Todd Bonder Shares Insight into Star Trek Fan Film Dispute

Bonder: Fair Use Defense Unlikely for Kickstarter-Funded "Star Trek: Axanar"

May 20, 2016

Co-managing partner Todd Bonder recently weighed in on Paramount's copyright infringement suit against the fan-funded film "Star Trek: Axanar" in an article posted just one day before the announcement that the lawsuit would be dropped.

Bonder's article analyzes issues such as parody, fair use, the rights of copyright owners, substantial similarity, and both the extent and character of the alleged infringement.

Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc. had filed suit against the Kickstarter darling Axanar Productions, the group behind the fan film currently in production.

Published in the Daily Journal, the article is titled "Will 'Star Trek' fan film live long and prosper?" and it starts as follows:


With the salacious Sumner Redstone soap opera having now played itself out in Los Angeles probate court, another Viacom-related courtroom drama is airing up the street in federal court. Having been stunned, first by Viacom's Paramount and CBS studios firing off a lawsuit for copyright infringement, followed by the district court's denial, with phaser-like precision, of their motion to dismiss, the creators of the $1 million Kickstarter-funded "Star Trek: Axanar" face an uncertain future. Is resistance futile? Or will "Star Trek: Axanar" and its producers live long and prosper?
Betting on the latter outcome would be illogical.


Just one day after Bonder's article was published, JJ Abrams (executive producer of "Star Trek Beyond") announced that the lawsuit would be dropped in response to feedback from vocal Star Trek fans, as Deadline Hollywood reported.  "This wasn't an appropriate way to deal with the fans," Abrams said.  He added that "Beyond" director Justin Lin, himself a "long time fan," took an active role in ending the suit.

While the "Axanar" lawsuit may be over, its lessons still remain.  [UPDATE (6/29/16): Perhaps the lawsuit will live long and prosper after all, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.]  Bonder noted that Axanar Productions was facing an uphill battle in mounting a fair use defense.  In the end, if the suit is dropped, we will lose an opportunity to watch one of the more interesting copyright disputes in recent memory unfold.

The full article is available at the Daily Journal with a subscription, or you can download the PDF below.

Daily Journal

PDF FileDaily Journal - Todd Bonder Article - 5-19-2016