Fan settles suit for using Star Trek material for film

LOS ANGELES • CBS and Paramount Pictures settled their copyright-infringement lawsuit against a die-hard Star Trek fan, who had channelled his obsession with an obscure character from the original television series into a professional 20-minute YouTube hit.

The studios and film-maker Alec Peters announced the agreement, 11 days before the case was to go to trial in Los Angeles.

Earlier this month, a federal judge bolstered CBS and Paramount's claims by rejecting Peters' argument that his Prelude To Axanar was fair use of the Star Trek material. The judge said Peters had mined the studios' copyrighted works down to "excruciating detail".

"Axanar and Mr Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation," according to a joint statement last Friday.

Peters has "also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr Peters will be in accordance with the Guidelines For Fan Films distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016".

The case is a rare instance of movie and TV-rights owners throwing the book at one of their fans. CBS and Paramount alleged Peters has ripped off the plot, characters, costumes and spaceship design from their 50-year-old science-fiction franchise.

Peters claimed his movie, crowd-funded with US$100,000 (S$143,000) raised on Kickstarter, was an original work of satire and parody. He has been raising money for a feature-length film budgeted at US$1.3 million.

A judge said in a Jan 3 ruling it was difficult to see how the film is a "criticism" of the Star Trek works.

"This is not surprising since defendants set out to create films that stay faithful to the Star Trek canon and appeal to Star Trek fans," Mr R. Gary Klausner said in the decision.

Peters was eight years old when Star Trek moved to a 10pm slot on TV. To let him watch an episode, his mother put him to bed at 8pm and woke him two hours later.

His 2014 documentary-style short recounts a confrontation between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

The planned full-length movie will tell the story of Garth of Izar, a Starfleet captain who appeared in the original TV series as an inmate at an insane asylum and a hero of Captain Kirk's.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'Fan settles suit for using Star Trek material for film'. Print Edition | Subscribe