Star Trek: Axanar is a fan-made Star Trek film that began its production journey on Kickstarter. Initially asking for $100,000, the project has since earned nearly seven times that amount with $1.13 million, which includes additional funding from Indiegogo (189% of their initial goal). With all of this funding this, again, "fan-made film" will be turned into a four-part feature film. Furthermore, they’ve somehow managed to avoid the ire of CBS and Paramount, both of which own the rights to the various Star Trek properties.
That said, CBS does not condone this project. In an official statement to The Wrap, a representative said,
This differs with what Star Trek: Axanar executive producer Alec Peters told the trade. According to him, he and his fanboy filmmakers have the networks’ blessing, just as long as they don’t make money off of Axanar. If that were the case, you can bet CBS and Paramount would step in, though the latter has yet to publicly issue a statement on the matter.
UPDATE: Following The Wrap's initial report, the folks behind Star Trek: Axanar clarified that they have not received the blessing of CBS.
The issue of copyright infringement with regards to fan films popped up recently when Josephn Kahn filmed a "fan-made" Power Rangers short film. The dark and gritty take on the beloved "teenagers with attitude" starred James Van Der Beek and Katie Sackhoff and almost instantly went viral. Saban eventually stepped in and pulled the shorts (both the SFW and NSFW versions) from YouTube and Vimeo, but outcry from fans and Kahn allowed a compromise to be made. The short was released back on the web with added descriptions that this was not an authorized/official short, and everyone involved reiterated that Kahn was not making money from it. In another case, 20th Century Fox shut down a fan film last month for its likeness to Alien.
According to Peters, the reason CBS and Paramount are looking the other way for the time being is that he’s steering clear, for the most part, from official Star Trek logos and likenesses. He says he’s only using three relatively obscure protected characters: Garth of Izar (Star Trek TV series), the Vulcan from Enterprise, and General Chang (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). However, The Wrap spoke with attorney Lincoln Bandlow, who says Peters and his crew should tread lightly. He told the trade that the fact that no one is making money off of Star Trek: Axanar doesn’t automatically protect it from copyright infringement because making such a work with such protected material will already deprive the copyright holders from a licensing fee.
This debate of fan film vs. copyright infringement is an important one to have in this day and age, when fan films are running rampant. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out, especially as Paramount continues to film its own Star Trek Beyond, for release next year. You can read the full story over at The Wrap.