There are so many possibilities for the future of Star Trek, we should all celebrate!

  • KingOfSunsetTown says:

    Hey, that’s strange. The usually noisy anti-Axanar websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds seem to have quietened off quite a bit.

    What will they do with their time now?

    • Michael Snyder says:

      Well that’s a nice thing. They will probably talk smack about the silly politicians like Hillary or trump. Oh wait that would be productive discourse. hahaha. Never mind, they will find something mean to say about JJ. Everyone seems to usually want to say that he can’t direct. Which he certainly can. If he couldn’t then the movies he does direct wouldn’t make any profit and they usually do.

  • Keith Clarke says:

    I can see Axanar being picked up by the studio in an “adjunct capacity” this will obviously be complicated, however; think of it this way:

    Axanar has already generated a lot of online interest among us the fans and general sc-ifi and associated media outlets/trade papers due in large part to legalities etc.

    What better way to move things forward than to see the studio pick Axanar up and provide ancillary services, set time etc.

    Obviously the Axanar team must be retained along with creative control, Additional funding could be provided by CBS paramount AS A DONOR not a commercial entity with a commercial interest of turning a profit.

    The idea/Story/Characters would remain property of Axanar productions/Alec.

    A carved in stone guarantee that Axanar remains not for profit.

    Retaining the cast’s service could be an issue, however something could be worked out I’m sure, they must be retained.

    • Michael Snyder says:

      Why is it some of you people keep trying to give CBS something they don’t damn well deserve?

      Oh and THEY DO NOT NEED to be Donors. I sure as all hell don’t want the Corp pricks having any kind of control over Axanar.

      Why in the hell are you creatures so ready to suck up to the corporation causing the problem in the first place? You act like little children when the big bad bully comes up to you and wants your lunch money.

      Yes, they can give the Axanar team an outline of do’s and don’ts but THEY, CBS DO not ever get to be donors. They and Paramount if they had the friggin brains should have been making actual star trek for the past damn 10 years and they didn’t. AND don’t give me the bullshit argument… well movies cost money.. bullshit. marvel already proved your thesis WRONG. If marvel can come out with a good movie every 2 damn years, then wtf was CBS/P star trek corp people doing for the past 15 damn years???? Sitting on their damn asses and sucking the profits dry ? YES.

      2 friggin years after they fucked up the last 2 years of Enterprise they could have started another series. Called whatever and gone through the major points of the next 10 damn years in the star trek universe. If they actually knew how to STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM TIME TRAVEL CRAP! Yes star trek “powers that be” always have screwed up time anything.

      If the corp asses would have actually MADE some star trek, then alec and his excellent team of high quality artists wouldn’t probably had to make Axanar because it could have already been made!

      They could have made a movie about the first klingon-federation war, unless that is what Axanar actually is. I haven’t seen a script. I’m certain that the federation did run into enemies to battle before there was Deep space nine.

      What about the First Romulan war? huh? Please i’d love to know and i’m certain a few hundred thousand or maybe a million star trek fans would also love to know why before axanar The stupids at CBS/P didn’t do a damn thing at all except bitch when some other talented people started to make their own for the love of star trek and they found “Other funding” meaning US gracious fans who wanted to donate our own damn money to a worthwhile project.

      NO, the only thing the stupid corp pricks at CBS/P could think of is” well, let’s reboot star trek and change the time line so we can have a younger james T kirk! You stupid asses have no damn imagination at frigging all!!!! Nothing against JJ. I actually like what he does. He’s very good at his job. BUT then i do understand science fiction and what it’s supposed to be. I’d bet 10 trillion dollars that most of the stupid jackassed executives who have supposedly been saddled with star trek at either CBS or Paramount have NO damn idea what science fiction is or what it’s supposed to do in our society.

      If the Federation is supposed to be FOUR CENTURIES in age, then what the fuck has CBS/P actually done with their most excellent franchise whilst they have had it in their care? Correct answer???? NOT a hell of a lot!

      Now if CBS/P had been giving the fans star trek on a regular basis and Here WE come stealing their “Thunder” then YES i could maybe see that Axanar was in the wrong. BUT Hell NO. There hasn’t been a star trek series since 2005!!!!!!!!! SO what star trek have you given us in the past DECADE, huh CBS??? correct answer NOTHING!

      BOTH these corporations have squandered their inheritance, well ok i’ll give Paramount its due that they have always made the movies once some prick at the stupid studio remembered that they had the rights to desilu studios and hence to star trek.

      And star trek MOST DEFINITELY is a real part of the American society. IT most certainly IS a part of the Public Domain. Also if the damn stupid greedy laws are obsolete and copyright laws most certainly NEED to be updated, then they should. If not, then star trek will die and so will the greedy creatures at CBS.

      I thank JJ and the other director, sorry i forgot your name, for having the guts to actually get across to someone in power at CBS/P to make them realize that they DID in fact make a grave error. I DO hope that the corp pricks don’t smash them both in the future like i know that corporate twits can be revengeful just to satisfy their own shallow egos.

      But, NO CBS Does NOT ever get to be a donor for this. Now, if the majority of the actual donors, if we all take a vote and the majority want to give into the corporate trash, then fine. what i have donated can be returned to me without interest and i will never do a darn thing in support of any other star trek universe endeavor ever again.

      Sorry for the swearing, but I get passionate about some things and standing up for corporate stupidity and greed is definitely one of those things.