Star Trek Fan Movie To Go To Jury Trial In Infringement Case

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A federal judge has ruled that Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios can go to jury to stop production of Axanar, a crowdfunded Star Trek fan movie.

The judge said that a jury will decide the question of "subjective substantial similarity" of Axanar to older Star Trek films and television shows.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner ruled that Axanar has "objective substantially similar to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works." The judge stopped short of declaring the Star Trek holders the victors in the lawsuit and said that the jury can decide whether the film violates copyright infringement.

Klausner noted that the "defendants expressly set out to create an authentic and independent Star Trek film that stayed true to Star Trek canon down to excruciating details."

Paramount and CBS own the copyrights to Star Trek motion pictures and television series respectively and they saw Axanar as a violation of their intellectual property.

The companies' lawsuit was filed almost a year ago, after Alec Peters' Axanar Productions aimed to raise funds on Kickstarter for a prequel to the 1960s Gene Roddenberry television series.

Axanar is a 21-minute YouTube video and a proposed feature-length version that successfully raised more than a million dollars in crowdfunding on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The forthcoming feature film was touted as a professional-quality Star Trek fan film.

Axanar is the story of Garth of Izar, an obscure character and the legendary Starfleet captain who appeared in a 1969 episode. The film tells the story of Garth and his crew during the Four Years War, the war between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets.

Judge Klausner ruled that the character of Garth as well as the characteristics of Klingons and Vulcans may be entitled to copyright protection.

In addition, the plaintiffs submitted evidence showing costumes as well as settings such as planets from the Star Trek copyrighted works to be similar to those used by the defendants in Axanar.

The judge also noted that while Axanar argued that the film is not commercial as they would be distributed for free, the defendants stood to gain at least indirect commercial benefit from the viewership boost for the film.

Klausner said that a jury will best answer whether Axanar Productions' actions were the result of reckless disregard for, or willful blindness, to the copyright holders' rights.

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