There's an old Polish proverb that says, "When waking the tiger, use a long stick."
Congratulations, Alec Peters. You have effectively destroyed the Star Trek fanfilm community. Are you happy now?
I'm sick right now. I took a day off of work just so I could sit at home, cover myself in blankets, and drip fluids. But no, I had to check the Internet for news today. And two articles demanded my attention, the second of which I will get to anon. For now, this is the easier of the two to write, so it goes first.
I've covered the whole disaster of the Star Trek: Axanar fanfilm in other columns. With the jury trial ready to begin later this year, the two sides, Paramount/CBS and Alec Peters, literally just reached a settlement. Prelude To Axanar can remain on YouTube and such. The actual Axanar, however, now gets to be two fifteen minute episodes (which is a break, given that Paramount's own Star Trek guidelines for fanfilms specifically says episodic presentations are out) and that's it. It is unknown if there is more than that, like what happens with the actual Axanar production company. That will presumably be coming out later. But for now, that's the takeaway.
There was a huge push in the press release that the sides had settled. Well, it is technically a "settlement." In reality, Paramount/CBS got just about everything they wanted. And there's no going back.
To illustrate, I want to point to a moment in comic book history and a fellow by the name of Dan O'Neill. O'Neill was an underground cartoonist best known for the strip Odd Bodkins. In 1971, he founded the Air Pirates collective to do parody and satire. The result was two issues of Air Pirates Funnies, the centerpiece of which was a "parody" and "satire" of Mickey Mouse (I read the issues, and I frankly found the features forgettable). Up to this point, parody and satire had a sort of truce with the Establishment -- as long as it was sporting, the Establishment would leave everyone alone. O'Neill, however, basically dared Disney to try to send him to jail for APF. Disney did eventually give up after decades of legal pursuit, and O'Neill has since declared victory. However, it resulted in media companies becoming a lot more protective of their stuff to prevent people like O'Neill from doing what he did. As New York Law School professor Edward Samuels said, "They set parody back twenty years."
And this is what Peters has done. Instead of playing nice, which is still the rule of thumb with fan works (and remember my own history with fan works), Peters tried to enfranchise it as its own entity separate from the wishes, goals, and standards of its owner. There's some great Star Trek fan stuff out there (I think Red Shirt Diaries in particular is a work of genius), and they are all effectively kneecapped because Peters forced Paramount and CBS to close the pool. Peters wanted what was and was not allowed to be spelled out. Paramount and CBS did that with a legal staff steeped in history as opposed to a fanfilm maker who wants to do what he wants. Did Peters really think Paramount and CBS wouldn't get those summary judgments? Did he really think he would not be seen as infringing on copyright? Really?
So, today, I drink a toast to Alec Peters. The party's over. Thanks a lot.