While imitation may be the best form of flattery, CBS and Paramount Pictures studios are not too happy about the latest crowdfunded Star Trek fan film, Axanar. The entertainment companies have filed a lawsuit against the production company for violation of intellectual property.
The studios, who own the rights to the space fiction franchise, have previously encouraged fans to use their imaginations and create works based on the original TV series. But this time around the companies are unhappy about the fan film's level of professional quality.
In a copyright lawsuit filed in California federal court, CBS and Paramount cited "unauthorised exploitation of Star Trek". The lawsuit claims: "The Axanar Works (short film Prelude to Axanar, and the full feature) are substantially similar to, and unauthorised derivative works of, Plaintiffs' Star Trek television series and movies, in contravention of the copyright laws of the United States."
Unhappy with the use of similar sets, characters, costumes and make up, the studios are demanding $150,000 (£101,204) for every copyrighted Star Trek element present in the films.
The film's producers raised over $1m (£674,581) in crowdfunding via Kickstarter and Indigogo, and used professional crew, talent and studios. The team was reportedly advised by George Takei, who played helmsman Hikaru Sulu of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series.
Following an earlier meeting with CBS, head of production Alec Peters was of the notion that they had the support of the studio. In August, he told The Hollywood Reporter: "CBS has a long history of accepting fan films. I think Axanar has become so popular that CBS realises that we're just making their brand that much better."
After being presented with the lawsuit, he commented: "We've certainly been prepared for this and we certainly will defend this lawsuit. There are a lot of issues surrounding a fan film. These fan films have been around for 30 years, and others have raised a lot of money."
In a statement, Peters called Axanar "a love letter to a beloved franchise". He added: "Like everything related to Axanar Productions, we take this matter very seriously and remain open to discussing solutions with all parties that can be mutually beneficial."