Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Paramount and CBS issue the 10 Star Trek fan film commandments

Star Trek
Star Trek

The legal battle over Star Trek copyright infringement rages on with the quiet filings of counterclaims and answers to said counterclaims between the plaintiffs, Paramount and CBS, and the defendants, i.e., the makers of Axanar. But at least the peace talks led by J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin appear to have had some effect. The official Star Trek website has just posted 10 new guidelines—commandments, if you will—to help fans steer clear of litigation for any future projects.


In a joint statement, Paramount and CBS thanked fans for their ardent support of the Star Trek franchise; their zeal has helped drive the many TV and film iterations. They then go on to helpfully define Star Trek fandom for those fans:

Throughout the years, many of you have expressed your love for the franchise through creative endeavors such as fan films. So today, we want to show our appreciation by bringing fan films back to their roots.

The heart of these fan films has always been about expressing one’s love and passion for Star Trek. They have been about fan creativity and sharing unique stories with other fans to show admiration for the TV shows and movies. These films are a labor of love for any fan with desire, imagination and a camera.

We want to support this innovation and encourage celebrations of this beloved cultural phenomenon. It is with this perspective in mind that we are introducing a set of guidelines at Star Trek Fan Films.

The “Guidelines For Avoiding Objections,” which sounds rather like the title of an Enterprise episode, are now available on the Star Trek site. These recommendations prohibit the use of unofficial/unlicensed merchandise in the film, as well as the sale or distribution (as rewards, perks, etc.) of such items in conjunction the project. There’s also a decency mandate to keep the fan films “family friendly” that precludes nudity, profanity, any harmful or illegal activity—basically, anything that’s untoward. This will presumably apply to swears in alien tongues as well, which should eliminate a lot of Klingon dialogue.

The guidelines also list naming procedures and time limits for these short films, the creators of which cannot seek to register or copyright their work, because that’s not how fan films (should) work. The Axanar people are never directly named anywhere, but they do seem to have inspired some of the guidelines, which now include a cap on crowdfunding ($50,000). CBS and Paramount also insist that a “fan” production remain an amateur one, which means no one who’s ever officially worked on Star Trek can ever participate in such a film. This falls under keeping the projects in the non-commercial realm, but since Axanar boasts a cast of at least three Star Trek alums (Tony Todd, Kate Vernon, and J.G. Hertzler), it’s probably hard for the filmmakers not to take that personally. But now that fans have their “do not do’s,” they can get back to the business—sorry, fandom—of fandom.

[h/t Thane Himes]