Crowdfunded 'Star Trek' Movie Facing Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

CBS and Paramount seeking major statutory damages against prequel film series, which raised over $1 million via Kickstarter and Indiegogo

'Axanar,' a crowdfunded, independently produced 'Star Trek' prequel, is facing a major copyright infringement lawsuit from CBS and Paramount Credit: Getty

Star Trek fans have funneled over $1 million in crowdfunding to help create Axanar, an independently produced, professional-quality prequel film. But the grassroots campaign has hit a major snag: On Wednesday, Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against producer Alec Peters in California district court, The Wrap reports. 

"The 'Axanar' works infringes plaintiffs' works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of 'Star Trek,' including its settings, characters, species, and themes," reads the complaint, which targets both Axanar and that film's own prequel, Prelude to Axanar. CBS and Paramount are seeking "statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each separate Star Trek Copyrighted Work infringed." 

"Axanar takes place 21 years before the events of 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,' the first Kirk episode of the original Star Trek," reads a plot description on the film's website. "Axanar is the story of Garth of Izar, the legendary Starfleet captain who is Captain Kirk's hero … Axanar tells the story of Garth and his crew during the Four Years War, the war with the Klingon Empire that almost tore the Federation apart. Garth's victory at Axanar solidified the Federation and allowed it to become the entity we know in Kirk's time."

The film – which touts the participation of a "fully-professional crew, many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself" – has become the stuff of crowdfunding legend, raising over $1 million via Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Despite CBS previously allowing wiggle room for the circulation of amateur Star Trek shows, the company is taking a stand with Axanar's use of copyrighted elements, including "the replication of the Planet of Vulcan … including the look and feel of the planet, the characters' costumes, their pointy ears and their distinctive hairstyle."

The filmmakers have reportedly planned Axanar as a four-part feature, budgeting each installment at $240,000, or $960,000 in total.

"CBS has a long history of accepting fan films," Peters told The Wrap in August. "I think Axanar has become so popular that CBS realizes that we're just making their brand that much better."

But the company issued a statement to the contrary: "CBS has not authorized, sanctioned or licensed this project in any way, and this has been communicated to those involved. We continue to object to professional commercial ventures trading off our property rights and are considering further options to protect these rights."