Star Trek Studios To Axanar: Turn Over Emails

By October 28, 2016


The attorneys representing CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures are demanding the producer of an embattled Star Trek “fan-film” turn over hundreds of emails as part of an ongoing copyright infringement lawsuit.

Jennifer Jason, an attorney representing the Star Trek studios, filed the demand with a Los Angeles federal court on Thursday claiming Axanar Productions principal Alec Peters failed to share the email communications he’s had with a former director on his Star Trek project, and even with CBS itself. Jason not only wants the emails, but wants a second chance to depose Peters ahead of trial to talk about those missing documents.

The move is part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by CBS and Paramount against Peters and Axanar over Star Trek: Axanar, which raised a reported $1.5 million. The studios have claimed Axanar is a commercial entity banking on intellectual property it doesn’t own, while Axanar has said it’s nothing more than a bunch of fans showing their love for Star Trek.

Jason became aware of the missing emails last Saturday after she deposed Christian Gossett, the director of a short known as Prelude to Axanar that was one of just two shorts ever produced by the company. As part of his deposition, Gossett “produced thousands of pages of documents, including hundreds of emails between himself and Mr. Peters.” Those were emails, Jason said, that have yet to be shared by Peters himself.

Erin Ranahan, the attorney representing Axanar in the copyright infringement suit, told Jason they would turn over additional documents and allow CBS and Paramount a second chance to interview Peters on a limited basis. Jason wants the judge in the case to order Peters to meet with the Star Trek attorneys again to talk about his communication with Gossett and with CBS.

A request for comment from Axanar late Thursday was pending return.

Jason also wants the court to “declassify” Axanar’s financial report. Axanar’s attorneys shared that report with CBS and Paramount, but labeled it “highly confidential” because, according to the court filing, “Mr. Peters does not want to reveal the amounts that he paid to himself and his colleagues, or the amounts he spent on personal expenses.”

Yet, the “highly confidential” designation means that only the attorneys for CBS and Paramount can review the report. Jason wants to share that report with two witnesses she’s scheduled to depose before the trial’s January start and needs the judge to lift the “highly confidential” classification. She cited past claims from Axanar that they “pride ourselves on … being the most transparent and accountable crowdfunded film out there” after it released a financial report of its Prelude short to donors.

CBS and Paramount sued Axanar and Peters last December claiming its Star Trek film production and the Los Angeles studio it created around it violated its copyrights. Axanar has maintained it is nothing more than a fan-film like the dozens of others CBS and Paramount allow to exist, and more recently hinted they would claim Axanar is covered under “fair use” in copyright laws.

The trial is expected to start this January in Los Angeles.

(h/t Jody Wheeler)

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael began what has become nearly 19 years of entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based out of New York City where he is the editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in the Bronx.
  • Wayne

    Aren’t they allowed to turn over only the ones they feel are pertinent and be able to delete the rest like someone else we know?
    The studios should have allowed all current fan productions to complete and just issued warning that all future productions may face litigation if they did not follow the new guidelines especially in this Star Trek Anniversary year.

    • That is a really good question. I’m not a lawyer, but from how I understand the discovery process, every email with any type of relation to the case needs to be marked as responsive or non-responsive (meaning, that it’s relevant to the case, or not relevant to the case).

      I believe here the plaintiffs are arguing that these would indeed be considered responsive, as they relate directly to the creation of the Axanar works in question.

      FYI, every single fan-film always has been produced under the threat of potential litigation. You made fan-films at your own risk, and knew that CBS/Paramount could sue you at any time. That does not change, except that CBS and Paramount have issued guidelines detailing what would not irk them enough to consider legal action. But it’s not a contract – so you could follow those guidelines to the letter, and CBS/Paramount could STILL sue. Maybe not as successfully at that point (as guidelines could constitute a de facto license, as long as they are not breached – which is why CBS never offered them before) but it could still happen.

    • David Johnson

      They have allowed Star trek Continues to Continue.

      • Demode

        The fan film rules don’t apply to episodes that were in pre-production. STC will soon be coming to an end. Also, Star Trek Continues is actually producing episodes, and they are a registered non-profit. No one at STC is getting paid to make their fan films (Axanar is a for-profit project and not a fan film). If Alec Peters had not been so greedy and finished his film 2 years ago as he was supposed too do, he probably would not have gotten sued. Once he decided to pay himself a salary with crowd funding money he crossed the line.

      • Actually I talked to the Star Trek Continues people online. They are finishing up a production but not certain if new guidelines for Star Trek fan films will allow them to continue. Axanar did a great short but messed up the production of Star Trek fan films for everyone.

        • David Johnson

          Well that would suck Embrace The Winds was an excellent Star Trek episode that Roddenberry who have been proud of.

  • David Johnson

    Maybe they were just emails about Yoga & Party planning????