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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    Project: Potemkin in particular received a letter from CBS/Law that among other things instructed us to remove the PayPal Donation button from our webpages. *shrug* It's their property; we just get to play with their toys. :)
     
  2. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    If CBS doesn't care, fine, but I think the spirit of paying contractors was that the contractor takes a one-off gig for a fan-film but isn't a "fan-film" company (i.e. they are not churning through one paid fan-film gig after another.) We're now seeing a real pickup in the number of fan-films and more familiar names repeat again and again.

    If any of these FX houses begin to derive a large percentage of their income from crowdfunded fan-films, isn't this basically a loophole in which the FX people are just classified as contractors but are in fact effectively running their business on Trek and maybe actively trying to move from one crowdfunded project after another?

    Since fan-films are all in the same universe, and if they're at the same place in the timeline, they can (in theory) share the same assets, the point of convergence will be on the FX team. I'm not saying it's a deliberate scheme, necessarily. I think it's natural market-driven forces. It is logical to assume that there would be some sort of convergence and certain people would start to get all the work. So if there's a cottage industry that could sprout from this, it would be the FX people.
     
  3. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CBS would be advised not to punish those who like their property so much that they dress up in silly outfits and role-play. Really, no matter how professional and sophisticated it becomes, it's just the final act of fandom beyond dressing up at conventions. By itself, it's harmless.

    They might have a reason to shut down productions that are raking in six-figures in crowdfunding that gets funneled into one or more people's income.

    So we're at a stage where there is a crowdfunding bubble. Everyone knows about these fan productions and most of them are hitting whatever funding targets they set. It's a free-for-all and I don't see it lasting. Lax enforcement always leads to abuse, and abuse will lead to a crackdown. So either more guardrails need to be put in place or the party's gonna be over.

    But for CBS not to issue any public guidelines just sets the stage for these productions continuing to probe and prod and push the envelope, because like I said, there appears to be no limit to how much money people are willing to chip into these things. If you prove that you've got a decent show, you can just keep collecting money perpetually based on whatever rationalizations you keep constructing.
     
  4. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    You are absolutely right. There needs to be more of a quasi-Creative-Commons approach to trademark. But that will only happen when content-creators decide from inception to have a more shared or participatory franchise, something almost game-like. I'd very much like to see that come about, but it isn't likely to happen with one of the existing established franchises like Trek. It will require someone new to have the courage (or the insanity) to let go of some of their control as an experiment to see what happens.
     
  5. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^Maybe the MULTIQUOTE function would be useful here?
     
  6. Dennis

    Dennis The Man Premium Member

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    There really doesn't, although it's clear that it would make some folks happy.
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "Trade Mark" is designed protect a brand so that people what they're getting, so fer instance, you don't buy a pair of Levi's which is not in fact from Levi's.

    Copyright extensions, on the other hand, have gotten out of control. There's no way Steamboat Willie should still be under Copyright even if the Mickey Mouse trademark is still valid.
     
  8. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Franchise copyright was created largely to protect Superman from Captain Marvel. You are right that it's a strange hybrid of Trademark and Copyright, but recent decisions greatly weaken the Superman franchise copyright, so I suspect other franchise copyright decisions will not be far behind.
     
  9. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    I notice one of the new groups have opened an online shop selling fanfilm Trek products to raise funds? It occurs to me that this is likely over the line, but what do others think?
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2014
  10. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think just how far folks will go before they receive a 'cease and desist' letter is yet to be determined. How much further after that they have to go before they are formally served and sued is yet another issue.

    So many fan films have been doing things that we thought were 'over the line' lately, including one rumored to have ignored a cease and desist letter with no consequences, that it's hard to know anything right now.

    Throw into the mix the franchise copyright decision depriving Superman of sole use of what I would have thought were CLEARLY trademarks, even without the whole franchise copyright thing...

    Well, it's getting very vague.

    Copyright, both common law and code law, is not forever, and franchise copyright is common law, with no code law.

    I was told in a personal phone call I had with one of the principles of Star Trek: Equinox that they claim to have talked extensively with CBS legal about exactly what they are doing. While most of the board members here do not believe that this is a pilot for a strait-to-DVD limited series ... well, that's what they claim. They do say they will ALSO be doing a fan film based on the same overall concept which they will be allowed to release if CBS passes on the series. It's all being shot with union rules. Obviously, however, CBS has not elected to provide funding.

    That's the only independent Star Trek Film which I know which seems to be selling stuff to raise money. I have not spoken with them since their Kickstarter failed and they started with this selling stuff business. Did they clear this with CBS? Who knows? Was what they told me true? I have no clue. I listen and report.
     
  11. Frontier

    Frontier Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Actually, TrekCore wasn't around until 2005. I should know, I was there. ;) TrekPulse (the site Core was built upon the ashes of) was around before that, and I can't attest to any contacts they may have gotten. But I can say TrekCore's received a note here and there about this or that - but nothing serious, and nothing we've not complied with promptly and to their satisfaction.

    We've actually got a fairly good relationship with them, truth be told, especially since the TNG-R stuff began. CBS/Paramount are each very aware of us, and CBS specifically has been very good to us and continues to be. Even found out we where a big help for the Okudas during the Christie's auction - they'd use our site and save time going through the DVDs themselves to identify props and such. :lol:

    In the rare instance something we've got up is something they'd like down though, they drop a note and we remove such, and it's all good. It's rare to happen though. I can only recall two or three instances of such that I've heard of from the webmasters. And if I remember right, of those three - two where not Paramount or CBS, but rather a third-party who had their own claim to something Trek we had up. Some soundtrack files GNP Crescendo asked us to remove, an unfinished manuscript the Piller family asked us to take down.
     
  12. USS Intrepid

    USS Intrepid Commodore Commodore

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    I was making a point of not naming names. :)

    Either way, I think this is way too close to the line, and the people in question should consider a rethink.
     
  13. lurok

    lurok Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Just curious: are filmmakers here concerned that if a group does 'cross the line' with CBS, then it will negatively impact on all the current fanfilm units? Or would that just be considered a one-off?
     
  14. Potemkin_Prod

    Potemkin_Prod Commodore Commodore

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    I would say that it's certainly possible that one straw could break the camel's back (CBS's tendency to look the other way).
     
  15. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    At Phase II, we are always mindful that the actions of a single fan production could impact other productions. If some production transgresses some unwritten rule with CBS, CVS's solution might just be to shut down the whole kit n' caboodle. "A pox on all your houses."

    We don't know where the line is, so we generally stay away from where we speculate that line probably is--rather than tiptoeing up as close as we can get to that hypothetical line. We encourage other productions to also take a high road wherever possible so that they don't inadvertently spoil it for everyone. We are always mindful that all this can come crashing down at any moment.

    Without clear guidance from CBS (and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for such guidance), I think fan productions are functioning without a safety net. Without such a net, we are disinclined at Phase II to make any dangerous moves.
     
  16. SeerSGB

    SeerSGB Admiral Admiral

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    Isn't it in CBS's best interest not to provide a guidelines or guidance as to what is and isn't allowed? Let's them eat their cake and have it to: They can drop the hammer at any time on anyone or everyone and say "well we never approved of it anyway".
     
  17. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yep. Exactly. If they say "this is okay" then they've basically made a contract of sorts.
     
  18. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    Yes. That's why we are constantly aware that this can all come crashing down at any minute. It also makes any planning for the future difficult.

    We sink time, talent, resources, and plain ol' cash into these projects fully aware that we are living on the bubble.
     
  19. AustNerevar

    AustNerevar Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    That must be terrifying.

    I'm behind you guys, though. Love your work and was happy to back the Kickstarter.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2014
  20. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "Terrifying" might not be the best word. People in California live with the daily knowledge that they could be hit by the "big one" (earthquake) at any time, people in Seattle live in the shadow of Mt. Rainier which is classified as an "active" volcano. Everyone knows about those things, but no one is terrified. Like the residents of those cities those of us who are engaged in fan productions know that we could have the plug pulled on us at any time. That's hardly as serious as existential threats from Mother Nature and I doubt anyone on the fan productions side is losing any sleep over it, even though it's something we should be aware of.
     

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