The world of internet fan films is one that could be said to be perennially skating on thin legal ice.
Most creators of fan films rely on the good graces of the intellectual property owners of the original work allowing such fan films to exist. Such productions have largely tended to be non-professional endeavours generally shot on shoe-string budgets.
An interesting recent case before the courts in the United States is that ofAxanar, a fan film to be set in the Star Trek universe that was crowd-funded to a tune of nearly 1.5 million USD. Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for a production of this scale to catch the attention of the executives at CBS and Paramount Pictures.
The Hollywood Reporter has an interesting write-up about the case, currently before a federal judge in the United States. The legal team for Axanar Productions are relying on a series of defences, including that CBS and Paramount Picture does not own "the idea of Star Trek". Chances of success seem akin to a USS Enterprise red shirt surviving an expedition trip to an alien planet.
The case is a timely reminder of the importance of clearly establishing intellectual property ownership rights before heavily investing in any project, as well as the importance of properly managing those rights.
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You can watch the 20 minute film prequel ’Prelude to Axanar’ in the link above.
This information is intended for guidance purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you do need legal advice, however, get in touch with us!