Does copyright apply to Klingon and Star Fleet phasers?

    Three months ago, Hollywood studios Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the Central District of California against the creators of an amateur film based on the Star Trek series, accusing them of copyright infringement, namely the illegal use of certain artistic elements from the series.

    We are talking about the short film “Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar” (Prelude to Axanar), which was filmed in 2014 with money from Star Trek fans from around the world. On Kickstarter, the film crew managed to raise more than $ 100,000.

    Star Trek: The Prelude to Axanar is a pseudo-documentary film about the memories of the main opposing characters (see the film on YouTube with amateur voice acting in Russian). This is an introduction to the planned full-length film “Aksanar”, which collected even more on Kikstarter - $ 638 thousand and is now at the production stage.

    More than half a million dollars - a serious budget. Perhaps the Hollywood studios decided that the “lovers” had money to pay for the fine, which is why they sued. They declared exclusive rights to use numerous elements of the series, including characters, names of alien races, specific clothes, body forms, weapons, names, words, short phrases and even the entire Klingon language as a whole.

    Comparison of the Vulcan race in the original series and in the amateur film Prelude to Axanar

    Axanar Productions argued its position in its own memorandum ( pdf ), where it rejects the accusations. First, they said, phrases like "beam me up" ("teleport me"), and the names of races, stars, planets and other proper names are not protected by intellectual property laws at all. These are the words of the Andorians, Tellarites, Romulans, Vulcans, Aksanar, Arkhanis IV, Rigel, Andoria, Starfleet, Federation, the starship Enterprise, the United Federation of Planets, and others.

    In addition, Paramount Studios and CBS cannot claim Klingon rights a language that is an “idea or system” and is not subject to copyright.

    Other elements of the original series, such as phaser weapons and Vulcan clothing (low-key clothing that resembles long chlamyds), ​​were previously found in other science fiction works. A characteristic feature of Vulcans - pointed ears - is also not unique, respondents said, such ears "are characteristic of many other fictional characters who appeared before the release of the Star Trek series, including vampires, elves, fairies, werewolves and many animals in the wild ".

    Phasers have existed in science fiction since at least 1898, when HG Wells's The War of the Worlds was released.

    In addition, the defendants accuse the claimant of the fact that their claims are too vague, without specifying which particular intellectual property, in their opinion, is used illegally.

    "While the plaintiffs claim that they own the rights to" more than 700 "episodes of the Star Trek series, a dozen feature films and four books, they could not specifically indicate which copyright objects were allegedly violated," in the memorandum.

    Thus, the defendant asks the court to discontinue the proceedings and refuse the claimants in their claims.

    PS Petition in support of Axanar Productions

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