How $1.1 Million ‘Star Trek’ Fan Movie Has Escaped Studio Shutdown (So Far)

August 25, 2015 – In The News
The Wrap

Lincoln Bandlow was quoted in The Wrap article, "How $1.1 Million ‘Star Trek’ Fan Movie Has Escaped Studio Shutdown (So Far)." Full text can be found in the August 25, 2015, issue, but a synopsis is below.

A group of Star Trek fans has crowdsourced $1.13 million to produce “Star Trek: Axanar.” But with a seven-figure budget, there are questions about just how “fan” the project is and if it poses a threat to the authorized franchise.

While the filmmakers of “Star Trek: Axanar” believe they’re operating in safe copyright territory, attorney Lincoln Bandlow says otherwise.

“If it’s based on characters or other protectable elements of the ‘Star Trek’ work, then what they are doing is a derivative work and that’s a copyright infringement that is highly unlikely to be a protected fair use,” he said.

“Just because there are a lot of these fan versions being done doesn’t make it legal,” Bandlow added.

According to Bandlow, the filmmakers should tread carefully.

“If you have permission from a copyright holder to do a fan-made film, there’s no problem,” he said. “But it’s real risky to be relying on an alleged oral licensing agreement to do such a work.”

“An argument that this kind of use is not an infringement at all because no profit will be made is just flat wrong,” Bandlow said. “That’s not the law…You will be depriving the copyright owners of a licensing fee where you have to presume there is a heavy licensing history…So arguing that they won’t make money off of it, that’s not going to be a slam dunk.”

But the studio is unlikely to petition to shut the film down, Bandlow said. “Studios just say that it’s not worth the fight.”