Paramount, CBS Claims Against Trek Fan Film Survive

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

May 10 — Paramount and CBS's copyright infringement claims against the maker of an unauthorized “Star Trek” film are specific enough to survive a motion to dismiss, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled May 9.

The court rejected Axanar Productions Inc.'s argument that the lawsuit should be thrown out because the “Star Trek” franchise owners had failed to specifically identify which works in the “Star Trek” catalog were allegedly infringed.

The plaintiffs' listing of numerous characters and other details from the “Star Trek” universe was sufficiently specific, the court said. It compared the case to others in which copyright claims were thrown out for being too vague.

The ruling may indicate to copyright plaintiffs and defendants how detailed and specific an infringement claim has to be in order for a lawsuit to proceed to the discovery phase.

Enough Detail in Complaint to Go Forward

Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc. own the copyright interest in the “Star Trek” movies and TV shows, respectively.

At the end of last year, they sued Axanar after it launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund what it called a “fan film” with a “Star Trek” setting using characters, alien races and other elements of the “Star Trek” stories (02 PTD, 1/5/16) (02 PTD, 1/5/16).

Axanar had posted a 20-minute video called “Prelude to Axanar,” which was meant to be a preview of the full feature-length film, supposedly going into production now.

The independent production company moved for dismissal of the complaint, arguing that the plaintiffs should have to indicate exactly which movie, book or TV episode Axanar is allegedly infringing.

But the court disagreed, saying the complaint was enough to put Axanar on notice of the copyright infringement claims because they “define the Star Trek Copyrighted Works and include a detailed description of the allegedly infringing elements.”

Paramount and CBS's amended complaint includes about 30 pages listing characters, alien races, costumes, settings, plot points and other features of “Star Trek” that are used in the Axanar production.

The court also rejected a bid by the nonprofit Language Creation Society to file an amicus brief arguing that use of the Klingon language could not be subject to copyright law (85 PTD, 5/3/16).

That issue was not relevant to resolving the motion to dismiss, the court said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at amazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at mwilczek@bna.com

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