CBS's "Rules of Engagement" for Star Trek Fan Films

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Ian Keldon, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    I don't think that's prudent or even necessary. However, it came from:

    Mallory Levitt
    Vice President & Assistant General Counsel
    Intellectual Property
    CBS Law

    Dated 8/9/2011 10:19 AM, the letter had a number of conditions to which we were asked to adhere, and after a brief consultation with our legal consul, we opted to move into complete compliance with those conditions. Then notified M. Levitt that we had yielded to their requests, which was acknowledged 8/10/2011 10:18 AM.

    I sincerely doubt we're the only recipient of such correspondence. We occasionally received inquiries throughout the 80's for our fanzine press as well.


    R
     
  2. Linnear

    Linnear Lieutenant Commander

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    And why wouldn't you post a letter with information that would be applicable to everyone? or at least the issues that needed being addressed. There is no confidentiality you would be breaking, and in fact you would be helping the community.

    I already called Mallory and will be posting any information I receive that will be useful to everyone.

    Alec
     
  3. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Why would he post a letter that was sent to Potemkin? On what grounds would it be considered "applicable to everyone" ?
     
  4. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Is there actually some sort of definitive document of any kind that spells out what trek fan productions can and can't do? It seems to be something amorphous that is passed around via word of mouth only.

    My interpretation is that you can not "profit" from it. But I have noticed that the larger productions like Phase II that accept donations do so through a non-profit corporation. This is to, I presume, provide a proper accounting for money taken in and money spent.

    I think in some cases it would be very hard to track "cost" on a fan production. What if someone is attempting to do the entire work themselves, such as me? Can I bill myself for hiring myself? If I have to work on it fulltime and not have a dayjob, can I bill myself a living wage? I'm probably unique in not currently having a dayjob to pay the bills. So my "price" to do Fem Trekz would be my living expenses. I'm pretty sure CBS would not like that. So even if I formed a non-profit and threw the project on Kickstarter, if they actually ran through the figures, they would say it's bogus and I am effectively making a "living" off of my show.

    Similarly, if I were to hire a freelancer to work on this, as I have in the past, and used the funds to pay them, what's the difference between paying them and paying myself? Are they not, for the duration of the contract, a part of the crew? Am I NOT a part of the crew? Cost is cost, whether they are a 3rd party or not. Cost is not simply lumber and paint and computer hardware and software. It's labor.

    So I think the instant you take donations for a fan production you create an accounting nightmare. It's fine as long as CBS doesn't complain, but if they do, then I'm sure they could find issue in one thing or another.

    When I read through Farragut's press releases, for instance, I get the sense that there is a very fine line between the fan production wing that will make Continues and their profit wing that provides production services for others. One could argue that Continues is a promotional vehicle for the profitable wing. Indirectly, therefore, the fan production is meant to gain Farragut Films credibility and future business. Would that be considered a violation?

    Likewise, my intention has always been to use the work on Fem Trekz to further my career just as a demo reel. Is that equally indirectly "for profit"?

    And can we sell DVDs as long as we only break-even? And I've heard conflicting things about showing work at conventions. Phase II showed a rough-cut of Kitumba at a convention, for instance. Why is that considered OK? (I think barring fan films from conventions is pretty stupid, IMHO.)

    So it just seems like a total mine-field to me, and the only thing I wouldn't do is try to take donations or put things on kickstarter. But then you have Renegades going on Kickstarter. Would CBS slap-down two Trek veterans over this? If they wouldn't, are they just giving them special privileges and engaging in selective enforcement?

    So it really would be beneficial for there to be some official statement issued.
     
  5. doubleohfive

    doubleohfive Fleet Admiral

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    The problem is, as I see it, that no two situations are going to be the same. There simply can't (and won't) be a single document that will govern all fan films equally, because Paramount/CBS isn't a governing body, it's a corporation. If one fan film gets away with something, good for them. It doesn't necessarily follow though that if Paramount cracks down on you (the general you) that they will do same on everyone else.

    They can do whatever they want in this department and we have to just like it or love it. :shrug:
     
  6. Melonpool

    Melonpool Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Years ago, I used to chat with some of the people that were making "Star Trek: New Voyages" (before it became "Phase 2"). I was told at that time that they were barred from having any advertising, selling any DVDs or other merchandise with any association to Star Trek. I remember seeing some of the cast at Dragon*Con around that same time (Jeff Quinn and John Kelley, if I remember correctly), and they were selling autographed headshots of themselves at the con -- not in costume, mind you -- but of them. I always thought that this was part of the deal with Paramount.

    At the time, they did not accept donations in any form other than Home Depot gift cards -- I think that was the workaround to get the sets built without angering Paramount about receiving cash for their venture.

    I also know that when I was doing my own Kickstarter campaign for my puppet movie that one of the criteria for your campaign was that you either owned all copyrights or had permission to use said copyrights in your campaign. I would think that this would apply to all of the Crowdfunding sites, so I'm rather confused as to how Phase 2 and Renegades are currently running campaigns. It seems like they'd have to have CBS's OK to be able to have their campaign, but at the same time, it also seems as though that is in direct violation of the no payment for these fan films.

    Profit or not, I'd think in the eyes of Paramount/CBS, this is money that fans could be spending on licensed Trek merchandise rather than on fan films.
     
  7. Tom

    Tom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    There is a legal difference between taking donations before an actual production is done and making a profit selling a copywriten product. The later is a clear cut violation where as donations before production is harder to enforce because the funds could be going towards the production company needs (servers, rent etc.) and that doesn't expressly prove a copyright violation, even though the goal is to make a Star Trek product.
     
  8. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    We've never had any communication with Paramount or CBS, though they are aware of us. I take that as a fairly positive sign.
     
  9. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    I would rather not spell out the details of what was clearly a private letter to me as Executive Producer/Creator of Project: Potemkin, especially when the details addressed items specifically connected with the www.projectpotemkin.com website.

    That's fine, Alec. That can be your decision. But it's not going to be mine.

    Thanks, Double-oh. M. Levitt's letter was addressed specific problems CBS Studios/Legal had with our website, and with soliciting donations through PayPal. We addressed all their concerns quickly, and were in compliance by the evening of the same day.

    Quite true. We're also in a different position than a lot of productions based on our website, setting, costuming, etc. We've been given certain restrictions we have chosen to abide by. But obviously not everyone else has. Be glad for that. :)

    Or choose to give them reason to send the Cease and Desist.

    I would, too!:bolian:
     
  10. xortex

    xortex Commodore

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    I believe Marc Scott Zicree's first words when he recieved that quarter million for Space Command from kickstarter was 'Hookers for everyone!'.

    Just adding some Levitty to the situation. Why should fans see a multi-million dollar movie when the stories in fan films are getting much better.
     
  11. Linnear

    Linnear Lieutenant Commander

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Well, some of us try and share as much as possible to help each other. I guess as an attorney I have a different view.

    Exactly. Very well said.

    You are an angel! :-)


    Alec
     
  12. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Funny, my attorney feels otherwise. Confidentiality means something to him.
     
  13. pyroboy

    pyroboy Cadet Newbie

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    I beleve that even though each one of the Star Trek fan films may or may not have a direct or indirect dealing with CBS/Paramount Legal, Each fan films legal Dept. dealings may be generally the same; but may also very, very different. That being said, IMHO I think that the Legal issues shoud be left private to each Fan film production and CBS/ Paramout Legal. In this way every production is secure in knowing that they are doing what the powers to be want then to do. Remember...legal matters should be private. Fan films or otherwise.:techman:
     
  14. Tom

    Tom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Thanks.

    Keep in mind, that even if you are not commiting a profit violation by soliciting funds beforehand, CBS Legal still can shut you down on the grounds of you even using 'Star Trek'. This usually does not happen because they don't want to set a precedent that could harm the fanbase. But, they could play that card if they see something that could effect there profits and/or brand integrity. Usually these are on a case by case basis.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  15. Linnear

    Linnear Lieutenant Commander

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Again, your insight is right on.

    Interesting that Lucasfilm has instituted a set of rules for Star Wars fan films. I would love to see the same for CBS and Star Trek.

    At the very least, we should be sharing general guidelines, which are not bound by confidentiality. Such as, don't use the word "official", or make sure Star Trek is much smaller than the title of your production, or don't sell DVD's.

    There is a basic set of guidelines that we all should be familiar with, that CBS has shared many times, that have nothing to do with anyone's website.

    Alec
     
  16. PattyW

    PattyW Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Mallory, the head of CBS legal, is in contact with James and I constantly; and, frankly, "they" are on our website and forums on a daily basis. She is the "recently new sheriff in town" and since she took over, spent some time going through sites one at a time and contacting the folks involved. If you run a fan film that is currently in production and have not heard from her, expect to.

    Because of our visibility, New Voyages/Phase II actually faces stricter standards than other fan films...and we are happy to comply with every one of their requests. Every contact with them has been overwhelmingly pleasant.

    In general, the guidelines are:

    - you cannot use the word "Official" in anything with the words "Star Trek" in it.

    - you cannot use ANY elements from the movie directed by JJ Abrams. That includes uniforms or the universe established by it. (In other words, if you are talking about Pike and George on the Kelvin in your fan film, they are going to yank it.)

    - you cannot sell DVDs, posters, or other merchandise with the word "Star Trek" on it. Giving such things away is a grey area that fan films would do well to avoid.

    - you cannot use any images from the licensed franchise. ("free use" clips not included.)

    - you cannot use anything that Desilu/CBS/Paramount/Viacom/etc has paid for at any time in the past. The franchise is alive again and they may want to use it themselves...even if the script or concept drawing is 50 years old. (That's why you'll never see James Cawley selling the patterns Bill Theiss willed him.)

    - anything with the words "Star Trek" on it must also have the following statement on it, or one like it provided by CBS legal. "STAR TREK and all related marks, logos and characters are owned by CBS Studios Inc. “********”, the website, the promotion thereof and/or any exhibition of material created by ******* are not endorsed or sponsored by or affiliated with CBS/Paramount Pictures or the STAR TREK franchise."

    If you run any site that has any copyrighted material on it, or deals with Star Trek, you would do yourself a favor and buy endless good will with TPTB by going right now and adding that disclaimer to every page in it. It's the least you can do to show you respect their rights and show that you acknowledge what you owe them.


    - you cannot ask or take donations or contributions to generally fund your production, fan film, or studio connected to it. (Hence the "donate here" button C&D from CBS that went out to most fan film sites in the last year.) Frankly, there is no way to prove that you are not making a profit from such donations. (other than a very long accounting process to CBS)

    - you can ask for donations for a specific purpose. "Please help us buy a keg of beer" "please help us pay the electric bill". "Please help us buy a plane ticket". CBS is okay with those. Perhaps because for these kinds of things, if CBS ever wanted an accounting it would be easy to do... "we got $ and here is the bill we paid with it." The PayPal buttons on our site fall into this category. So does our Indiegogo campaign. We are not asking for donations to "fund the production". We are asking for donations to pay very specific bills associated with this one shoot, which can be quickly detailed to CBS legal. (For that reason "Kickstarter" campaigns immediately qualify as a no-no: as Kickstarter requires the campaigns on it's site to be funding an entire project, not just a piece of it.)

    I agree with both Linnear and Potempkin Productions. The above guidelines, given by CBS legal, are helpful to share with all fans, and can only buy goodwill with CBS as people that could be contacted comply with them before that email comes.

    On the other hand, there have been many conversations with Mallory regarding Phase II or the people involved in it or work that we are doing that are our private business and should not be shared with the public due to confidentiality of the business dealings: except generally as it affects our fans. (Such as the broad statement about not filming Spinrad's script.)

    A few things people should remember:

    - They own Star Trek. Plain and simple.

    - They are making a considerable profit on it now and do not want competition. (hence the "no JJ stuff" rule.)

    - They are not unreasonable. (In fact, one of our artists negotiated a deal to sell a commercially produced and marketed book with his some of his Star Trek art he did for us in it.)

    - Mallory doesn't just sit around watching fan film sites and dealings...she is the head of CBS legal. Though Linnear posted her name, she does not want fans contacting her or writing to her. If you are a fan film producer, website designer, etc, and want to reach out to her, contact me through my email and I will provide her contact information: or send yours and your concern on to her. (based on what she's told me to do with each type of request.)

    As a P.S. I'd like to clear up two things.

    First, "copyright infringement" in these kinds of cases can only be brought to court when the copyright holder can prove harm to the copyright owner's ability to profit from their product. Including profits you are making (and thus taking them away from the owner) or damage to the product that results in reduced profits. (this is why fan films and fan film producers need to keep any bad blood out of the courts. Having CBS news carrying a story on Trek fan films battling it out in front of a judge would give them bad PR...and, no, not all PR is good for the product.)

    Second, as far as the uniforms go...the only thing copyrighted regarding the TOS uniforms is the insignia. Legally, you cannot sell reproduction uniforms on eBay with the insignia on them. You cannot sell the insignia. Do people do it? Yes. CBS let's most of them do it. But it's illegal and CBS could shut them down any time they want, and have in some cases. (You could take them to court and win on a technicality I won't go into, but who has the money to battle CBS?)

    FYI: fashion law is it's own book. You cannot copyright a "pattern" that "defines" a piece of clothing. CBS cannot legally issue a C&D that says "you cannot sell a piece of clothing that looks like the clothing worn on our copyrighted show." Do I believe they said that to Potempkin? Sure. But they can't enforce it and they're banking on the group not knowing that, or not wanting to piss them off. In fact, they did bring a costumer to court several years ago (long before Mallory took over) and the result was the first day of the trail the judge laughed them out of court and advised them to get a lawyer that knew what the hell he was doing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2012
  17. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    Patty that's very useful. Thanks for the insight. :)
     
  18. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    That's very interesting. I've always wondered about the rules fan films go by. Thanks for sharing!
     
  19. Linnear

    Linnear Lieutenant Commander

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    THANK YOU Patty. That is exactly what we all need. Glad you took the time to share it all with us.

    See? That wasn't hard. :-)

    Alec
     
  20. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Paramount IP enforcement, has it hit any productions yet?

    and thanks for pointing out there are certain things neither Potemkin nor Phase II want to reveal :)