While the latest “Star Wars” installment continues to have a good run in the theaters, we’re in a “Star Trek” state of mind: A judge recently ruled that a fan film dispute must engage in a jury trial.
We first introduced this case in our 2016 blog, Traveling at Worf Speed: Klingon Copyright Case. In 2015, Paramount and CBS filed a lawsuit against the production company of the crowd-funded “Star Trek” film “Axanar,” a 20-minute YouTube video that served as the beginnings of a proposed feature-length film, claiming copyright infringement. When the defendants asked for more specifics, the plaintiffs returned with a list, which included the Klingon language. Finding this highly illogical, the Language Creation Society submitted an amicus brief.
Fast forward to 2017, when a judge recently ruled that the “Axanar” production company can’t claim fair use after all. According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner made it so and released his highly anticipated opinion in early January. He ruled that the “Axanar” movie has “objective substantial similarity” to the “Star Trek” copyrighted material, such as characters, costumes and settings.
While the judge deemed that these elements pass the first part of the copyright analysis, the extrinsic test, he determined that a jury would have to decide the second part, the intrinsic test, “whether an ordinary, reasonable person would find the total concept and feel of the works to be substantially similar.” Thus, the judge denied CBS and Paramount’ summary judgment motion.
Per the report, the necessary preparation for the jury trail has already occurred, so the jury trial could happen soon. Fascinating.