Fan Film Future

I love Star Trek fan films!  Ever since I first stumbled up on Star Trek: New Voyages years ago I’ve followed this growing genre with glee.  In fact, as I pointed out in a blog entry made almost exactly one year ago- the fan films have largely carried the franchise during these years when there hasn’t been any new Star Trek television in production.

For years CBS & Paramount have turned a blind eye to these amateur productions.  Basically they have let us all play in their sandbox with little to know objections.  That is until Axanar overstepped and started calling itself an “professional independent film”.  You can read more about this over at but to make a long story short CBS & Paramount sued Axanar and while that case is still pending they have released a set of guidelines for any future fan productions.

While I’m glad that fan films will continue to be allowed, and I hope we still get to see some amazing stuff come out in the future– I’m also rather disheartened by how strict these guidelines are.  Let’s take a look at the entire rulebook and I’ll make some comments.

CBS and Paramount Pictures are big believers in reasonable fan fiction and fan creativity, and, in particular, want amateur fan filmmakers to showcase their passion for Star Trek.  Therefore, CBS and Paramount Pictures will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional and amateur and meet the following guidelines.

Guidelines for Avoiding Objections:

The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

I love the 15 minute idea, actually.  Many of the fan films were too long and this restriction of time will force the fans to edit.  The part I take issue with here is the fact that the series has to be limited to 2 segments.  I don’t think that allows the fan film makers and amateur actors time to grow and make something really good.

The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.

This is perfectly understandable.

The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.

Hmm… Ok.  This is good too.  It’s forcing us to be original!

If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.

Woah!  That means the fan film makers can’t build their own uniforms or props?  They have to buy the ones licensed ones that are for sale??  NO NO NO!  This is nothing but a cash grab.   Many of the fan production create uniforms & props that are FAR superior to the ones you can buy online.  This is bad.

The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.

Ok. I get this.  100% volunteer labor sounds good.  But why exclude previous Trek actors and crew from volunteering?!?!  Some of the best fan films out there have featured Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Tim Russ, etc.  Why can’t they come and play?  I mean… isn’t this a free country?

The fan production must be non-commercial:

    • CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.
    • The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.
    • The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.
    • The fan production cannot be used to derive advertising revenue including, but not limited to, through for example, the use of pre or post-roll advertising, click-through advertising banners, that is associated with the fan production.
    • No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.
    • The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or costumes.

This is really the only rule that they should have laid down.  Basically you can’t make money using their product. I get it.

The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy.

This seems unnecessary and aimed at the porn parody industry.  Ultimately this rule will discourage fan film makers from taking risks and that makes me sad.

The fan production must display the following disclaimer in the on-screen credits of the fan productions and on any marketing material including the fan production website or page hosting the fan production:

Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use.  No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”

Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.

Fan productions cannot create or imply any association or endorsement by CBS or Paramount Pictures.

CBS and Paramount Pictures reserve the right to revise, revoke and/or withdraw these guidelines at any time in their own discretion. These guidelines are not a license and do not constitute approval or authorization of any fan productions or a waiver of any rights that CBS or Paramount Pictures may have with respect to fan fiction created outside of these guidelines.


These last point seem to say “You don’t own what you made. We own it because it’s based on our intellectual property.”  Ok. Fair enough.

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