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The Insanely Strict Rules Star Trek Fans Must Follow If They Want To Make A Fan Film

The makers of one high-profile Star Trek fan film are currently being sued by Paramount pictures for doing so. So, how do you make your own film without running afoul of their lawyers? You follow the rules that they've posted. The only problem is, they're kinda insane. While it's completely understandable that CBS and Paramount want to make sure that third parties aren't making money off of the trademarks they own, some of these rules go beyond simply managing trademarks, and dictate several aspects of the production itself.

Star Trek fans have been some of the most passionate in all of pop culture. As far back as The Original Series run in the 1960s, a fan letter writing campaign helped ensure that Star Trek would get a third season. In the modern era, fan films have become one of the chief ways that fans show their love. However, that passion has been dampened recently with the legal action that CBS is taking against Star Trek: Axanar. In order to "help" avoid legal issues for future amateur filmmakers the official Star Trek website has published a list of rules that fan films must adhere to in order to avoid legal problems. While some rules, like a disclaimer that explains that the fan film doesn't own the rights to Star Trek, would be expected, several other rules are quite limiting.

The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

The website with these rules states that CBS and Paramount "want amateur fan filmmakers to showcase their passion for Star Trek" but apparently, only once. Even if the 30-minute time limit was acceptable for the story you wanted to tell, you apparently can't ever tell another story again using the same characters, as that would likely constitute another episode or a sequel. If the same fan group makes a second film, but changes all of their characters names, does that constitute a separate production? If it does, why in the hell does it matter if the names are different?

The fan production must be a real 'fan' production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures' licensees.

We totally get that Paramount and CBS don't want other people making money off of their trademark. So, nobody can be paid for a Star Trek fan film. That's fine. But nobody who has ever worked on Star Trek can even work on a fan film? For free? Seriously? If your cousin was a gaffer on Star Trek Into Darkness you can't ask his help in doing the electrical for a fan film?

The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual's right of privacy.

No depictions of alcohol? You mean like the ship's captain drinking too much Romulan ale? Nothing sexually explicit? Is an Orion Slave Girl belly dancing too explicit? Wanting to make sure that the material doesn't go beyond what Star Trek has done makes sense. Preventing people from doing things the series has already done is stupid.

Other fun rules include the fact that the words Star Trek cannot appear in your film's title, but the words "A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION" are required to appear as a subtitle in all productions.

Paramount needs to make up their mind. Either fan productions are ok or they are not. This is a half-assed middle ground by people who only want to pretend like they're ok with fan films.

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.