'Star Trek' Producers Settle Lawsuit Against Crowdfunded Film

Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios end yearlong legal battle against makers of fan-made 'Prelude to Axanar' without going to trial

Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios end yearlong legal battle against makers of fan-made 'Prelude to Axanar' without going to trial Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Historical

Over a year after Star Trek's copyright holders engaged in a legal war with the sci-fi series' own fans over a crowdfunded, unofficial prequel film, the two sides in the infringement lawsuit announced Friday their battle will not head to a courtroom after agreeing upon a settlement.

In December 2015, Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against producer Alec Peters over his planned film Axanar and its prequel Prelude to Axanar, which they claimed "used innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes."

However, the end of the yearlong legal battle ended Friday with a joint statement (via The Hollywood Reporter), "Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar's film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law."

It's unclear if Peters had to compensate CBS and Paramount over Axanar. If the lawsuit had gone to trial, Peters faced damages ranging anywhere from $1.4 million – the amount his grassroots campaign raised produce the film – to upwards of $100 million, or $150,000 for every setting, character, theme or piece of wardrobe that a jury found violated Star Trek's copyright.

Peters initially argued that Axanar was created under "fair use" production of copyrighted material. However, the judge overseeing the case struck down the fair use argument in a January summary judgment ruling, steering the way towards Friday's settlement.

As part of their settlement, Peters agreed to "make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation." Peters also promised, in the future, to adhere to the fan film guidelines that CBS and Paramount created in June 2016 after Trekkies expressed their dismay concerning the litigation against Axanar and the effort to squash fan films.

The guidelines stated that any fan film must be produced for a maximum of $50,000 – compared to the $1 million that Axanar raised – and can only be 15 minutes in length. Filmmakers may also utilize aspects that infringe on the Star Trek copyright, like the iconic uniforms, but these items "must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products."