Star Trek Self Destruct Initiated
That’s what CBS and Paramount are now risking by bringing a copyright infringement lawsuit against Axanar, the latest of a long string of fan-produced Star Trek films. While many of these are distinctly amateurish, with weak scripts, poor acting, and cardboard and duct tape sets, a few of the more recent ones have a far more professional appearance. Some are quite good. Axanar promises to be one of the best yet.
Despite all the time, effort, and money needed to produce them, these fan films don’t make a profit. They aren’t intended to. Actually, the producers spend their own money, along with that of contributors, to make them, and they are free to watch on YouTube and other places. Profit is not the goal. Fans produce them as an expression of admiration for Star Trek, which many see as distinctly different (and better) than most science fiction and fantasy entertainment offerings. It’s not just a juvenile, action-packed explosion-fest.
I can’t know why CBS and Paramount have decided to target Axanar. Is it because it promises a truly professional product? Is it because it has generated a million dollars from contributors to help produce it? Is it because it is already generating a following and people are looking forward to seeing it? Are they jealous? Are they worried it may be better than the stuff they’re producing? Like I said, I can’t know, but I do know this lawsuit isn’t earning them any friends. I’ve already seen comments on social media from fans threatening to boycott Star Trek Beyond, the next official Trek movie. (It has a $150 million budget and a planned release in the summer of 2016).
I can understand the big corporations wanting to protect their copyrights. They ‘own’ Star Trek. They don’t want others cutting into their profits. But I don’t think fan films do that. Quite the contrary. Fan films are like free advertising for the franchise. They provide additional exposure and can generate new followers. They keep fans engaged between the official films and TV series. They promote discussions in online forums and maintain interest. Rather than bringing a lawsuit against Axanar, CBS and Paramount should be thanking them.
That’s just my opinion, of course. I’ve been following Star Trek pretty much since the beginning. I’ve seen all the TV shows, watched all the movies, and own several DVDs. I have signed photos and Trek posters hanging on the walls of my office. My Christmas tree this year was hung with Star Trek ornaments…. I can’t say I’m Trek’s number one fan, but I appreciate it, and I especially appreciate all the hard work that the producers of fan films (even the bad ones) put in to keeping it alive. Unlike the big corporations, their work isn’t motivated by profit. It’s motivated by a love for the show. The people who make and watch the fan films are Star Trek’s strongest followers and advocates. Alienating them would be an extremely bad business move. Bringing suit against Axanar could do that. It seems petty. It may, I fear, turn Trek’s greatest fans against the corporate owners and harm the franchise.