Agreed. Just curious as to other folks' thoughts on the matter, especially when Tim Russ would not agree with JarodRussell's definition.
Randy, I want to comment here. There are those who claim that CBS/Paramount has abandon their claims to productions that mimic the original series and its style. I have no idea if that is true, but the law of franchise copyright itself is pretty murky. The gold standard is usually set by DC Comics, whose lawsuits through the years show how franchise copyright claims weaken with time. The case that established it, against Captain Marvel, took down a creation that would easily pass muster today as NOT infringing. Recently DC has lost cases with much stronger claims. This has left me wondering what, if anything, remains of their 'franchise copyright.' Unlike regular, common-law and statutory law intellectual property rights, the court-created 'franchise copyright' doesn't seem to die, it just fades away.
Unless and until a 'fan film' spends millions on a lawsuit to overturn the claim of the franchise copyright holder (and there are many franchises, not just geekdom ones; the first fan film was based on the 'Little Rascals' films) we won't know.
For now, I'd venture to guess that the distinction is not one of the quality of the filmmakers but purely one of the right of the filmmaker or other writer to profit from their creative work.
While the writing has been attacked as terrible, (and I have no interest in these books) the hit series "Shades of Grey" was a re-write of a fan novel series based on one of the vampire franchises. By eliminating the 'vampire' element, the writer seized full control over the copyright of the work and was able to make money on it.