The film studio's rules limited the length of a fan film to 30 minutes, forbid any ex-Star Trek people from participating, and banned anyone from getting paid for their contributions.
The rules were clearly intended to put an end to productions like Axanar, the crowd-funded fan film which Paramount is suing for copyright and trademark infringement. That suit was rumored to be in settlement talks, but as we can see from Paramount's guidelines any settlement offer would have amounted to "shut up and go away".
Unfortunately for Paramount, the rules aren't quite having that effect. At least one of the several ongoing Star Trek fan productions has decided to continue production.
Star Trek: Renegades announced on Friday that in order to comply with Paramount's rules, they're going to remove any Star Trek reference from their web series.
We, at Renegades, have nothing but the utmost respect for Star Trek and its IP holders, CBS and Paramount. Everything we have done has been because of Gene Roddenberry’s vision and creativity. Star Trek is their property and we will absolutely abide by their rules and guidelines.
That being said, we do have an obligation to our donors and fans, and we have every intention of fulfilling it to the best of our ability. So, we will continue to make “The Requiem” as promised, but without any Star Trek elements.
As you know, we’ve already begun filming “The Requiem” so we cannot halt, suspend, or postpone production. Renegades, from the get go, was designed to be transformative… not derivative. Thus, with very minor changes to our script, we have eliminated all of the Star Trek references. The good news is that Renegades is now a completely original and ongoing series.
We would like to take this time to thank CBS and Paramount for letting us play in their proverbial sandbox for as long as they did. And we’d also like to thank our loyal, creative, and passionate fans for their unending support. We truly appreciate it.
There's not much they can do for the movie ST:R, but from here on out the series will be known as Renegades, a wholly original production which only bears a coincidental resemblance to Star Trek and happens to star a dozen Star Trek actors including Walter Koenig, Tim Russ, Nichelle Nichols, Terry Farrell, Robert Picardo, Robert Beltran, Aron Eisenberg, Gary Graham, and Cirroc Lofton.
The cast list would seem to violate Paramount's rules, but since this is officially no longer a Star Trek fan film the studio can go piss up a rope for all I care.
What's Paramount going to do, sue?
I would love to see them try; it's far from certain that Paramount would win a suit against Renegades, and a loss would very likely expand the concept of fair use as it applies to fan productions. (You can read more about that on io9.)
I didn't think it was possible, but Paramount has managed to put themselves in a lose-lose scenario.
Far from stifling fan films, Paramount has created a situation where only the lawyers win. So long as a fan production gets their work vetted by an IP lawyer, Paramount is going to have a hard time proving copyright infringement. That's going to free obvious homages to Star Trek to do just about anything that doesn't touch the canon, which is great because the official canon had grown stale anyway as a result of a lack of new ideas since the end of Star Trek: DS9.
At the same time, Paramount has offended fans by suing Axanar while at the same time releasing subpar SF action flicks under the Star Trek brand. And they're going to come across as a bully whenever they sue the homage productions just because they might resemble Star Trek.
It's almost like Paramount created its own Kobayashi Maru scenario, isn't it?
How do you think they'll get out of it?