Star Trek IP owners sue Star Trek fan production
December 30, 2015 10:35 AM   Subscribe

When lawyers attack The fan-made Star Trek movie project Axanar (previously) raised over $1 million. Despite the producers vowing to never make money off of it, Paramount and CBS raised shields and launched lawyers this week.
posted by doctornemo (151 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah - I'm sorry, but when you raise $1M in funding and are stating that you're going to make a "studio grade" film, you sort of left "fan film" behind some time ago.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:38 AM on December 30, 2015 [31 favorites]


That seems to be a bit of a pattern - large scale high profile crowdfunding efforts putting the shits up IP holders in a way that smaller productions don't., and companies that have previously been rather chill firing off the lawergrams.
posted by Artw at 10:40 AM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


not sure why you wouldn't spend at least a few of those million dollars on a lawyer, except that he or she might tell you this would happen...
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:42 AM on December 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


As the pitch to investors put it, "While some may call it a 'fan film' as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew — many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself — who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see."

Welp, I hope those investors are okay with their money heading off to CBS/Paramount. Or to the defendants' lawyers. Hmm. What happens to Kickstarter/Indiegogo dollars in a situation like this?

In an interview with THR following the filing, Peters says, "We certainly been prepared for this and we certainly will defend this lawsuit .There are a lot of issues surrounding a fan film. These fan films have been around for 30 years and others have raised a lot of money."

I'm curious to see how they respond. They would have been pretty idiotic not to have seen this coming, what with the soliciting investment/high profile crowdfunding.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Next week, on Totally Predictable Outcomes, it turns out that putting "no copyright infringement intended" on your YouTube video's description doesn't prevent it from getting taken down.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:44 AM on December 30, 2015 [40 favorites]


not sure why you wouldn't spend at least a few of those million dollars on a lawyer

Because he is one?
Peters, who notes he is a lawyer and has licensed other products from CBS, says he asked CBS to give guidelines similar to what LucasFilm has done for fans of Star Wars, but that CBS/Paramount haven't, in his opinion, "because of fear they are going to give up some rights."
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:44 AM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Peters, who notes he is a lawyer
Peters says, "We certainly been prepared for this and we certainly will defend this lawsuit"

I'm struggling with this. Is this the same Alec Peters? If so, and he sincerely thinks he has some defence here, then there's got to be more to the story than the article lets on. Taking the article on its face I can't imagine what the defence would be, unless he's contemplating some kind of novel First Amendment argument. (IANA US L)
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 10:51 AM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


tobascodagama: “Next week, on Totally Predictable Outcomes, it turns out that putting 'no copyright infringement intended' on your YouTube video's description doesn't prevent it from getting taken down.”

For those who don't know much about the Star Trek fan film genre, it's easy to react with disbelief that this would be allowed in the first place. But Alec Peters is right when he says there's plenty of precedent for this. The short film that sort of led to this, Prelude to Anaxar, was funded over $100,000 on Kickstarter, and Paramount was totally fine with it. There are other professional-grade Star Trek fan films, like Of Gods and Men; that one wasn't Kickstarter-funded, it was benefactor-funded, so we don't know the budget, but it certainly wasn't peanuts.

You really have to ask yourself – if they're okay with a $100,000 film that includes canonical cast members and plenty of characters from the various Paramount series, why would a million-dollar film suddenly be a terrible idea? A million dollars certainly isn't going to cover much, and I think he can say fairly that this isn't a money-making endeavor, depending on his bookkeeping I guess.

Philosophically, it would be nice to live in a world where people could make whatever they want. Wouldn't it be nice if that was what happened here? People who are excited about a thing and want to make it, just for the fun of it, are allowed to do so? I really do think we need to be broad about our interpretation of "non-profit" - otherwise, pretty much any kind of film will be off-limits by this rule.
posted by koeselitz at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2015 [21 favorites]


I would speculate that the reason the law-talkers suddenly got involved after a period of tolerating this kind of fan film is that CBS/Paramount finally got off their asses and greenlit a new Trek show.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:55 AM on December 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


You really have to ask yourself – if they're okay with a $100,000 film that includes canonical cast members and plenty of characters from the various Paramount series, why would a million-dollar film suddenly be a terrible idea?

It's a million dollars of Star Trek money that they aren't getting. Paramount might not bother unleashing its expensive lawyers for $100,000, but you get into the millions, and that's something that they're interested in.
posted by Etrigan at 11:00 AM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Remember, fans: you have zero ownership over your favorite movies / TV shows / etc. The studios want you to feel like do you so you'll spend lots of money going to cons and buying merch and otherwise spreading the gospel and converting people to the fandom, but at the end of the day you have no rights at all to any of those characters or stories.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:01 AM on December 30, 2015 [34 favorites]


n+1 to the response that this is a totally predictable outcome.

What worries me is that, by appealing to prior fan films, the producer may be making it harder for genuinely amateur films in the future.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 11:03 AM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


How so?
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:05 AM on December 30, 2015


Actually it seems this guy has been making a living through buying and selling parts of his favorite movies and TV..
posted by cmfletcher at 11:06 AM on December 30, 2015


You really have to ask yourself – if they're okay with a $100,000 film that includes canonical cast members and plenty of characters from the various Paramount series, why would a million-dollar film suddenly be a terrible idea? A million dollars certainly isn't going to cover much...

There have been many, many movies that ended up making more than $100 million off of tiny budgets. Like, "maxing out the credit card" budgets.

What happens if this guy bottles lightning and suddenly the studio has to pay attention to this guy? Forget the money. He'd enjoy enormous negotiating and public relations leverage. The studio would be chasing this guy and fending off competitors, eager to capture his "indie cred" for future projects, which may or may not include Star Trek. And he would have done it on the back of your IP.

Even if the dollars are small in comparison, no one likes it when someone comes in and eats your lunch.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:07 AM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


What worries me is that, by appealing to prior fan films, the producer may be making it harder for genuinely amateur films in the future.

How so?


A case that goes to trial can establish precedent over the entire genre of fan films. If the Axanar team pushes the angle of "We're not going to make any money off of it" and they still lose, then that blows a big hole in the same argument when used by more purely amateur endeavors.
posted by Etrigan at 11:16 AM on December 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Despite the producers vowing to never make money off of it, Paramount and CBS raised shields and launched lawyers this week.

This has nothing to do with anything. The metric is not "did you make money violating our intellectual property rights?" but "did you violate our intellectual property rights?"

That is not to say rights holders don't have a choice in how they approach this (Harry Potter vs My Little Pony for example) but rather that anyone who thought they could do this without rights clearance should never have been handed a million dollars.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:18 AM on December 30, 2015 [8 favorites]



Because he is one?


Didn't RTFA carefully enough. Guess I have to fall back on the cliche about people who represent themselves and what kind of lawyers they have...
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:33 AM on December 30, 2015


It's a million dollars of Star Trek money that they aren't getting.

That is not how spending works. It's not like the people who funded the movie have some amount of money set aside in a glass case marked "For whatever is the best Star Trek thing at the moment".
posted by IAmUnaware at 11:36 AM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Philosophically, it would be nice to live in a world where people could make whatever they want. Wouldn't it be nice if that was what happened here?

Philosophically, you'd like to live in a world where a studio could grab a copy of say, The Martian, make a big budget movie, and not pay Andy Weir a cent. Or do the same to Ancillary Justice or any other authors work. Or frankly, using the same principal, a publisher could just copy and publish an author's work, and not pay them a cent.

Philosophically, that world sucks.


You really have to ask yourself – if they're okay with a $100,000 film that includes canonical cast members and plenty of characters from the various Paramount series, why would a million-dollar film suddenly be a terrible idea?

Because then what's to keep say, New Line Cinema from taking a ten or 50 million dollar budget, and making a for-profit production of Trek? What's to keep a studio from copying The Dutch Girl, and presenting it at the same time?

Honestly, I don't think people have actually been thinking through the consequences of their proposals.


A case that goes to trial can establish precedent over the entire genre of fan films. If the Axanar team pushes the angle of "We're not going to make any money off of it" and they still lose, then that blows a big hole in the same argument when used by more purely amateur endeavors.

There already is that precedent. The only thing that's ever kept fan productions from being sued is the tolerance of the IP holders. Honestly, "We didn't make Abby money on it" is a horrible defence, especially when money is being made on the project.
posted by happyroach at 11:36 AM on December 30, 2015 [29 favorites]


I get that fan fiction and fan film people argue that they fit under the fair use exception, but the exclusive right under U.S. law to derivative works has to mean something. If you can make a professional looking Star Trek movie without permission from the rights holder, what can't you do?
posted by Area Man at 11:41 AM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Seconding everything happyroach said. A better way to frame this story would have been, "Group's slim hope to make $1 million unlicensed Star Trek film dashed against reality of corporate interests and intellectual property law."
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


You really have to ask yourself – if they're okay with a $100,000 film that includes canonical cast members and plenty of characters from the various Paramount series, why would a million-dollar film suddenly be a terrible idea?

And what separates a million-dollar film from a $5-10 million dollar film? Especially if this is a work of love for some of the people involved (probably not all, given the budget), you start looking at budgets that are bigger than the original TV show.

It's common for people to ignore president prior to the Internet, but we've seen this drama play out before. There was a famous case involving Darkover fanfiction, for example, which led to a book written by the original writer not being published due to legal concerns. Some of the articles on this attribute the fallout to MZB overreacting, but I think the problem here remains legitimate: if your financial control over your own work can be threatened by decisions made by your fans, then it's safer to not sanction any kind of fanfiction at all. Take that example and scale it up by several orders of magnitude (think of how big the Star Trek franchise is) and you have a legal nightmare on your hands.

The only thing that's ever kept fan productions from being sued is the tolerance of the IP holders.

Yes. And I bet the amount of tolerance Paramount (and Lucasfilms / Disney and anyone else out there with fan videos) will have for any kind of fan production in the future has just plummeted.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 11:49 AM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "It's not like the people who funded the movie have some amount of money set aside in a glass case marked 'For whatever is the best Star Trek thing at the moment'."

I'm not sure you know the same Star Trek fans that I do.
posted by kyrademon at 11:50 AM on December 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


I can't imagine what the defence would be

Presumably some kind of equitable estoppel based on CBS/Paramount being okay with prior productions and not sending a C&D at the time of the Axanar Kickstarter campaign.
posted by jedicus at 11:51 AM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Philosophically, you'd like to live in a world where a studio could grab a copy of say, The Martian, make a big budget movie, and not pay Andy Weir a cent. 

Fifty years after he wrote the book? Absolutely. Copyright should eventually expire, as it did prior to Mickey Mouse.

Star Trek aired in 1965. It's due.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:54 AM on December 30, 2015 [22 favorites]


Philosophically, it would be nice to live in a world where people could make whatever they want. Wouldn't it be nice if that was what happened here?

No, it wouldn't. It wouldn't be nice to live in that world at all. I prefer to live in a world where artists and creators are protected from the moment of creation and have at least a theoretical hope of making a living from their creations. That cannot happen when people can make whatever they want, including wanting to make other people's stuff.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:55 AM on December 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


Copyright should eventually expire, as it did prior to Mickey Mouse.

Star Trek aired in 1965. It's due.


There should be some level of difference between a story and a franchise, though -- Garth of Izar (the apparent protagonist of Axanar) wasn't created until 1969; Klingons (the apparent antagonists) came about in 1967.
posted by Etrigan at 12:02 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Star Trek aired in 1965. It's due.

1966.


September.


Thursday the 8th.


8:30 P.M.


I was there.
posted by Herodios at 12:03 PM on December 30, 2015 [26 favorites]


This seems to be heavily derived from works considerably later than that.
posted by Artw at 12:03 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: “There have been many, many movies that ended up making more than $100 million off of tiny budgets. Like, ‘maxing out the credit card’ budgets.”

Uh huh. And how many of those were movies that were released for free on the internet, with zero theatrical showings?
posted by koeselitz at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Being allowed to make whatever you want is an artistic protection in and of itself.

Only people occupying a false consciousness could fail to see both sides to the argument. The arguing past each other is symptomatic of this.

As for Star Trek, the reason this is happening is because Star Trek Beyond is slated for this summer. Whatever opinions people hold need to take this into account too. It's 21st century economics so let's stop pretending the corporates care about "art" when they call the very thing Intellectual Property. A euphemism that doesn't need reminding about, especially if you've watched Star Trek in the first place.
posted by polymodus at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2015 [8 favorites]



I can't help but believe that these well-heeled and lawyered-up fen would be better served using their resources to tell / produce the kind of stories they like in a slightly different fictional universe featuring slightly different fictional characters.

Unless what you really like best about Star Trek are its surface features and not its soul.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:10 PM on December 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


both sides to the argument

Which sides, the ones holding rights to all things Star Trek, and the ones who want to use this universe without a licence? That's what I see here.

Arguments about expiration of copyrights are fine, but not relevant in this context. Peters was aware this could happen, and it is. It should have been expected the moment the new online series was announced.

I can respect fan works to a point, and Axanar certainly looked like a high quality labour of love, but this just is not how things work. There is nothing wrong with agitating for reform of copyrights, but offering that up as a retort to an IP violation suit is effectively admitting you know you're entirely in the wrong.

Personally, I'd prefer all the energy and resources were directed towards something new. Another prequel to a very tired franchise is not exactly something we're at a loss for these days.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:12 PM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Well, technically speaking "purpose and character" and "effect on a work's value" are two parts of a fair use defense. Practically speaking, the myth that personally funded fan-work is transformative and beneficial in building fan communities isn't likely to survive long when you're doing 7-digit funding campaigns.

The pendulum could swing the other way with fan-work sites facing legal troubles ala Napster and Pirate Bay, and social networking sites pushed to adopt idiotic algorithmic takedown mechanisms.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:16 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


happyroach: “Because then what's to keep say, New Line Cinema from taking a ten or 50 million dollar budget, and making a for-profit production of Trek? What's to keep a studio from copying The Dutch Girl, and presenting it at the same time?”

The fact that it is for-profit. That is the line. What's so hard to get about this?

Please notice what you're saying here: you're saying that any situation where an artist uses prior art without profiting must be low-budget – that any art which uses larger amounts of money must follow the arcane and ridiculous IP laws America has. That's consigning art that comments on or continues the work of previous works to the ghetto of cheap production – particularly considering the fact that a million dollars is a tiny amount when it comes to film production.

DarlingBri: “No, it wouldn't. It wouldn't be nice to live in that world at all. I prefer to live in a world where artists and creators are protected from the moment of creation and have at least a theoretical hope of making a living from their creations. That cannot happen when people can make whatever they want, including wanting to make other people's stuff.”

Who in the world is "making other people's stuff" here? Nobody's remaking Star Trek Into Darkness and trying to sell it as the original film here. There's no confusion that this is a separate work. If you really think "making other people's stuff" extends so far as to eliminate wholly separate works of fiction with completely different narratives and characters that simply happen to mention other people's art, then you're basically saying that no art should ever refer to any other art. Are you really saying that?
posted by koeselitz at 12:16 PM on December 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


There is nothing wrong with agitating for reform of copyrights, but offering that up as a retort to an IP violation suit is effectively admitting you know you're entirely in the wrong.

This is incoherent reasoning, as well as incomplete, for such a strong assertion. Nice try.
posted by polymodus at 12:29 PM on December 30, 2015


Cool Papa Bell: “There have been many, many movies that ended up making more than $100 million off of tiny budgets. Like, ‘maxing out the credit card’ budgets.”

Uh huh. And how many of those were movies that were released for free on the internet, with zero theatrical showings?


There is a legal framework in which this matter would be relevant: if the current rights-holders released their original works and/or intellectual property as open source for non-commercial use. As is rightly pointed out above, this could be quite problematic in the film industry, where accounting shenanigans tend to show every movie as a net loss, but I'd guess (not an expert) that charging people for viewing the product would obviate "non-commercial," even if you don't make any money.

That point is completely irrelevant here, as the rights-holders retain their copyrights to the IP. Copyrights do expire, but after a very long time (author's lifetime plus 70 years, I believe).

Agitate for copyright reform all you want, but don't pretend that this case should be different because reasons.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:32 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is incoherent reasoning. Nice try.

When someone says you broke the rules, and your retort is "the rules are bullshit" you either forgot to tell anyone you were unaware of the rules — not that it would matter — or you decided they did not apply.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:32 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fact that it is for-profit. That is the line. What's so hard to get about this?

Define "for profit".

If I make a Star Wars fan film, kickstart $1,000,000 but spend $950,000, did I make a profit? What if I pay myself $500,000 as the producer, and spend $500,000 on sets, costumes, actors, etc. Is that a profit?

"for profit" is a very tricky line to create.
posted by Frayed Knot at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


When someone says you broke the rules, and your retort is "the rules are bullshit" you either forgot to tell anyone you were unaware of the rules — not that it would matter — or you decided they did not apply.

You are confusing me with the people being sued. You didn't understand my original comment at all. Stop arguing.
posted by polymodus at 12:38 PM on December 30, 2015


For-profit vs. non-profit use is irrelevant. Even nonprofits have to follow IP law. The point is that the property rights holder has the ability to determine (subject to fair use limitations) what that content is used for, regardless of whether it's to make money or further a charitable purpose. In the past, Paramount made "don't try to make money off of it" their red line. But they're allowed to change their minds.

Art that comments on previous works would be protected by fair use in any event. But the film in question isn't commentary by any reasonable definition.
posted by AndrewInDC at 12:41 PM on December 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


koeselitz I was replying to the specific words I quoted: "it would be nice to live in a world where people could make whatever they want." You are addressing the specifics of the OP, which I was not addressing in my reply.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:41 PM on December 30, 2015


That seems to be a bit of a pattern - large scale high profile crowdfunding efforts putting the shits up IP holders in a way that smaller productions don't., and companies that have previously been rather chill firing off the lawergrams.

This is true. I work with an audio drama company which has performed live adaptations of certain science-fiction franchises and Paramount's Unofficial Stance on Star Trek fan work is very much like the BBC's Unofficial Stance on Doctor Who fan work: If you keep things small, do it for "the love" but not money, and try to fly under the radar, the lumbering IP giants are usually fine with looking the other way. Once you decide to make money off your work, you're bound to get noticed and if you really start to make money, the giants are going to swing down their mighty lawyer C&D hammers and pound you to a pulp.

Only a brave few fan works ever get accepted under the wing of the IP holder--that's how Big Finish got started with Doctor Who, and now they've got Actual Doctors and Actual Companions and Canon Stories and all--so it's a long shot. I saw the Prelude to Axanar short at a science-fiction marathon this year and it looked great; was definitely rooting for them to either get away with it or get Paramount interested enough to take them into the fold. Considering it's now all about the Abrams Trek, I'm not surprised that the giants have awakened and are swinging hard.
posted by Spatch at 12:44 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


IP law in the US needs to be revisited. The eleventy hundred years before something is released to the public domain and kept protected for the license holders and does not foster freedom for individual artists to build income from derivative works. It basically makes all creators beholden to the copyright holders for far too long after the artists lifespan.

IMO, businesses are not in the business of being artists by about as much as they are not in the business of being people either.

And in this case, well, it's not surprising that this would happen with the rights the current copyright holders have in the US.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:51 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Please notice what you're saying here: you're saying that any situation where an artist uses prior art without profiting must be low-budget – that any art which uses larger amounts of money must follow the arcane and ridiculous IP laws America has. That's consigning art that comments on or continues the work of previous works to the ghetto of cheap production – particularly considering the fact that a million dollars is a tiny amount when it comes to film production.


You've vastly overstated the issue. This isn't a work that merely references, comments on, or even uses a little bit of Star Trek, this is a Star Trek movie. That's a derivative work, and the exclusive right to derivative works (sequels, translations, adaptations into new mediums, etc.) is one of the key rights given copyright holders under U.S. laws. I happen to think it is an important right and not just some arcane feature of the law. If, for example, a novel is going to be adapted into a movie, the novelist should have a say in that and the ability to demand compensation in return for giving approval. Should HBO have been able to make Game of Thrones without G.R.R. Martin's approval? (Of course, copyrights need to expire after a period, but that's a different issue.)
posted by Area Man at 12:52 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the past, Paramount made "don't try to make money off of it" their red line. But they're allowed to change their minds.

Absolutely, and anyone with familiarity with media studies (not my field) would automatically be skeptical of the very framing that Paramount achieves with such a prohibition. Canon and non-canon Trek has always existed in a political and economic relation, one of mutual benefit amidst tension. To say anything meaningful one has to know about the development of fan media of Star Trek. And what's most interesting about all this - I think - is looking at how the cultural content of Trek exists in a kind of dissonance from real social, economic, class conditions - the very things that Star Trek speaks to, in way different from most other popular entertainment scifi media.
posted by polymodus at 12:53 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I work for a nonprofit, and deal with a lot of questions about what we can justify as educational use and when we should tell students to just buy the book or DVD. That my employer is organized as a nonprofit doesn't make a lot of difference in these matters. How much, how is it used, and how do we control access are still big questions.

Axanar I think is a pretty weak fringe case for arguing the merits of Mickey Rat or Warhol's cans.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:55 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


The politics of Star Trek are completely orthogonal to the case at hand.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:55 PM on December 30, 2015


Folks, all of the for-profit talk is coming from an "understanding" that Paramount and, later, CBS had for years with Trekkies, where the corporate overlords quietly tolerated fan films (and there are a lot of them.) They were always well within their rights to sue, but they never did.

I don't know why CBS is choosing Axanar to sue over, especially since it's been in the works for over a year and (apparently) they've had meetings with the producers, but I imagine the scale of the production is making them nervous and they want to shut it down to set a precedent. They might still be okay with things like Star Trek: Phase II, but who knows at this point.
posted by Automocar at 1:03 PM on December 30, 2015


The politics of Star Trek are completely orthogonal to the case at hand.

Exactly the blanket logic statement an authoritarian, oppressive government - say capitalist modern China - would make, about any piece of media. It is compartmentalized thinking, and unwarranted, without intellectual basis. This is precisely why it's political. Just apply a simple theory of mind: Why do you think the fans exist in the first place?
posted by polymodus at 1:04 PM on December 30, 2015


The politics of Star Trek are completely orthogonal to the case at hand.

Exactly the statement an authoritarian, oppressive government - say capitalist modern China - would make, about any piece of media. It is compartmentalized thinking, and unwarranted, without intellectual basis. This is precisely why it's political. Just apply a simple theory of mind: Why do you think the fans exist in the first place?


What does this even mean? The politics of the fictional universe embodied in the IP at issue in this lawsuit are totally irrelevant, so how is dismissing them "...without intellectual basis?"

The politics of Star Trek are orthogonal to any piece of media, because they are fictional. Frankly, bringing modern China into the discussion is without intellectual basis.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:11 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you are arguing that ideas don't matter because they are told through fictional stories, I don't know how to respond to that. That's not how most of us were educated.
posted by polymodus at 1:13 PM on December 30, 2015


Two of you are using the term orthogonal without explaining what it even entails. That's sloppy thinking. I'm done here.
posted by polymodus at 1:14 PM on December 30, 2015


[Comment reverted; the edit function is for fixing typos, not adding whole new paragraphs to comments. Just post a followup comment if you need to.]
posted by cortex at 1:14 PM on December 30, 2015


I once wrote a piece of music called "A Brief History Of Future China." Who knew how prescient that was!

And if the plot of a book or movie should necessarily influence the IP laws surrounding it, then it is high time to let wizards everywhere create their own Harry Potter movies.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:18 PM on December 30, 2015


Star Trek doesn't have a consistent view of how its own in-universe politics or economics even work, so I don't think Star Trek itself has much to say about the relative merits of U.S. intellectual property law in 2015.
posted by AndrewInDC at 1:21 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Star Trek doesn't have a consistent view of how its own in-universe politics or economics even work, so I don't think Star Trek itself has much to say about the relative merits of U.S. intellectual property law in 2015.

Yeah, we don't know whether there are licensing arrangements for the holodeck.
posted by Area Man at 1:24 PM on December 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I once wrote a piece of music called "A Brief History Of Future China." Who knew how prescient that was!

And if the plot of a book or movie should necessarily influence the IP laws surrounding it, then it is high time to let wizards everywhere create their own Harry Potter movies.


Then you have a flawed understanding of orthogonality. If a piece of art espouses certain values, that motivated other people to adopt and propagate those values, then it is relevant if other groups find ways to control and suppress those forms of expression.

Star Trek doesn't have a consistent view of how its own in-universe politics or economics even work, so I don't think Star Trek itself has much to say about the relative merits of U.S. intellectual property law in 2015.

Yeah, we don't know whether there are licensing arrangements for the holodeck.


No, but that's a terribly weak argument. Star Trek espouses some particular set of values - for example, as a bound, countless real-world engineers and scientists became such because of Star Trek. If corporate values seek to influence storytelling, then it becomes relevant. This is a straightforward analysis by contradiction. You are mistaken if you think Star Trek's implicit - and complex in how it inhabits the real and the fantasy worlds, in contrast to how some commenters have been suggesting - philosophy needs to have said something explicit about copyright law, or usage of art. This isn't complicated to understand.
posted by polymodus at 1:26 PM on December 30, 2015


As Henry Jenkins summed up way back in the dawn of the internet: “Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of by the folk.”

If people could fund and consume media that they wanted to see, instead of what studios execs wanted to sell... well, they'd be out of a job and I'd watch more media.
posted by givennamesurname at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


Sorry, folks. We had to shut the Holodeck down because Barclay kept doing simulations with unlicensed IP.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, we don't know whether there are licensing arrangements for the holodeck.

Quark has to pay out his nose for a custom-built "The Recapture of Deep Space Nine" simulation for his holosuites but the Federation News Service just holographizes Jake Sisko's reports for free. Progress!
posted by AndrewInDC at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


“Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of by the folk.”

And I might try to develop an argument that the Trekkies can see this better than some other people, due to the very principles established by Gene Roddenberry - for better or worse. It's a recursive phenomenon, loosely speaking.
posted by polymodus at 1:33 PM on December 30, 2015


polymodus: "This is a straightforward analysis by contradiction."

Okay, so what's the contradiction?
posted by RobotHero at 1:47 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The values espoused in Star Trek could be consistent with a variety of intellectual property regimes. Intellectual property is complex because of the conflicting interests at stake, including conflicting interests of artists and creators themselves. We see variations in types of degrees of intellectual property protection both across countries and between types of creative work (fashion has very weak protection, for example), and those variations don't fit neatly with the humanism and tolerance of a particular country such that more rigorous copyright laws tend to exist in more authoritarian states. The Soviet Union, for example, had relatively weak copyright protection with lots of uses excepted, short terms, and limited royalties.
posted by Area Man at 1:59 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


WRT IP in the Trek universe, there's a Voyager episode in which they're mentioned; authors of original works retain certain rights over them. (The plot twist is that the publishers of Photons Be Free argue that they can do what they want with it because the EMH isn't a person.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:02 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


We do know that there are licensing agreements for the holodeck. Voyager specifically commented on authors' rights in-universe, and they still protect works and derivative works in the 24th Century.

I mean, I sympathize. I'm working on a project that would be a lot of fun if it could be set directly in the post-Voyager universe, but already in the past few weeks since starting to work on it again its morphed into its own thing, and I'll be spending the rest of the week stripping out the last few references to Picard that remained.
posted by thecaddy at 2:03 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


IMO some of this is also going to tie into ambiguity surrounding the idea of selling vs. crowd-funding something. Looking at their indiegogo page, it says a 25$ donation means you receive a digital download of Axanar. At 75$ you will receive a blu-ray. How would we say that this doesn't really count as selling the movie?
posted by RobotHero at 2:06 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Do the actual dollars here matter? Is more it's about controlling the existing distribution channels right? It appears to me that the copyright holders are seeing a potentially large channel for their IP opening up that is beyond the studio's control?
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:17 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


From Hell's heart, I stab at thee, Halloween Jack.
posted by thecaddy at 2:18 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


It appears to me that the copyright holders are seeing a potentially large channel for their IP opening up that is beyond the studio's control?

A bit late for that, methinks.

From Hell's heart, I stab at thee,

I represent the estate of Herman Melville, Inc..... we would have words with thee.
posted by Mezentian at 2:26 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Soviet Union, for example, had relatively weak copyright protection with lots of uses excepted, short terms, and limited royalties.

Absolutely correct, but again, the wrong way towards salience. The Soviet Union didn't need copyright protection to control its media, and in turn, its political messages, and in turn, projecting its social values. That's the more comprehensive point.

Okay, so what's the contradiction?

Are you telling me that when someone says, e.g., "A dispute over a piece of information has no relevance to the content or meaning of the information", it should be taken as a universal truth? Because that was someone's essential argument above, couching in the unthinking label "orthogonal". They certainly didn't show for the case of Star Trek, or this particular conflict (and they conflated legal case with the general meaning of case!).

If a King tries to restrict copies of the Bible, whereas the Bible encourages people to to share it (not explicitly! but by preaching values such as love, sharing, literacy, whatever) - isn't that a social contradiction?

The key is to reason about people, and acknowledge that people use information - and to account for that in reasoning about what's salient.

So, as a matter of social observation (as opposed to a narrow framing of legal conflict), it is a contradictory state of affairs to have one group of people tell another group they can't promote a piece of information (Axanar) because it would damage art, or whatever, when what they care about is their corporate bottom line. It is anti-orthogonal because it is hypocrisy - the very thing you peddle contains the liberal, humanist, utopian or whatever related values - seed of that which will fight against you.

See again, which so concisely captures the problem of the social balance:

“Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of by the folk.”
posted by polymodus at 2:33 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Annika Cicada: "Do the actual dollars here matter?"

Many people want to make a distinction between fan works and commercial works. Usually that distinction is doing it for the love of it rather than for profit. The more money involved, even if it's for the purpose of making the final product more polished, the more worried Paramount is going to be that this distinction will be lost.
posted by RobotHero at 2:36 PM on December 30, 2015


So we've established Trek fandom as insufferable.
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on December 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Regardless of the legalities, I hope we can all agree that it's rather nasty of Paramount/CBS to be doing this now rather than at any of the numerous times they could have pulled the plug before fans put up the $1 million to make it.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:37 PM on December 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


I hope we can all agree that it's rather nasty of Paramount/CBS to be doing this now

They have altered the deal. Pray they do not alter it further.
posted by Mezentian at 2:40 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


As much as US copyright law is absolutely ridiculous and is destroying culture as we know it, I feel like Star Trek is something that actually deserves protection. It's an ongoing franchise and the IP owners are actively making new products. When everyone starts to post "Hey, a new Star Trek movie is coming!" and it isn't official, they have a right to be concerned.

This has nothing to do with how much money is involved except for the "Gentleman's agreement" that Paramount had that it wouldn't sue indie producers who weren't making money. And that agreement isn't worth a thing.

Still a bad move for Paramount, though. Imagine if they'd just said "We'll kick in our own $1 million and help make it a better film as long as we get final approval on the script and a percentage of profit."
posted by mmoncur at 2:40 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


polymodus, kindly refrain from doing things like calling my actions "unthinking" or comparing me to repressive regimes. Orthogonal means, colloquially, "unrelated or non-intersecting." IP law applies to all creative works equally, so by definition it is divorced from the contents of the individual works under its purview. One could make an argument that the IP holders of Star Trek have a moral obligation to the fandom, and I might disagree with that but can't say it is wrong. Conflating that with their legal obligations as rightsholders is, however, a logical mistake.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:45 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


A more concise attack is simply to ask the question:

For all the humanism preached in Star Trek, are its owners behaving in a way conducive to such values?

Consistency, relevance, and integrity are at the core of this conflict. Only a consumerist point of view would seek to compartmentalize and distort the issue.
posted by polymodus at 2:45 PM on December 30, 2015


If a piece of art espouses certain values, that motivated other people to adopt and propagate those values, then it is relevant if other groups find ways to control and suppress those forms of expression.

A test case for this theory might be to apply it to other pieces of art. For example, the early 90s Norwegian black metal scene. Black metal, as practiced by Mayhem, Burzum, and others, was harsh, misanthropic, antichristian. Several of these artists committed murder (Vikernes, Eithun, Nödtveidt), many more committed acts of arson against churches. One might argue that imprisoning these artists (and indeed many of them made great works of art) is controlling and suppressing the forms of expression that are embodied in their art. Which largely points to this theory as being false.

Perhaps we are arguing past each other. I approach this from a purely legal standpoint, that CBS/Paramount are well within their legal rights to protect their copyright under current copyright law. My use of the term orthogonal is fairly literal; the application of copyright law to the Star Trek intellectual property is independent of the values espoused in Star Trek films and tv shows. I doubt you'd find a judge sympathetic to your line of argument, just as a judge would be unsympathetic to an arson defense that hinged upon the aesthetics of black metal.

Finally, I gotta ask you to stop dismissing the arguments of others as weak and sloppy. It's dismissive and does nothing to bolster your own points.
posted by Existential Dread at 2:46 PM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, as a matter of social observation (as opposed to a narrow framing of legal conflict), it is a contradictory state of affairs to have one group of people tell another group they can't promote a piece of information (Axanar) because it would damage art, or whatever, when what they care about is their corporate bottom line. It is anti-orthogonal because it is hypocrisy - the very thing you peddle contains the liberal, humanist, utopian or whatever related values - seed of that which will fight against you.

That's all well taken, but what I would say is that there is nothing inherent in the techno-utopia presented by Star Trek that has anything at all to do with restrictions on use of created work. As seen even in Star Trek. So this seems like a lot of hand-waving about nothing.

I also don't really see anyone pretending that this isn't about Paramount/CBS' potential bottom line.
posted by AndrewInDC at 2:47 PM on December 30, 2015


Finally, I gotta ask you to stop dismissing the arguments of others as weak and sloppy. It's dismissive and does nothing to bolster your own points.

I don't need to bolster my points, thank you. If logic is sloppy, I will call it out. I'll ask you just not to feel bad about it! Call my arguments weak, fine, just make sure it's a good counterargument.
posted by polymodus at 2:47 PM on December 30, 2015


Metafilter: this seems like a lot of hand-waving about nothing.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:56 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


The law as practiced involves a hell of a lot of fanfiction though. It may be technically against copyright law as currently interpreted, but it is ubiquitous and storytelling and retelling and mythmaking is as old as humanity.

The Star Trek IP would be worth just as much as any other forgotten 60's show that ran less than 3 seasons without the fandom and fanfiction. If fanfiction is immoral, Paramount has vastly benefited from its immorality and perhaps should be punished.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:57 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


For all the humanism preached in Star Trek, are its owners behaving in a way conducive to such values?

I didn't realize that humanism allowed people to steal other people's stuff.

In any case, I saw Star Trek actually preaching patriarchal, neo-cold war imperialism, with a definite need for lawyers. So I would say if anything, ip rights would fit right into the milieu.
posted by happyroach at 2:59 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


polymodus, you imply that having and enforcing copyrights is contrary to humanistic values, but haven't done any work to show that's the case, and your assumption certainly isn't universally accepted. Even the writers of that particular Voyager episode don't seem to agree.
posted by Area Man at 3:05 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Of course, if the makers of Axanar had decided to slightly change the settings, characters and species of Star Trek and turn it into the story of, say, Barth of Izhere fighting alongside the Hephaestusians against the Genericproudwarriorracians , they never would have gotten the one million dollars from crowdsourcing in the first place.
posted by dannyboybell at 3:06 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


So we've established Trek fandom as insufferable.

Well, you're not catching us at our best . . .

That much is certain.
 
posted by Herodios at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Copyrights do expire, but after a very long time (author's lifetime plus 70 years, I believe).

This is incredibly naiive. Do you really think that the next time it's about to lose Mickey Mouse Disney will just say "Welp, I guess he had a good run" and accept it? Of course not. They'll get the number changed to 100 or something (nice round number, sounds fair, right?) and then, to add insult to injury, use trade negotiations to force the rest of the world to do the same.

Barring some kind of radical overhaul of the entire copyright system, no currently copyrighted work is likely to ever fall into the public domain again. (In the US, at least.)
posted by No-sword at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


Barring some kind of radical overhaul of the entire copyright system, no currently copyrighted work is likely to ever fall into the public domain again. (In the US, at least.)

And thanks to the taxation of trade routes, anywhere else.
posted by Mezentian at 3:14 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Area Man, I don't have any skin in this game (beyond being a fan of Star Trek), but one of the major tenants of secular humanism is distributive justice. While this is usually discussed in terms of economics, it could also easily be applied to copyright and trademark - whether by claiming fans and IP holders should have an equal stake in said IP as the product of shared creation, or that fans should have a larger stake as they've provided greater (though non-monetary) support and development of the IP over time.

(sorry to break out the SEoP, but the Wikipedia article definitely wasn't up to spec)
posted by givennamesurname at 3:25 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is incredibly naiive. Do you really think that the next time it's about to lose Mickey Mouse Disney will just say "Welp, I guess he had a good run" and accept it? Of course not. They'll get the number changed to 100 or something (nice round number, sounds fair, right?) and then, to add insult to injury, use trade negotiations to force the rest of the world to do the same.

I wasn't being naive; I was citing the current legal term (pdf) of copyright law in the United States. From the link:
The law automatically protects a work that is created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression on or after January 1, 1978, from the moment of its creation and gives it a term lasting for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years.
For works older than this, things get complicated.
Federal standards for copyright duration differ substantially under the 1909 act compared with the 1976 act because of the renewal term contained in the 1909 act. Under the 1909 act, federal copyright was secured on the date a work was published or, for unpublished works, on the date of registration. A copyright lasted for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. The copyright was eligible for renewal during the final, that is, 28th year, of the first term. If renewed, the copyright was extended for a second, or renewal, term of 28 years.
The 1976 act complicates things further.
The 1976 Copyright Act carried over the system in the 1909 Copyright Act for computing copyright duration for works protected by federal statute before January 1, 1978, with one major change: the length of the renewal term was increased to 47 years. The 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act increased the renewal term another 20 years to 67 years. Thus the maximum total term of copyright protection for works already protected by January 1, 1978, has been increased from 56 years (a first term of 28 years plus a renewal term of 28 years) to 95 years (a first term of 28 years plus a renewal term of 67 years). Applying these standards, all works published in the United States before January 1, 1923, are in the public domain.
This circular was published in 2011. Given the fact that per Wikipedia Mickey Mouse first appeared in 1928, it would suggest that Mickey would go into the public domain in 2023, were it not for the fact that Mickey is also trademarked, which can be defended in perpetuity.

I was incorrect in my comment above, of course, as Star Trek appeared in 1966(?) so the copyright term would expire in 2061 or thereabouts. I'm not defending these laws or commenting on the moral/ethical issues here, just pointing out the legalities. Reform of intellectual property laws is overdue, but challenging.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:30 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's probably because they know that the next nuTrek film and the coming series are going to be hot garbage, and might compare unfavorably to a fan produced internet nerd project.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:53 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


You're right about what the law currently says, but I think you are being naiive if you believe that it won't just be changed again when it's about to become inconvenient for big IP holders.
posted by No-sword at 3:55 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's a matter of scale.

With very low above the line cost (writer, director, starring cast), plenty of work donated or steeply discounted below the line, and CGI and VFX which only need to hold up computer monitors ... $1mm buys a heck of lot of movie. Apples to apples it's a significantly higher budget than most episodes of the new CBS series will have. No IP owner could sensibly allow it.
posted by MattD at 4:55 PM on December 30, 2015


I happen to play the MMO game Star Trek Online, on and off, and have often read their forums where the game designers have many exchanges with gamers. Did you know, one of the licensing stipulations included that the models of the phaser nodes/torpedo bays must be animated from the correct locations on the in-game ship wire meshes, to correspond with those shown on TV? I just find real details like these fascinating as a micro-representation of what different groups of people value, in practice.
posted by polymodus at 5:10 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was incorrect in my comment above, of course, as Star Trek appeared in 1966(?) so the copyright term would expire in 2061 or thereabouts.

So we'll successfully test a warp drive two years after copyright expires?
posted by ryoshu at 5:33 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Star Trek IP would be worth just as much as any other forgotten 60's show that ran less than 3 seasons without the fandom and fanfiction. If fanfiction is immoral, Paramount has vastly benefited from its immorality and perhaps should be punished.

While I agree that fandom (maybe not fan fiction) saved Star Trek, it was just people who enjoyed consuming the product. The fans weren't raising a million dollars to sell their own Star Trek episodes. This is a wee bit different.

Any successful product owes its success to its consumers and fans. McDonalds would just be a couple of boarded-up restaurants if people hadn't eaten there and talked about it. But if fans started showing their devotion by selling their own Big Macs in buildings with big yellow "M"s on them, I think there probably would have been a lawsuit.

There's also a collision between fandom and the mainstream here. Star Trek fans passing around homemade stories was strictly a fan activity 10 years ago, and the vast majority of the TV audience (who liked the show but weren't devoted fans) didn't even know it existed. Now we have heavily-promoted fandom raising a million dollars while being covered in national news outlets. Isn't that a bit different than the fandom that saved Star Trek?
posted by mmoncur at 5:43 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Area Man: "we don't know whether there are licensing arrangements for the holodeck."

Copyright is still being extended 30-50 years at a time even at the time of ST:NG in 2364 (currently author life + 400 years). Nothing has entered the public domain since 1934 which is why we never see any holodeck stories set in the late 20th or early 21st century.

It's like if Google brought out holodecks today but you couldn't experience any setting later than Shakespeare.
posted by Mitheral at 6:14 PM on December 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nothing has entered the public domain since 1934 which is why we never see any holodeck stories set in the late 20th or early 21st century.


Or, you know, it's a stylistic choice done because the show is targeted to an audience of that era, and thus a holodeck scenario of that era would not be as fantastic as, say, Victorian London.

And they do mention more modern scenarios being used - for example, it's mentioned in DS9 that the Siskos would go into a recreation of one of the last World Series from the 22nd century.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:40 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but recreations of the World Series fall under the recipe and database exemption, whereby mere listings of ingredients or plain facts are not protected by copyright. Presumably they'd have to work something out with the trademark holders for the team names and logos, though.
posted by hades at 6:52 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love you guys.
posted by No-sword at 8:05 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Presumably since MLB fell apart in the early 22nd century some company bought up the IP on the cheap and now licenses it out to 2.3K Sports.

(Goddammit this discussion would be PERFECT for the thing I'm working on)
posted by thecaddy at 8:26 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


The fact that it is for-profit. That is the line. What's so hard to get about this?

Hollywood accounting.

"For-profit" is not what anyone would call a clearly defined line.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:32 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


There was a famous case involving Darkover fanfiction, for example, which led to a book written by the original writer not being published due to legal concerns.

Sigh. I wish people wouldn't use this as an example, as the version that is passed around is um, not very accurate. To wit, in 1989, MZB who had been declining for several years, had a devastating stroke, at which point she could not longer write. However, there were still bills to pay. For a while, the collective around her made do with reprinting books from old pen names and likely repurposed at least one rejected manuscript, and by 1993 settled on the ghostwriting and farming system that began with Rediscovery, but an intermediate attempt was made in 1992 to buy Lamb's (approved fanfic) novel for $500. As it turned out, she wasn't interested in not getting credit, and so that fell through. But MZB wasn't writing a novel she had to abandon; she could no longer write. It's possible that Adrienne Barnes had already done some rewriting work on the Lamb book that fell through, I suppose, but that would have been on her.

For future endeavors, they were sensible enough to come to agreements with authors before the books were written.
posted by tavella at 9:34 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just to be clear - despite laments about how terrible a world where people "can make whatever they want" would be, that is in fact the terrible world we live in, isn't it? I thought that copyrights give the creator and assignees control over the publishing and public performance, etc., of a work and derivative works, not some right to actually prevent the creative acts of others independent of any such publishing or performance.

I realize the subject of the OP is a distinct situation if they were soliciting money in return for a promise to publish a derivative work or whatever in the future, but if the current legal regime doesn't actually grant companies legal control over peoples' thoughts and control over writing those thoughts down for one's own reference (yet), let's not hasten such a dystopia by speaking as though it does.
posted by XMLicious at 11:40 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are a ton of problems with American IP law.

The fact that Paramount will almost certainly destroy this guy if it gets to litigation is not really one of them.
posted by PMdixon at 12:25 AM on December 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I put $12 towards this back when it started. As someone qualified in IP law (albeit UK/European rather than US) I wondered about the rights issue but the 'risks' portion of the Kickstarter said this:

"In addition, "Star Trek" is a licensed property of CBS and so they have the final say in any Star Trek venture. However, the Axanar team has dealt with CBS and knows the landscape that must be navigated."

I certainly took that to mean that the people behind this had come to some sort of agreement as to what they could or could not do. Re-reading it with hindsight I am now wondering if this was some very carefully-written weasel wordage, and that in fact it might more honestly have concluded:

"However, the Axanar team has dealt with CBS in the past and believes that it knows the landscape that must be navigated."

Or, to put it in terms of land law, just because Farmer Giles agreed to let you walk across his field last year doesn't mean that you can safely plan a parade through it now without checking with him first.
posted by Major Clanger at 12:57 AM on December 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


While this is usually discussed in terms of economics, it could also easily be applied to copyright and trademark - whether by claiming fans and IP holders should have an equal stake in said IP as the product of shared creation, or that fans should have a larger stake as they've provided greater (though non-monetary) support and development of the IP over time.

So how would this work, exactly? Since the argument is that Paramount "should be punished", would that entail the fans being able to sue Paramount for making the wrong creative decisions in movies? Say, "We, their undersigned fans, state that Spock would NEVER kids a black woman, and are going to court to have that film removed from distribution."? What would equal Orr larger stake mean, literally, otherp

Could Vox Day get together a group of "fans" to sue Anne Leckie because he objects to the use of descriptive pronouns in the book?

Or does it simply mean that Vox Day could publish a version of Ancillary Justice under his publishing house, with properly designated gender referents, and subservient female characters? Using her name as author of course...would that be OK? Why not, if he, as a fan has an equal stake in her creation?
posted by happyroach at 2:29 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Given the history of Trek fan productions this is a bit stickier than people might think. CBS/Paramount has allowed multiple higher quality fan productions to go forward. In some cases it has even pointed them out in official venues. Star Trek Renegades was crowdfunded and had a bunch of series cast, including Chekov. There is an argument to be made that in this environment, and after communication with CBS, Axanar's people were acting in good faith. It certainly seems fishy that despite this property's high profile nobody ever issued an informal warning or even a C&D -- unless they did, and somebody on the Axanar side is lying. So all this stuff about "Maaaaaaaaaan what does copyright really mean?" is moot. There's a bigger context about what's been allowed in the past.
posted by mobunited at 4:37 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a series of illustrations going around regarding consent which are applicable to the Axanar precedent. One of them involved Billy being allowed to borrow Yolanda's car on a Saturday. The following Tuesday, Yolanda finds Billy in her car again. "Why have you taken my car?" she asks. "Yolanda," replies Billy, "you let me borrow it once before. I am now entitled to borrow it whenever I want!"
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:21 AM on December 31, 2015


Except, in this case, Billy borrowed the car a year out, buffed out all the scratches so alla the gearheards loved it, returned it, and came back a while later, cruised with it, and had Yolanda remove her (implied) consent in retrospect, and call the cops.

Alec Peters’ Statement On The Star Trek Axanar Lawsuit.
posted by Mezentian at 5:27 AM on December 31, 2015


Since the original Star Trek TV series, when the letter writing campaign by fans got NBC to greenlight a third season of Star Trek, fan support has been critical to the success of the franchise.

The only time in the history of ever that "third season of Star Trek" and "success" have appeared in the same sentence.
posted by mph at 6:24 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Happy Roach: lets not bring reductio ad adsurdum into this. The argument was to point out that derivative/transformative works and their creators should enjoy greater legal protection in that they generally enrich (in all senses of the word) the original IP; Star Trek just happens to be an excellent example of this. What this means for semi-professional vs amateur and profitable vs unprofitable is something our legal system is obviously still struggling with.
posted by givennamesurname at 6:54 AM on December 31, 2015


Profitable vs unprofitable should not have any legal bearing whatsoever, because it is an impossible line to demarcate. Enter into franchise owners' cost/benefit analysis about hiring lawyers, sure.
posted by PMdixon at 7:48 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


The argument was to point out that derivative/transformative works and their creators should enjoy greater legal protection

A work is derivative/transformative if it incorporates elements of a previously created work - but defining a work as derivative/transformative has no bearing on and provides no information as to whether the creator of the derivative work has permission to use the original work. The purpose of having derivative/transformative works defined and accounted for under the law is so that, for example, a person who translates a novel from Spanish to English can copyright their translation and receive the rights and benefits of copyright for that specific work of translation. So the creator of a derivative/transformative work can get all the legal protection they want and then some by, y'know, getting permission from the holder of the copyrights of the original work. The fact that courts have (correctly, IMO) allowed for some transformative works to exist even without permission from the original rights-holders - in works of satire, for example - is not really a strong argument that IP law needs to throw open the gates to any and all derivative works.

And I'm curious how you think "greater legal protection" would be codified in practice.

they generally enrich (in all senses of the word) the original IP

This is an assertion so wide and vague as to be meaningless without examples and proof.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:04 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


[derivative works] generally enrich (in all senses of the word) the original IP

This is an assertion so wide and vague as to be meaningless without examples and proof.


Any media property which licenses its characters or settings to toy makers for sale to children is relying on the value of derivative works to enrich their brand. If you market a line of action figures to kids, you are encouraging them to imagine new stories for those characters to inhabit, building loyalty to your franchise. You are encouraging and enabling infringement. I don't see action figures sold with a warning label which says they must be used only as collector's items or to slavishly recreate only scenes from their original settings, anyway, or that kids with ipads and animation apps must not make short films or even posed photos using them. Fan engagement has value, sometimes more value than new work by the original creators. I think you could maybe argue that Troopers did more to maintain fan loyalty to the Star Wars franchise than The Phantom Menace did. (I'm not sure you could successfully argue that, but an argument could be made.)
posted by hades at 10:11 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Any media property which licenses its characters or settings to toy makers for sale to children is relying on the value of derivative works to enrich their brand.

They're relying on that licensing to enrich their wallets. They don't give away the action figures to encourage kids to come to the next movie in three years, they sell the action figures to make money now.

And if Hasbro were to make Captain Kirk action figures without paying Paramount, they wouldn't get away with "We're enriching your brand -- you should be thanking us!"
posted by Etrigan at 10:15 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


an argument could be made.

An argument can be made for any damn thing. That's the whole point of competitive debate.
posted by PMdixon at 10:17 AM on December 31, 2015


they sell the action figures to make money now.

Yes, and they get the long term benefits of kids who are invested in the franchise as part of the deal. Which is part of why they also license their toys to McDonalds for inclusion in Happy Meals. It's not just because McDonalds will give them money to do that. (And probably McDonalds doesn't actually give them money to do that; they work out a deal where they both promote each other and McDonalds probably pays for the toys but maybe they don't pay Paramount directly for the license. I don't know.)

I'm not saying that Hasbro ought to be able to sell Captain Kirk action figures without paying Paramount; I'm saying that if Paramount doesn't want people playing with their IP in ways they can't control, Paramount shouldn't let anybody sell action figures, even themselves.
posted by hades at 10:31 AM on December 31, 2015


Happy Roach: lets not bring reductio ad adsurdum into this. The argument was to point out that derivative/transformative works and their creators should enjoy greater legal protection in that they generally enrich (in all senses of the word) the original IP

So the whole bit about "Distributive Justice" was just irrelevant verbiage. OK.

In that case, again- would a group of fans have the right to CGI edit Force Awakens, so that all the important characters were white males? And then release it in the theaters? Again- could Vox Day release a version of Ancillary Justice with all the gender references "corrected"? And sell it online? How about if he said it was not for profit?

Could a studio just decide to make a movie of "The Martian", without permission of the author and without paying him? As long as they say they're fans of the work?

Would you argue that any of the above works "enrich the ip"? What the hell does that mean?

I'm still wondering how your world of "I can do anything to the work as long as I say I'm a fan" would work. Exactly what legal protections and rights are you proposing?
posted by happyroach at 10:38 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking just for me:

In that case, again- would a group of fans have the right to CGI edit Force Awakens, so that all the important characters were white males?

Sure. If they're doing it for themselves, I don't see much difference between just imagining that all the important characters are white males, writing in your journal that all the important characters should have been white males, or spending $100k of your own money to make a version that you watch in your volcano lair's theater where all the important characters are white males. Invite your friends and enemies over to watch it with you, why not? Copyright doesn't cover what you do in your own head, and it shouldn't cover personal, private uses either.

And then release it in the theaters?

Nope. Because now we're in territory where copyright should and does apply.

Again- could Vox Day release a version of Ancillary Justice with all the gender references "corrected"? And sell it online? How about if he said it was not for profit?

Define "release". He could certainly write one for himself, and probably he should be able to share it privately with his friends. (Define "privately", "share", and "friends". *sigh*) Sell it online? No.

Could a studio just decide to make a movie of "The Martian", without permission of the author and without paying him?

Sure, in 2068, when the copyright would have expired under the 1909 law. I mean, that's how Disney's The Jungle Book got made. It came out in 1967, 73 years after the book was published. I don't know for sure, but I bet they didn't license the IP from Kipling's estate. Pinocchio came out only 57 years after the book, a year after the copyright expired.
posted by hades at 11:23 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sure. If they're doing it for themselves, I don't see much difference between just imagining that all the important characters are white males, writing in your journal that all the important characters should have been white males, or spending $100k of your own money to make a version that you watch in your volcano lair's theater where all the important characters are white males.

In that case, we're talking about something that requires no change in copyright, and is completely irrelevant to the Axanar case, where they ARE releasing it publicly.


Define "release". He could certainly write one for himself, and probably he should be able to share it privately with his friends. (Define "privately", "share", and "friends". *sigh*) Sell it online? No.

How about doing it exactly like what the Axanar people are doing? Raising a bunch of money publicly, selling "Ancillary Justice" merchandise, and then eventually putting it out for public consumption. Why do the Axanar people get a pass, and VD doesn't? And why, if copying and selling rip-off action figures is OK, why wouldn't re-editing and republishing an authors book not be OK?

Also, assume VD is making the argument that it "enhances her ip". What does that mean?

I mean, your argument about the action figures above really sounds like "Well, if a creator has the temerity to sell their product, they deserve to have people rip it off as much as they want."


Honestly, at this point, a lot of the argument sounds more like "These are TREK fans! They should be able get away with it!" than any real critique over copyright.
posted by happyroach at 11:56 AM on December 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just to be clear, I'm not defending Axanar. I think this was an ill-considered project and that the suit is an entirely predictable development. I don't even think there's anything morally wrong with the suit. Trek belongs to Paramount and CBS, not the fans, and if Paramount and CBS don't want the fans making this project, they're within their legal and moral rights to bring the hammer down.

In fact, I'm in favor of them bringing the hammer down, because I think more people should understand the legal framework they live in, where the popular stories of the day will probably never enter the public domain and be available for folk reuse the way things used to work. If learning that takes being repeatedly sued for things people think ought to be legal but aren't, ok then.

But you're mischaracterizing my point about the action figures. The product being sold by Paramount/CBS is stories set in the Star Trek universe. Those may be books, movies, TV shows, video games, or whatever storytelling medium they want to work in, but the stories and characters are the product, not the action figures. The action figures are derivative works of the primary product, and they're being sold effectively as DIY copyright infringement kits. When the owner of the intellectual property (the stories and characters) is selling physical property that encourages infringement (the action figures), it seems a little hypocritical to me when they come down against infringement of another type.

If they sell an action figure of a character, I think that is an implicit license to do whatever the hell you want with that character. Not just the toy itself, but the character. I know that's not how it actually works, legally. But that's my critique. They're selling you the ability to make your own stories using that character, not just a lump of plastic which looks like the character. If they don't want you making your own stories, they shouldn't sell you the plastic.
posted by hades at 12:41 PM on December 31, 2015


The action figures are derivative works of the primary product, and they're being sold effectively as DIY copyright infringement kits.

This is an incredibly idiosyncratic usage of the words "copyright" and "infringement."
posted by PMdixon at 12:43 PM on December 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Or the plastic should come with a prominent warning that all you're buying is the plastic, like software comes with a warning that you're not actually buying the software, just a limited and revokable license to use the software in ways the seller approves of.
posted by hades at 12:43 PM on December 31, 2015


This is an incredibly idiosyncratic usage of the words "copyright" and "infringement."

Copyright includes the right to create derivative works. Telling a new story using an action figure is creating a derivative work, if fixed in a tangible medium like a photo or video. It's a work-to-rule reading; if that makes it idiosyncratic, ok.
posted by hades at 12:48 PM on December 31, 2015


Telling a new story using an action figure is creating a derivative work, if fixed in a tangible medium like a photo or video.

It's not often that "if" is so much larger a word than the entire rest of the sentence.
posted by Etrigan at 12:49 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sure, the law only restricts what you can do in a fixed and tangible medium, fair enough. But the new story itself is a derivative work; it's just the fixing in a tangible medium which makes it legally actionable.
posted by hades at 12:55 PM on December 31, 2015


Actually, huh. Could I legally stage and sell tickets to an improvised production of a play using someone else's characters and settings, as long as no recording was made and there was no written script? I honestly don't know.
posted by hades at 12:58 PM on December 31, 2015


You have this backwards - the original characters and settings would be protected by copyright because they were fixed in a tangible medium. Your improvised play not being in a tangible medium just means that you would not able to copyright the original aspects of your play.
posted by soundguy99 at 2:08 PM on December 31, 2015


Right. But I wasn't wondering if my improvised play would be protected by copyright; I was wondering if my improvised play, clearly a derivative work, would infringe on the copyright of the owner of the characters I used.
posted by hades at 2:15 PM on December 31, 2015


Yes, most likely. But you'd have to be making a lot of moolah for anyone to care, were it not covered under satire.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:18 PM on December 31, 2015


In which case the stories told by a six year old playing with action figures also most likely infringe on the rights of the property holders but not in a way they'd care about. Which was what I was getting at by calling action figures "DIY copyright infringement kits". But this is a pretty big derail, and I should probably take it to my own blog.
posted by hades at 2:24 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


In which case the stories told by a six year old playing with action figures also most likely infringe on the rights of the property holders

No. False equivalence. Six-year-olds creating their own ephemeral transient unrecorded stories via playing with action figures is in practice significantly different from adults charging money to see a play, even if said play is never captured in any tangible form, and just saying "it's the same" doesn't make it so.

Being able to differentiate between these two kinds of scenarios is exactly why the copyright laws provide for most decisions about what is or isn't "fair use" or a legitimately transformative repurposing to be worked out in the courts and via case law & precedent. Rather than trying to anticipate every single possible variation of how someone could re-use copyrighted works in detail.

Copyright doesn't cover what you do in your own head, and it shouldn't cover personal, private uses either.

Right. It doesn't. Never has. Copyright law isn't about "thought crime", it doesn't address or object to things that happen in the privacy of your own brain, and it allows for the creation of works never distributed to the public. So your position on the theoretical Vox Day scenario above is actually in agreement with copyright as it currently exists, and your insistence that action figures are some kind of "DIY copyright infringement kit" is just gobbledegook. All of your objections to copyright rest on things that copyright doesn't actually cover, and has never pretended to. Laws aren't just about vague theories and intellectual exercises, they're actually meant to address real-world problems - like the real-world problem of creators being unable to derive material benefit from their creative work. Which is what copyright laws attempt to address.
posted by soundguy99 at 2:55 PM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Much as my saying "it's the same" doesn't make it so, your saying "false equivalence" doesn't make it so. The law, as written, does not appear to me to distinguish between a derivative work prepared (not "created", since creation requires fixation) by a six year old in the course of normal action figure play and a derivative work prepared by an improv actor at a paid performance. I'm going by the definitions of "derivative work" and "created" at http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html. My reading is that neither cases are infringing, but I'd believe that both are. What I have trouble with is your implication that one is and one isn't. Is there case law somewhere which makes this supposed distinction clear? What are you relying on for your interpretation? I mean, I get that there is a practical, common sense, difference. Is there a legal difference?

Laws aren't just about vague theories and intellectual exercises, they're actually meant to address real-world problems

Fair enough. Point me to a real-world case which establishes a difference between those two scenarios and I'll change my mind. I'm not a lawyer; I don't know what case law has established. I'm just looking at Title 17 of the US Code and trying to figure out what it says.
posted by hades at 3:24 PM on December 31, 2015


See § 106 - only "public" performances infringe (see also the definition of "publicly" in § 101). Children playing with toys wouldn't generally be a public performance.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:03 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have been imprecise and inaccurate. I will try to be at least more precise.
Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
[...]
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
I don't see anything in sections 107 through 122 which places limits on the exclusive right to prepare a derivative work, even a limit about a work prepared for your exclusive private enjoyment. The rights holder would seem to have the exclusive right to prepare and authorize derivative works, full stop. So what is a derivative work?
A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.
I don't see anything in that definition about intent to profit, or age limits, or anything like that. So what does it mean to "prepare" a derivative work? Unfortunately, section 101 doesn't define "prepare". It does define "create", though:
A work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time; where a work is prepared over a period of time, the portion of it that has been fixed at any particular time constitutes the work as of that time, and where the work has been prepared in different versions, each version constitutes a separate work.
So it sounds to me like preparation is either a precursor to or a synonym for creation. Either way, I'm not seeing a difference between a kid improvising a story for herself or her friends using the action figure and an actor improvising a scene involving the character with respect only to the preparation of a derivative work. Either improvising a new story is preparing a derivative work or it isn't. Clearly the actor is also publicly performing the derivative work while the kid probably isn't, but the preparation of the derivative work is itself an exclusive right of the owner of the copyright.

Obviously this is a bonkers reading of the law. If I write fan fiction that I never show anyone, how could that possibly be a copyright infringement? The law says the owner of copyright has the exclusive right to prepare derivative works, and writing fan fiction would seem to be the preparation of a derivative work, regardless of whether it's ever even shown to anyone else. That's nuts. So where have I gone wrong in my reading of the law?
posted by hades at 5:56 PM on December 31, 2015


The problem is that you're asking for straightforward answers in a notoriously unpredictable and contested area of law. Whether or not kids playing with toys are creating a "derivative work" might depend on whether they're creating something that is a "work" - probably not, but in some circumstances maybe they would be. It's never going to be as simple as "Either improvising a new story is preparing a derivative work or it isn't".
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 9:27 PM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


OH FOR FUCKS SAKE. Nobody is suing kids for playing with action figures. Drop it already.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:41 PM on December 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


So where have I gone wrong in my reading of the law?

Your error is in forgetting that there are human beings involved and the law (any law) is not a computer program where you input A and get B and input A* and get B* 100 percent of the time.

For instance -- if a traveling salesman walks up to my house, right past the "NO SOLICITORS" sign I have posted at the end of my driveway, and rings the doorbell, and I demand he be arrested for trespassing, technically speaking, I have a case. But no one is going to arrest him, because come on. At worst, the local cops are going to tell the guy, "Okay, move along, and pay more attention to signs." Until maybe he just keeps doing it to a bunch of other people and starts getting really annoying, at which point the law is there to say "Okay, you are doing this thing right now, and that's a crime, so we're arresting you, even if only for this one instance."

Just like this case, there are violations of the law and there are violations of the law.
posted by Etrigan at 6:26 AM on January 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


Why Roddenberry Created Star Trek
posted by Artw at 7:07 AM on January 1, 2016


...if a traveling salesman walks up to my house, right past the "NO SOLICITORS" sign I have posted at the end of my driveway, and rings the doorbell, and I demand he be arrested for trespassing, technically speaking, I have a case. But no one is going to arrest him, because come on. At worst, the local cops are going to tell the guy, "Okay, move along, and pay more attention to signs."

Would a member of a minority really be so blasé and assured it would be consequence-free? I don't think we should be too relaxed and accepting about this state of affairs where everyone going about their daily business racks up millions of dollars' worth of legal violations, but is graciously forgiven their transgressions.

Maybe no one's ever been sued over something like kids playing with action figures (maybe that's the case... it hardly seems impossible to me and I'm not sure it would be so easy to google) but remember that until just a few months ago people were making millions of dollars a year over threats concerning singing "Happy Birthday".
posted by XMLicious at 9:29 AM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, the problem with the "Come on, that's ridiculous" argument is that people draw the Ridiculous Line in very different ways. I think it's ridiculous to allow bots to issue legal documents in a manner so haphazard that videos of an infant dancing to "Let's Get Crazy" for a few seconds get targeted; Universal was able to find a bunch of lawyers who agreed to act as if it wasn't (who knows what they actually believed). It took eight years and millions of dollars before the courts even issued a final judgment on the matter. I also think it's ridiculous that a work that has entered the public domain could be yanked back into copyright; here the Supreme Court disagreed.

Obviously you could never write a law that covered every possible situation a human might bring about. There will always be a certain degree of "Come on, man." But you could write one a hell of a lot clearer than "Maybe, maybe not; only millions of dollars and a decade in court can decide!"
posted by No-sword at 2:33 PM on January 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Axanar FAQ
posted by Artw at 7:46 PM on January 3, 2016


The FAQ addresses some of the red flags that came up reading their annual report, which included the long-term lease and a salary (even if low) for Peters.

On the Vox Day issue, race- and gender-bending fanfic is a thing. As long as it's just something circulating on fanfic channels I'm happy to say it's probably not my thing. (I don't read much fanfic anyway.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:30 AM on January 4, 2016


I don't see anything in sections 107 through 122 which places limits on the exclusive right to prepare a derivative work, even a limit about a work prepared for your exclusive private enjoyment. The rights holder would seem to have the exclusive right to prepare and authorize derivative works, full stop. So what is a derivative work?

It's right there in section 107:
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.
Derivative works such as parody have been considered fair use, with the Acuff-Rose case as a key case in this area. The issue of profit is explicitly stated in Section 107:
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
So that's strike one in a case of a hypothetical Disney vs. Anna (using the name of the most beautiful niece in the world as a hypothetical). Pedantically going down the list:
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
This is probably the only determination that supports Disney, as they do have a legal interest in protecting IP that gives them billions of dollars in revenue.
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
In the case of Disney vs. Anna, Anna is using a handful of names from the movie and a broadly reinterpreted synopsis of the plot and characters. This is hardly more than you'd find in a typical magazine review.
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Here, the burden is on Disney to support the nonsensical claim that playing with toys undermines the market or value of movie production or toy licensing.

My opinion is that Anaxar having claimed to be a professional production (1), creating a full episode or film as a prequel (2) (3), competing against CBS/Parmount's own licensing of Trek prequel material (4), has a really weak fair use defense.

For the tl;dr. The law has key exceptions regarding copyright, including the creation of derivative works. Both statute and relevant case law exempt improvised parody and child's play from the realm of copyright. That is, assuming the latter isn't thrown out on its face as frivolous.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:17 AM on January 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


That said, the line is sometimes fuzzy, not helped by the fact that usually easier to roll when given a cease and desist by Big Media. But there is a line and it's not hard to identify child's play on one side, and counterfeit DVDs on the other.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:09 AM on January 4, 2016


Ugh, fair use. That would be the "Maybe, maybe not; only millions of dollars and a decade in court can decide!" clause. But, fair enough, it is the theoretical limitation I was ignoring. Although I suspect Salinger v. Colting is more relevant to fan fiction in general than Campbell v. Acuff-Rose.

I'll drop it. But I would like to point out that however obvious it ought to be how Disney v. Anna would play out in the real world, this is the same world which granted a patent on swinging laterally on a swingset that's still valid for a few more years.
posted by hades at 12:48 AM on January 7, 2016


Apples and oranges. Patents and copyrights and trademarks are three very different types of IP, with entirely different sets of laws and regulations and processes and precedents.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:57 AM on January 7, 2016


Axnar Lawsuit Update
posted by Artw at 4:21 PM on January 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


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