Poll The Guidelines are...

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by fireproof78, Mar 23, 2018.

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What do you think of the Fan Film Guidelines?

  1. They suck and they need to change

    6 vote(s)
    12.2%
  2. They are fine just the way they are

    26 vote(s)
    53.1%
  3. Somewhere in between

    11 vote(s)
    22.4%
  4. I don't care...just let me watch my fan films.

    1 vote(s)
    2.0%
  5. Green

    5 vote(s)
    10.2%
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  1. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Answer the poll and complain below.

    Keep it civil.

    Yes, this is halfway snarky. No, I don't expect any "meaningful dialog" will occur because the camps are pretty well set but here is hoping. Even though some like the guidelines, and others don't I'm hoping we can start all over again

    Personally, I don't mind them for a couple of reasons. One, if I make fan films I know they are a risky venture. You're playing in someone else's property and then expecting them not to exercise control over it. Or, in another words:


    ETA: Also, if you don't like them, do you have any suggestions on how to change them? We can try to be proactive here too.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
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  2. Jam3s1701

    Jam3s1701 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    As Scotty says....

    There's nothing wrong with the bloody thing...
     
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  3. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Personally I am fine with them. And let me make clear why.

    Before the guidelines you were always wondering if and when the ax could drop. The guidelines carve out safe zones where you can still make fan works presumably without fear. That's something we never had before. That's a gift.

    The guidelines were designed to prevent another Axanar (and Renegades, if we're being honest) and to put a stop to the funding and pro talent/crew arms race that several productions had gotten into ("We cannot have a pro-actor gap!"). I think these restrictions are less tripwires and more like a scale, and if you put too many items on the scale you sound the alarm. As such, my suspicion is that CBS wouldn't come after you if you bent a rule here or there, so long as it's not too many and especially not about the fundraising or using their trademarks.

    A few comment on specific topics.

    Trademark & Titling Restrictions
    No issue. In fact, Starship Exeter was called that specifically to avoid stepping on the Star Trek trademark. If we'd been required to title it as a fanfilm back then I doubt anyone would have minded.

    Episode Length
    If I were inclined to help make another Starship Exeter film (I'm not) I'd be okay with the time restriction. You scale the story to the running time restrictions, and if your story is too big to do inside the safe zone you do a different story. As I've said before, "The Savage Empire" is just a few minutes over the half hour limit as defined by the two films of 15 minutes each, and I can easily see what edits would have made the show fit into that space. Sure, TTI would have been well over the mark, but then no one would have written a teaser+four act script had the guidelines existed back then. We'd have just done a different story, or simplified the one we did.

    And thanks for making this its own topic, fireproof78. My main complaint hasn't been about the subject itself as much as it derailing other topics.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
  4. jespah

    jespah Taller than a Hobbit Moderator

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    I like the idea of the time restriction (and thanks for the new topic @fireproof78 ). Ambitious fan film writers, producers, etc have two choices if their stories are too long.
    1. Shorten the story - edit like it's going out of style and slash to the bone or
    2. Make something wholly original and avoid the guidelines entirely
    I suppose a third, far riskier choice, is to ignore the guidelines and hope and pray to not be sued. But if someone has deep enough pockets to make a longer film, then they've probably got deep enough pockets that it makes sense to at least strongly consider suing them.

    Shortening the story is, I feel, a fantastic choice. Egad, there's a lot of bloat in fan films. Cut, cut, cut! Does every conversation have to be 5 minutes long or more? Whittle that down. Do the credits have to be super-long? Put more names on the screens and, yes, shrink the font, and save those seconds for the story. Cut most of the travel scenes unless they also add to the plot. I see way too many fan films lean heavily on showing ships gliding through space rather than just implying that and instead working on dialogue, makeup, hair, sets, costumes, etc. I've seen ships gliding through space before (we all have). Tease more out of your writing chops by putting that time to use creating drama between the characters.

    And of course doing something wholly original is ambitious and scary and it might fall flat. That's the chance you take when you make new work. Welcome to being an artist.
     
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  5. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    You're playing with someone else's property. Some people have attempted to profit off of that property illegally. Of course they're entitled to establish these rules.
     
  6. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I think that time restrictions are a good ideas as well, largely for the reasons you state.

    From personal experience, when a friend of mine had a highly ambitious fan film project that he wanted to be "the longest ever: film, it was a struggle to fill that time with stuff that actually mattered. Not only that but we were dealing with what people were available which means acting quality was questionable, at best.
     
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  7. Zaminhon

    Zaminhon Captain Captain

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    I was a fan of "Red Shirt Diaries". I believe each episode came in under the time restrictions, however it breaks #1 of the guidelines is in its episodic nature. I wonder if parodies are pretty safe because they can't be mistaken for the original series?
     
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  8. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I'll take this at face value and offer my genuine opinions here.
    I added the emphasis just so that we're clear on the context in which I am interpreting the Guidelines. You follow these Guidelines to avoid objections and legal actions from CBS/Paramount.
    This rule really isn't acceptable to any fans who want to produce feature-length or serialized fan films. This eliminates meaningful character development, subplots, deep exploration of topics, and all the other benefits of long-form storytelling.

    Also, if I make part one of a film that's 15 minutes long, and someone I cast as a character goes off and makes a 15 minute film using where he/she plays the same character from my film, does that means I can't release part two? If I make a new film, does it have to be completely divorced from and out of continuity with the previous film with a different set of characters and a new ship? I feel like there's some ambiguity here as to what constitutes multiple episodes or parts.
    Yeah, they basically have to do this for reasons of Trademark law.
    I think Guideline #8 largely makes this unnecessary, and I find it slightly annoying that people should have to put "A Star Trek Fan Production" in the titles of all their films. That said, it's really just a minor quibble, and it makes it easier to search for fan films on YouTube, so this is more of a mild annoyance than a serious gripe.
    I do agree that original footage should not be used, especially if it contains the voices or likenesses of the actors in the property in question. (Incidental establishment footage would be "OK", but that's still pushing it.)

    That said, there's nothing about fan film that is not in some way a "reproduction" or "recreation". The whole point is to recreate the magic of the property the film is based on. A fan film is by its very nature a synthesis of creation and reproduction.

    So, I guess what I'd want to change here is to add some clarification about just what constitutes a "recreation" or "reproduction".
    This is basically a blanket ban on crossovers. What's more, it's kinda hypocritical. They're asking you to get permissions they don't offer you for their own property. I suppose you could just consider this as merely a recommendation, and there's something to be said for that, but that's not the context in which the Guidelines were put forward.
    Makers of fan films should neither be required to determine if merchandise is "properly licensed", nor are they obligated to make their films advertisements for licensed merchandise. Fan productions shouldn't be buying merchandise that they have reason to believe is counterfeit, but it's absurd to hold them responsible for the violations of a separate entity. People inadvertently buy knock-off merch on Amazon all the time. Also, what about licensed merchandise that's been modified and resold, such as repaints or additional electronics? If Paramount wants to shut down trademark infringers, they should do it themselves rather than conscripting the members of fan productions.

    Now, if they're giving merchandise away as perks, that's a whole different story. If you're involved in the production and distribution of counterfeit merchandise, they absolutely should go after you.
    You don't get to redefine the word "fan" to mean "non-profit" or "amateur". Many shows that have been rebooted or resurrected in the past few years have been done so BY FANS who are PAID for their work. You want to require that fan films be all-volunteer, non-profit ventures? That's fine. I can understand and respect that position. However, it's unfair to tell people who have worked in the film industry that they can't volunteer their free time to a fan film. Your love for the series should determine if you're a fan, not how skilled you are at a trade.
    Okay so far...
    Here's the interesting thing about this part: In the context of compliance with the 15-minute restriction from the first Guideline, this is actually pretty reasonable. Assuming volunteer labor, I can't imagine most fan films requiring more money than this, for a short film lasting no more than 15 minutes. So, basically, if you were to make this a provision that limits films to $50,000 for each 15-minute increment, I guess I wouldn't have a problem with this.
    Agreed. This is consistent with a non-profit fan film.
    The media is irrelevant. You could just distribute an ISO file, people could burn it themselves, and you'd never be able to enforce this. Again, I can see this being abused if it were a perk for donating, but a blanket ban like this is rather silly. Just require them to distribute the fan film free-of-charge to anyone who wants it.
    I see what they're trying to do here, trying to prevent for-profit companies from advertising in fan films, but I can't help thinking that this might inadvertently apply to some video sites, even without something like YouTube monetization. After all, you have to have some way of paying for the hosting.
    While I agree that bootleg merch shouldn't be advertised or given away as a perk, I'm concerned that fan film makers are once again being put in the position of determining whether something is properly licensed. Unless they're actually producing infringing products or are willfully distributing or promoting infringing products, this shouldn't be their responsibility.
    Well, yes, the fan production itself shouldn't advertise or sell anything.

    Question: If someone involved with the production wants to separately sell something that was in the film but is not a derivative work of Paramount's copyrights or trademarks, is this necessarily a problem?

    For example, if someone makes a futuristic lamp that doesn't look like any other lamp in Star Trek, and they get a lot of people asking to buy one, should they have to refuse for fear Paramount will sue the makers of the fan film it's featured in? (Note: This may be another instance where the Guideline just needs some clarification.)
    There have been Star Trek episodes that have touched on nearly all of this stuff. Can Data smoke a pipe while pretending to be Sherlock Holmes? How can you even have a villain in your film without "harmful and illegal activity"? "Hateful"? I've got hateful right here: "'From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee.'"
    Actually, I don't have a problem with this one.
    Emphasis mine. As I understand US copyright law, you can't copyright an unlicensed derivative work anyway. However, using your own characters in a copyrighted work should not be prohibited so long as the work is not a derivative work of Star Trek, even if you use those same characters in a fan film. That's a bridge too far.
    This is fine and totally appropriate.
    So, basically it's all stick and no carrot. There's no protection if you comply, only potential punishment if you don't.

    Okay, so what kinds of changes would make these Guidelines more palatable while still being somewhat within the realm of possibility? Let me take a stab at it:
     
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  9. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Parody is generally protected under fair use. However, tread lightly. I don't think it's an absolutely bulletproof defense, especially if it's only superficially a parody and your name isn't Seth MacFarlane.
     
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  10. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    "The absence of limitations is the enemy of art."
    —Orson Welles
     
  11. Matthew Raymond

    Matthew Raymond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    So says Henry Jaglom, who doesn't give the context of the quote, but in reference to it goes on to talk about limitations on money and manpower, not run length. If all limitations were beneficial, Vine would still be around.
     
  12. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Admiral Admiral

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    Words of wisdom from one of the greatest to ever yell "Action!"
     
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  13. Jedi_Master

    Jedi_Master Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly. Restraints can boost creativity.

    As for the guidelines, it's their sandbox. If they say I can only pee in the one corner, I say thanks for letting me pee, and I don't complain that the other three corners are "pee-free"
     
  14. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    This is indeed seems to be the breaking point. The guidelines are completely within CBS' rights to establish what can and cannot be done with their property.

    The contention seems to be that they are not doing "enough" to encourage fan film production as it has been in the past, with long running serials such as Phase 2 and Continues.

    Personally, I feel that the limitations, while confining, encouraged creativity, as you stated. More so, why is there a "need" for longer fan films in the first place? What is it adding to the larger franchise? To me, those are the questions that need to be asked. If I truly want to make a fan film, I'll make what I want.
     
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  15. Professor Zoom

    Professor Zoom Admiral Admiral

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    1. Why does CBS need to encourage fan films? They are in the business of making their own films.
    2. They didn't need to encourage in the past, yet films got made...

    Agreed. I feel like--and I've said it in other threads--those who are most upset come off as entitled fanboys.
     
  16. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    Before I am again dismissed on "argument from authority" grounds, I'd argue that there's a difference between expressing an opinion based on experience and on expressing authority on a topic outside of your expertise or for which you have some some bias or an interest. As I have long since had any irons in any fanfilm fires, and since I have devoted a LOT of time and energy to trying to help fan filmmakers improve their products (i.e. the Primer topics), I'll leave it to you individual forum members to decide for yourselves if I have a vested interest in interpreting anything in a away that benefits anyone.

    So with that said, my thoughts and observations on the topic of the guidelines and Copyribght and IP are grounded in the following experience, which you may feel free to skip...
    ...I leave it to you to decide if the following makes my observations argument from authority fallacies or if it lends any credibility to my posts here.

    Fanfilms
    I have actual practical experience helping produce and complete a relatively large scale fanfilm, and I was approached about directing one for Starship Farragut, which I turned down (only because I didn't want to do the script they offered me).

    Experience With IP & Entertainment Lawyers
    While working in the videogame biz I had to deal with IP and lawyers quite a few times. I had to deal with Paramount's licensing department on the DS9 game for the Sega Genesis, and do an end-run around them to get material they couldn't provide me. I worked with IP belonging to Disney, ESPN, etc. for mobile games, etc.

    As Director of Product Development at Namco Networks America (mobile games division) I had to meet with licensors, review contracts, and make sure our products hewed to the agreed upon contract terms, style guides, etc. When we'd hire 3rd parties to do development I had to make sure our IP was handled properly and often had to draft guidelines and see to the creation of style guides, etc. Examples of this being working with licensing of Popeye, BurgerTime, SceneIt Movies, Peanuts, Dilbert, etc. (I've literally sat down with Scott Adams to discuss how to handle his strip.)

    As the local expert on our classic game IPs, I was sometimes consulted by our licensing people to help with approvals for vendor products, as when I was asked to QA and give feedback on the use of Namco's Galaga IP in the credit sequences for the 2006 film Grandma's Boy, which I did several iterations on with the company doing the titles (you can see said opening at 0:40 and the end credits at 1:25:43 here on Vimeo). I was even brought in to do two depositions regarding an arbitration between Namco and the creators of Ms PAC-MAN where I sat in with lawyers and a judge on matters of IP ownership and gray areas related to same. So I've been on both the licensor and licensee side.

    When I went back to the company a few years ago I often had to work closely with a legal team that handled contracts and IP licenses with companies as big as Disney (said team handled the licensing of Namco IP for use in Wreck It Ralph, amongst other things) and sat in on endless meetings with lawyers hammering out a contract with Amazon. During that time I had to work with one lawyer on filing the trademarks and visual marks of a new PAC-MAN game, where I learned the ins and outs of when you can and cannot ® a logo or symbol and how to deal with the Patent & Trademark Office.

    ...So there's that. My cards are on the table.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
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  17. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^I'm glad you put that out there; if for no other reason than to (hopefully) put a stop to the personal attacks on your knowledge and/or character. However, I've been around the block more than a few times and feel that I'm fairly perceptive when it comes to who is bullshitting and who isn't. I've never doubted your veracity or your qualifications and I hope that we can lay that issue to rest once and for all. (hey, we can hope)
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
  18. cultcross

    cultcross You're all posters in some kind of neutral zone? Moderator

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    In that case those fans can make their own original content, or trim that stuff out. The guidelines are saying, in essence, that CBS/P are not supportive of this type of fan production. They are ok with 15 minute short films but not reproductions of full length Trek episodes or running a parallel 'series' of the show. This seems quite reasonable to me. A good compromise between protecting their IP and allowing fans to play with the content.

    This sums up my feelings on the guidance generally, that they've been generous in creating a safe space for fan productions to operate. The guidelines are aimed at curtailing ambitions to make professional grade films using their IP, and I can't fall out with that motivation. They have the exclusive right to do that themselves.

    My only grumble is that the guidelines were not enforced fairly. Certain productions seemed to get an exception and be allowed to continue producing full length episodes, ongoing series etc way past the point these were released. This too is their prerogative but seems to defeat the object a little. If the idea is to set out clearly what is and isn't acceptable, not enforcing them muddies the water again.
     
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  19. Steve Roby

    Steve Roby Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    The way I remember it, John Van Citters basically said that he had no intention of becoming the fan film police. CBS does not want to enforce the guidelines. Following the guidelines means you're probably safe, not following them means they may end up having to come down on you like a ton of bricks, or maybe not. The goal was never to treat all fan films fairly and nicely and equally, or to have CBS take on extra work, do paperwork and oversight of every fan film, and give the appearance that they officially, actually approve of this stuff. It was to make sure no one tried anything as obviously over the line as Axanar ever again.

    (Just my slightly opinionated take on what I remember from listening to and reading interviews with Van Citters. Bear in mind that I have no connection to CBS or any fan films and was just a casually interested observer.)
     
  20. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    CBS, in my opinion, doesn't need to encourage it, or endorse fan activities-at all.
    Your experience and "authority" is welcome in this thread.

    Also, anything going on with the BurgerTime license? Really enjoy that game :techman:
    That is a line for me as well. In essence, these guidelines encourage shorter, more amateurish, productions, rather than trying to create replicas of full Star Trek episodes. Which, certainly makes sense since CBS, as you stated, would not want to be encouraging 1 to 1 replicas of their format.
     
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