So you want to make a decent Star Trek fan film and not get sued? Get ready to do some studying because CBS and Paramount just released their official Star Trek fan film guidelines and they are…extensive. The companies are already locked in a legal battle over a fan film, but fortunately for any budding cinephiles, they have compiled a list of guidelines to make sure you can create a Star Trek fan film without ending up in court. Or at least, you can make a fan film set in space that is kind of a little bit Star Treky in some regards.
The announcement came on the official Star Trek website in the form of a letter to fans with a link to a list of 10 detailed, if somewhat confusing guidelines for making a Star Trek fan film.
Here’s the website statement in full:
Dear Star Trek fans,
Star Trek fandom is like no other.
Your support, enthusiasm and passion are the reasons that Star Trek has flourished for five decades and will continue long into the future. You are the reason the original Star Trek series was rescued and renewed in 1968, and the reason it has endured as an iconic and multi-generational phenomenon that has spawned seven television series and 13 movies.
Throughout the years, many of you have expressed your love for the franchise through creative endeavors such as fan films. So today, we want to show our appreciation by bringing fan films back to their roots.
The heart of these fan films has always been about expressing one’s love and passion for Star Trek. They have been about fan creativity and sharing unique stories with other fans to show admiration for the TV shows and movies. These films are a labor of love for any fan with desire, imagination and a camera.
We want to support this innovation and encourage celebrations of this beloved cultural phenomenon. It is with this perspective in mind that we are introducing a set of guidelines at Star Trek Fan Films.
Thank you for your ongoing and steadfast enthusiasm and support, which ensure that Star Trek will continue to inspire generations to come.
Let’s break down a few of the guidelines. Aside from the obvious requirements for non-commercial, non-trademarked films and an on-screen credits disclaimer, there are a few standouts.
First up, the films are limited to a running time of 15 minutes, or a two-parter equaling 30 minutes in total. Second, you absolutely cannot use the title Star Trek in your film (makes sense) or refer to the production as “official” in any capacity (also makes sense), however you also absolutely must add a subtitle with the phrase “A Star Trek Fan Production”.
Third, and this is where it all starts to get a bit onerous, all content must be original, which means no clips, reenactments or recreations from any Star Trek production. Fourth, if you’re using any commercially made props or costumes, they have to be officially licensed products, which means none of the more affordable knock-offs you’ll find at Costume Castle, no matter how good they look on camera. Which is really cash-grabby on the studios’ part and a pretty unattractive move. Fifth, and this is a real drag, all fan films must be a “real fan production” meaning all amateurs and nobody that has ever worked on a Star Trek production. Want to make a fan film, but you hung a light on Into Darkness? Well, you’re shit out of luck, sorry. Even more of a bummer, this means no fun cameos ever. Boo hiss.
Skipping ahead, the seventh guideline is the real kicker and a particularly difficult one to decipher. Here it is in full.
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.
First of all, a little late to put a moratorium on Star Trek porn, no? I think that ship has sailed. But more to the point, there’s a lot of room for interpretation with terms like “suitable for public presentation.” Which public? What’s suitable in Venice Beach is a far cry from what’s suitable for Vatican City. And there’s definitely booze and sex and swearing in space…not that those things have ever been much a part of the Star Trek DNA, but it’s certainly a hamper on storytelling to condemn them outright.
I totally understand and respect CBS and Paramount’s need to protect their copyrights, and no doubt the lines around intellectual property are blurry, but stating that you “want to support this innovation and encourage celebrations of this beloved cultural phenomenon” and then providing a wide-spread prohibitory list of dos and don’ts is kind of contradictory. Not to mention that some of the phrasing is vague to the point of becoming confusing. What exactly is “family friendly”? And “offensive” to whom? While it’s nice of the studio’s to try and create a safe space for fans to play within the rules, it doesn’t work quite as well when the rules still leave wide-open holes for infractions.
What do you guys think? Are the rules too oppressive? Or is this a fair way for CBS and Paramount to protect their interests and still let fans have their fun? Or, on a larger level, to quote Obidiah Stane, “Do you really think that just because you have an idea, it belongs to you?” Sound off in the comments.