‘Star Trek’ Fan Film Lawsuit Ordered to Trial

Judge decides that a jury should determine if “Axanar” is too similar to “Star Trek”

Last Updated: January 4, 2017 @ 10:54 AM

The lawsuit over the “Star Trek” fan film “Axanar” will boldly go before a body of sworn in citizens.

In a ruling handed down Tuesday, judge R. Gary Klausner determined that the copyright dispute should be determined by a jury.

Dismissing both the motion for summary judgment filed by plaintiff Paramount Pictures and the motion for partial summary judgment filed by defendant Axanar Productions, Klausmer determined, “With respect to the first core issue, the Court finds that the Axanar Works have objective substantial similarity to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works. The Court leaves the question of subjective substantial similarity to the jury.”

The order was handed down in federal court in California.

Paramount and CBS Studios filed suit in December 2015, claiming that the crowd-funded film infringed on the “Star Trek” copyright.

“The ‘Axanar’ Works infringes plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of ‘Star Trek,’ including its settings, characters, species, and themes,” the complaint reads. CBS and Paramount are seeking up to $150,000 for every copyrighted “Star Trek” element present in the films,” the lawsuit reads.

“Axanar” follows Garth of Izar, a Federation captain from “Star Trek: The Original Series,” who was idolized by Captain Kirk (William Shatner).

According to the description on the film’s official website, “‘Axanar’ tells the story of Garth and his crew during the Four Years War, the war with the Klingon Empire that almost tore the Federation apart. Garth’s victory at Axanar solidified the Federation and allowed it to become the entity we know in Kirk’s time.”

In an interview with TheWrap, producer Alec Peters said he and his team met with CBS but the network didn’t offer any specific guidelines concerning what his crew can and cannot do — the network simply told him that they can’t make money off the project.

“CBS has a long history of accepting fan films,” Peters said at the time. “I think ‘Axanar’ has become so popular that CBS realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”

However, in a statement, CBS and Paramount told TheWrap, “‘Star Trek’ is a treasured franchise in which CBS and Paramount continue to produce new original content for its large universe of fans. The producers of ‘Axanar’ are making a ‘Star Trek’ picture they describe themselves as a fully-professional independent ‘Star Trek’ film. Their activity clearly violates our ‘Star Trek’ copyrights which, of course, we will continue to vigorously protect.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.