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

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

  1. Linnear

    Linnear Lieutenant Commander

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    Agreed. But I do think specific examples are relevant in how and why CBS enforces rules. It is one thing to say you can't do X, but is some production does do X and CBS does nothing, then I would be curious why.

    Supposedly you are not supposed to raise money for a production generally, yet Star Trek: Renegades is doing just that. I am really surious why CBS has done nothing. Because if Renegades can do it, then why not the rest of us?

    Alec
     
  2. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Fair question. IMO as always. ;)
     
  3. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^Corporate legal departments are busy places, and sometimes they simply don't have the bandwidth to deal with every piddling little violation as it pops up. I work at a company with a lot of I.P. and our legal dept. makes note of intellectual property violations (in fact, one of our legal team approached me about this kind of thing just yesterday), even if they don't immediately act on it, but sooner or later they get enough of these on record to merit spending the time and energy to act on them, and when they do, a bunch of C&D (Cease & Desist) letters go out.

    The more fan filmmakers push the boundaries of fundraising and the gray areas surrounding that, the greater the likelihood that CBS's lawyers will eventually say, "look, there's a growing trend of these groups using our I.P. to raise money," at which point, watch out.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  4. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah I realise that, but I'd be surprised if Renegades is just slipping under the radar. The actors involved and the amount of publicising they're doing makes it seem likely (to me at least) that the powers that be would have acted by now if they're going to.

    So I agree with Alec. I'm quite curious about it all (not that it's really any of my business). :)
     
  5. PattyW

    PattyW Commander Red Shirt

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    If people had READ my whole post they would have seen that this is exactly what I was saying. I was NOT finger pointing....I said that, despite CBS's "guidelines for fanfilms to remain legal in our opinion", there are multiple cases across the board where folks are "technically breaking the rules" and yet CBS is letting them slide. (If I hadn't mentioned examples, I daresay people would have been up in arms demanding I back up my statement.)

    I further went on to say, as Nick did, that it's really none of our business. There is no clause that says CBS has to be any more fair than the rest of the world is in life. If "Renegades" can collect all that money because they have contacts at CBS other than CBS legal (as Tom stated) than good for them. They found a winning lottery ticket and, just as when we watch those people on the news get their lottery checks, all we can do is congratulate and wish them the best openly while dreaming about what WE would do if so lucky and grumbling about the $10 winner in our hand.

    Face it, ANY of "us" that exist has a winning hand - cause we are able to do what we love - and the fans win too. And you know what? Sweating about anything other than that is just as silly as arguing about who owns the air...
     
  6. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    Nicely put Patty.
     
  7. mstrat

    mstrat Cadet Newbie

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    Hey Patty, I'm working on a fan film video being created for YouTube and for certain reasons, wanted to get in touch with CBS Legal about it. I don't seem to be able to PM you. Can you PM me with the information so I can reach out to Mallory and the team there?
     
  8. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    Your PM functionality (sending and receiving PMs) becomes activated after you have been a member on TrekBBS for 14 days and have made 28 posts to he boards.
     
  9. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "if Renegades can do it, then why not the rest of us?"

    Fast-forward a year and now everyone IS doing it, with Axanar just breaking six-figures on kickstarter not long after Continues broke that barrier (complete with a thank-you to CBS). However, the original guidelines still keep stating that donations aren't allowed.

    Is there another thread on the board that helps clarify whether something has changed here with CBS?
     
  10. SeerSGB

    SeerSGB Admiral Admiral

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    Did it change, or is CBS just not giving a damn at the moment?
     
  11. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's most likely that CBS (while I'm sure their legal dept. DOES 'give a damn') -- right now, they see it a good/free publicity that keeps Star Trek (IE the 'Prime Universe' TV/Film stuff that CBS holds the IP to) in the public eye.

    It id up to the IP holder to enforce their rights (or the IP holder will loose them); but I have a feeling that as long as no one is 'technically' outight selling anything (like IP costumes, etc. -- and right now, a Kick Starter is technically a sale of anything as all 'donations' go towards Production Costs - meaning no outright 'profit' is made by the Producers of a project; and usually for 'donating' you get a 'perk' - non-professionally done DVD 'burn' of the finished product whose production costs you helped cover.)

    Most IP holders (including CBS) make money of licensing rights so that the people paying for said license CAN do a 'for profit' venture based on said IP -- which is why CBS is saying, "As long as you don't start outright selling stuff, they'll look the other way at his time."

    The thing to remember though is - it COULD change at any time - IE If CBS legal believes tells the CBS Execs that if they let fan films, etc. continue as they have been, CBS is in danger of legally failing to enforce their Star Trek IP rights; you'll see a wave of C&Ds fly out at warp speed, followed by lawsuits for any who ignore a C&D letter.

    Could a fan film group fight such in court? Yep. But in the end, on this type of thing, the group with deeper pockets (and full rights documentation) wins; and if you think fan film production (at the level ST Continues or ST: Phase II does them) is high; the legal bills even for a short court case would be astronomical in comparison; not to mention what would happen if actual monetary damages are awarded (and usually in Civil matters the loser ends up paying the court costs and fees for BOTH parties involved.)

    But again, IP holders (while monitoring any IP violations they see) usually don't go after a violating group unless they feel in danger of losing IP rights based on 'failure to protect/enforce...'; OR they see a group profiting from using the IP material without paying royalties/licensing fees.
     
  12. PattyW

    PattyW Commander Red Shirt

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    CBS was asked and the answer was, basically "it is inadvisable, legally, to "crowdfund" an unlicensed Star Trek film prodcut"

    Which, to me, means they are sitting and waiting until they can inflict as much damage as possible. If they just stopped them in the act, then the folks just wouldn't get any money. If they wait until something is finished, and then demand the money collected as well as damages -well, then that's going to send those particular productions/people into a pretty nasty situation. That's just my opinion, but it's what I think is going to happen.

    The one thing CBS doesn't like is someone that directly spits in their face. I've personally seen it happen, and was personally involved in one such incident. I am legally not allowed to expand further on that - but I CAN tell you that the above is exactly what happened and I am STILL seeing stars and unable to breathe from how they handled it, and I wasn't even the party they slapped down and put in their place. (and, no, it wasn't RFS either.)
     
  13. PattyW

    PattyW Commander Red Shirt

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    One of the other tactics that CBS may be engaging in is to save themselves the legal hassells and bad PR and all the time involved, and just alerting the IRS of such things. These are public declarations of funds that were collected, after all.

    This is also from personal experience....I'm still dealing with the IRS about the small amount of money (compared to, say Renegades or even Axanar) that Phase II/Retro Film Studios collected in 2012. They want to know how every penny was spent.

    If these people/productions aren't keeping very detailed records and are not prepared to account for every penny, well, they are going to be very, very screwed. (and anyone that got a salary or donations to their retirement/insurance accounts, as well, better be declaring it because the audits will lead back to them eventually.)

    (And I mean VERY detailed! What was the mdf used for? We want a photo. How many yards of that fabric you bought was needed to make each uniform? So how many did you make? Where are those uniforms and what happened to the rest of the fabric? Show us the shooting schedule and call sheets that prove that actor who's plane ticket you bought was actually required to film on the dates you had him there.)

    Like I said, CBS may have nothing to do with the IRS being accutely aware of these Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaigns....but they've certianlly put these things on their "hit list". So if it's not prompted by CBS than they may just be counting on and enjoying it quietly.

    After all, if the IRS requires that these folks account for every penny, and, say, $100 was left over after all the expenses, then there is not only taxes due on that - but legal PROOF to CBS that the production or someone in it "made a profit". I am actually curious if anyone can legally be paid a salary to appear in one of these fanfilms. Because, technically, isn't the person who was paid to act or make costumes or do VFX work actually "making a profit off of Star Trek"?

    Those kinds of questions is why these huge CF campaigns give people who deal with CBS nightmares. Because if they DO decide to retaliate because of them, the possibilities could be really really bad.
     
  14. PattyW

    PattyW Commander Red Shirt

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    I guess, in short, I think CBS is less likely to reach out and slap these things down and more likely to be thinking "hehe, now you're screwed. Thanks."
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.
     
  16. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Intellectual property laws desperately need a rewrite in the digital age. If something is succesfully crowd funded, it proves that there is actual public demand for such a thing. It should not be sabotaged by someone who sits and farts on the rights. CBS should get a share of the profit, if there is any, but that's it.
     
  17. PattyW

    PattyW Commander Red Shirt

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    seriously? CBS has no right to control their property because there is proof that people like it? I really hope that the only forum they hang out on is the Phase II one - because stuff like that is what is going to cause that other shoe to drop.

    But, you know what, I don't want to say you are completely wrong with your theory....so why don't you do a Kickstarter and start making your own episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" and put them on the web. Let's see how that goes for you....
     
  18. SeerSGB

    SeerSGB Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, I sort of have to agree. It's their property, they can do whatever they want or not want with it. I'm all for fan productions, but let's not fall into the trap of thinking fans' desire > intellectual property owner rights.

    I think, and I could be wrong, a lot of this crowd-funding is flying under the radar cause CBS isn't interested--at the moment--in exploiting the original timeline in a meaningful way. Let them get a project going, and I'd wager that'd change in short order.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2014
  19. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CBS may simply be waiting for the RIGHT case... a good case they feel they can win. The worst thing that could happen to them would be to pick the WRONG fight. Compare the lawsuit DC had with Marvel in the late 1940s-early 1950s to one they had in the late 1990s. The first they won mightily, making the use of ANY cape on a super-hero a copyright violation, almost the most minute aspect of Superman was covered by their 'Franchise copyright.' Fast forward fifty years. They have NEVER stopped producing Superman. There has NEVER been a two month period in which no comic book came out with their iconic character... but the results were very different. The franchise rights the court drew were much narrower.

    Franchise copyright is a relatively recent idea in intellectual property law, and it is still forming. The worst thing that could happen for CBS would be if they sued a fan film that used only a small part of their universe, perhaps Star Trek: Aurora (which is NOT crowd funded) and they LOST. The story is a 3D animation, which they have never produced. The characters are original, and are not in Starfleet or any other official capacity for the Federation. Star Trek is the background for an original story set under original circumstances with original characters. A court might find that to be 'fair use.'

    Their perfect target would use their characters, their styles and sets made to look like theirs, their themes, pay for the actors, directors, CGI people, and release them in a way that sounds like they are associated with CBS in some way using a hard-sell ad campaign, come-ons that seem to be trying to engage their viewers when they aren't releasing much, but then follow that up with a big fundraising event. If they can't win that one, they no longer own Star Trek in any real sense. I'd venture to say if they can't win that one, they won't be able to stop Disney or any other pro studio from making Star Trek for profit.

    CBS's claim to TOS designs and styles (and even TNG-VOY-DS9 designs and styles) is much weaker than DC comics, because Franchise Copyright has two parents, traditional copyright and traditional trademark, and they haven't used the TOS styles since the 1960s. Any claim related to trademark is history. In contrast, if you look at Action No. 1 from the 1930s, you could recognize the costume of today's Superman comic instantly.

    The longer they wait, the weaker their claim. I will be surprised if we reach 2017 and no lawsuit has been filed against anyone who ignores a CBS C&D letter. But I do think they are waiting for the right time and the right case. They have to knock this one out of the park to protect their property.
     
  20. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Such a kickstarter wouldn't raise a single cent right now. If TBBT gets cancelled some day and you create a kickstarter to bring it back or to continue your own version of it, then you might have a case there. If you are able to create something that people like and enjoy, why should anyone have the right to shut it down?
    And if a kickstarter project actually managed to destroy the ratings of a running TV show, well then your TV show simply sucked. If you somehow managed to get a cast for Sheldon Cooper & Co together that people liked a lot better... why the hell should that be stopped? It's not like you can fraud people with it like you can when you sell them empty iPhone cases filled with sand (that's what The Asylum does when they put their crap films in DVD cases designed to look like the more popular counterparts; and that's even legal!). You are making a non profit thing financed by crowd funding, and you let the audience decide.

    The IP holder should always get a share of the profit of course. Otherwise the little guy can just be ripped off as well, because in turn it could be possible that CBS takes an original kickstarter and just runs off with the idea and makes millions from it. Hell no, the ones who had the idea need to get a share of the profit, doesn't matter if he is a big studio or an individual. I'm advocating this since, like, ever.

    The work you do should be protected. LucasArts shouldn't have been able to download a stardestroyer model from a hobbyist and not pay him for the work he did, just because the stardestroyer design didn't belong to him. He did the work, end of story. Pay him for the hours he invested if you want to use it, or go hire someone who builds a new one from scratch.

    If you make a Star Trek fan film, feel free to make a profit from it, but be obligated to give CBS a share of the profit. And your original ideas in the fan film are yours, and if CBS uses them in one of their own productions, they need to compensate you for that in turn as well.

    It's a basic idea for a balanced system, which I believe would be the right thing. Nobody should be able to hammer down an idea and stop a project from happening, but everyone should be compensated for their intellectual property.

    Tie-in literature authors should have the rights to their novels/stories/characters. If they get turned into films or TV episodes: compensation.

    Those guys who do cover art and SOTL calendar art should have the rights to their images and assets. If they are re-used in some other commercial project: compensation.

    If you re-edit an alternate version for the How I Met Your Mother finale, upload it on Youtube and that clicks a lot better with the audience, it shouldn't be put down because of "copyright violation". Heck, independent from whether it clicks with the audience or not. CBS should get a share of the ad revenue and be done with it.

    MGM shoots down any attempt to create Stargate fan films and fan games. That shouldn't be right.

    Many, many, many examples. It's the modern digital age.


    This entire message board for example is in a dark gray area with all those copyright violating Avatars, Youtube links, image links, etc... If all copyright holders would actually enforce current contemporary copyright law, you would see how fucking messed up and out of place it actually is.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2014

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