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LAWSUIT PRIMER Get an overview of the copyright lawsuit, including a timeline of the case, as well as downloadable pleadings made by the plaintiffs, CBS and Paramount, and defendants Alec Peters and Axanar Productions Inc. » Lawsuit Primer

Timeline of the Case

See also: Full Axanar timeline

This anatomy of the case (Paramount Pictures, et al. v. Axanar Productions, et al.), breaks down the parts of the lawsuit into an easy-to-navigate timeline.

Full History of the Case

Click on any subheading to reveal details about each element of the suit.

Legal Complaint — December 29, 2015
PLAINTIFFS CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures
Defendants' Answer — February 22, 2016
Instead of an Answer, the defendants choose to file a Motion to Dismiss (see below for details).
Amended Legal Complaint — March 11, 2016
Law firm Loeb & Loeb

On March 11, CBS and Paramount files a more detailed, amended legal complaint in response to the defense’s Motion to Dismiss on February 22, 2016.

UPDATE NEEDED This section has yet to be updated with information from the defense’s Answer to legal complaint, which was filed May 23, 2016. This notice will be removed when the update is complete.

Why They're Suing
Why CBS and Paramount are suing Axanar.
Specified Copyright Violations
In the amended complaint, the plaintiffs submit a 28-page list of specific copyrighted Star Trek elements infringed upon by Prelude to Axanar, the Axanar script and the already produced footage shot for the full Axanar feature.
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Knowing Infringement
That Axanar Productions, producer Alec Peters and unnamed co-defendants knowingly infringed on the Star Trek copyrights of CBS and Paramount.
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
The "Axanar Works"
That Peters and the other defendants produced and distributed (or were about to) Prelude and Axanar (i.e., the “Axanar Works.”).
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Injunction
That the defendants will continue to infringe unless the court stops them.
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Supervised Infringement
That Peters supervised the other defendants’ infringing activities.
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Defendants' Direct Financial Benefit
That the defendants enjoyed‭ “‬a‭ direct financial benefit” from their infringement.
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Ongoing Infringement
That the defendants are in the middle of producing their infringing works (i.e., Axanar and merchandise.‬
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Felt Entitled to Infringe
That the defendants believe they are entitled to‭ create and sell the infringing Star Trek works.
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
What They Want
Here is what CBS and Paramount seek from the court.
Declaratory Judgment
A judgment by the court that the defendants clearly infringed on the studios‭’ ‬copyright‭.‬
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Damages
$‬150,000‭ ‬per infringement‭, based on the defendants’ knowing disregard of copyright. Alternatively, the plaintiffs may seek actual damages based on the calculable amount of financial harm Axanar has to the studios’ exclusive right to earn money from Star Trek‭.‬ Why target Axanar?
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Attorneys' Fees
In civil suits, the victor is entitled to recover at least part of its legal expenses from the losing side.
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Injunction
The studios want to halt production and sale of infringing products.
Defendants' Answer
Defendants’ answer was filed May 23, 2016.
Jury Trial
The studio wants a jury to render a verdict in the case rather than a judge.
Defendants' Responses
Axanar’s Alec Peters

Defendants Alec Peters and Axanar Productions Inc., via attorneys Winston & Strawn, file their initial response to the legal complaint.

Filing Extension & Temporary Production Halt — January 21, 2016
By parties’ mutual agreement, defendants got 30 extra days (until Feb. 22, 2016) to file their response to the legal complaint in exchange for halting production until then.
Motion to Dismiss — February 22, 2016
Feb. 22, 2016 — Defendants Alec Peters and Axanar Productions file a Motion to Dismiss in answer to the legal complaint, represented pro bonoLatin, ‘free of charge’ by Winston & Strawn. A court hearing originally scheduled was obviated by the plaintiffs’ filing an amended complaint on March 11. Examining the Case Law Behind the Motion to Dismiss.
Claims are Too Vague
Which Copyrights?
CBS and Paramount don’t specify exactly which of their copyrights were infringed — the case law behind the assertion of vague copyright claims.
Who Really Owns Star Trek?
The ownership of Star Trek has changed hands so many times it’s unclear who owns which copyrights Axanar is alleged to have infringed upon. What’s the case law behind this argument?
Unsupported Allegations
The defense quotes case law it says requires supporting facts for allegations to survive a motion to dismiss. The legal complaint’s allegations based “on information and belief” simply are not enough for the complaint to hold up. What’s the case law behind this argument? Key among the alleged unsupported assertions:
  • Prelude to Axanar is a “mockumentary,” should be considered separately from Axanar, which hasn’t been made yet.
  • Allegation of defendants’ “direct financial benefit” is made without facts to support the claim.
Too Soon to Sue
The defense believes that any claims related specifically to the as-yet-unproduced Axanar film should be dismissed.
'Unripe' Film
The defense says the Court can’t determine whether a film infringed or not if it hasn’t been made yet. What’s the case law behind this argument?
Stopping Production is Censorship
The Injunction sought by CBS and Paramount before Axanar is even made is prior restraintcensorship, imposed on expression before the expression takes place , a violation of the defendants’ First Amendment rights. What’s the case law behind this argument?
No Harm, No Foul
Plaintiffs can’t claim copyright harm from something that hasn’t been made yet.
Motion to Dismiss is Moot — March 15, 2016
The court announces that the amended complaint makes the dismissal motion moot, so the previously scheduled court hearing on the motion is unnecessary.
New Motion to Dismiss — March 28, 2016
Axanar’s defense attorneys, Winston & Strawn, file a new motion to dismiss the case three days before its answer to the amended complaint was due. On May 9, Judge Klausner denies the motion.
Defense Files Answer and Counterclaim — May 23, 2016
The defense files its response to the legal complaint, including a counterclaim seeking declaratory judgment against copyright infringement, attorneys’ fees, and other unspecified relief.
Plaintiffs File Answer to Counterclaim — June 13, 2016
The plaintiffs are due to file their response to the defendants’ counterclaim.


Pre-Trial Activities
This phase of the case includes motions, pleadings, conferences or court hearings leading up to the trial. Settlements often happen during this period.
Scheduled Dismissal Filings — February 29 and March 7, 2016
Between filing of the dismissal motion and its scheduled hearing, both sides get the chance to exchange briefs about the motion.
CBS/Paramount Don't File Dismissal Brief — February 29, 2016
CBS and Paramount’s law firm, Loeb & Loeb elect to forego filing a brief opposing the motion to dismiss in favor of amending its legal complaint in anticipation of the court hearing on the motion.
No Reply from Axanar Due — March 7, 2016
CBS and Paramount’s decision to simply file an amended complaint means there’s no filing required from Axanar’s attorneys, and the motion to dismiss goes directly to the next scheduled court hearing.

The defense files a notice with the court noting that plaintiffs did not respond to the dismissal motion. The notice mentions that plaintiffs plan to file an amended complaint, to be considered at either the dismissal hearing scheduled March 21 or the scheduling conference May 9.
Order Setting Scheduling Conference — March 4, 2016
Judge Klausner orders a scheduling conference on May 9, at which the two sides must agree on a plan for discovery, and agree on one of several possible alternative dispute resolutions as a means to avoid a trial.
Opposition to Second Dismissal Motion — April 11, 2016
CBS and Paramount’s attorneys, Loeb & Loeb, file briefs opposing the second Motion to Dismiss.
Plans for Discovery Due — April 18, 2016
The two sides must exchange their plans for proceeding with discovery, followed by a joint statement to the court a week later that includes “a brief factual summary of the case, including the claims being asserted.”
Defense Reply to Opposition to Second Dismissal Motion — April 25, 2016
The defense files two documents rebutting plaintiffs' opposition to its motion to dismiss, reiterating its argument that CBS and Paramount Pictures have yet to make a case for Axanar’s copyright infringement of Star Trek.
Joint Statement to Court — May 2, 2016
A joint statement by both sides reveal it may be almost a year before Axanar gets its day in court, but a settlement might come sooner, with talks scheduled before a federal magistrate. Documents include emerging defense strategy, discovery plans and a proposed schedule leading up to a January 2017 trial.
No Hearing on Motion to Dismiss – May 4, 2016
Judge Klausner issues order stating he will consider the dismissal motion and related pleadings without holding the hearing requested by the defense.
Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss — May 9, 2016
In a sweeping rejection of arguments made by the defense, Judge Klausner denies the pending motion to dismiss and orders the copyright infringement lawsuit to move forward.
Scheduling Conference — May 9, 2016
At this meeting, the two sides agree on a plan for discovery, possible alternative dispute resolution as a means to avoid a trial, and set a new trial date of January 31, 2017.
Abrams, Lin Intervene — May 20, 2016
Producer J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin announce they’ve interceded on Axanar’s behalf and that the lawsuit will “go away” in a few weeks.
Answer and Counterclaim — May 23, 2016
Axanar’s attorneys file their Answer to the plaintiffs’ legal complaint, including a counterclaim that makes it impossible for the plaintiffs to unilaterally drop the suit.
Deadline for Adding Parties, Amending Case — May 25, 2016
This is the last day the parties can add others to the suit. For the plaintiffs, that means naming any people they described in their legal complaint as “Doe defendants.”

It’s also the final day to make changes to pre-trial pleadings (i.e., legal complaint, answers, counterclaims).

The deadline passes with no additional defendants added, nor any changes to the pretrial pleadings.
Plaintiffs' Response to Counterclaim — June 15, 2016
CBS and Paramount’s attorneys file their Answer to Axanar’s counterclaim.
Protective Order Filed — July 12, 2016
Both sides file for a protective order governing confidential information they gather during the course of discovery. Federal magistrate Charles Eick approves the order the following day.
Subpoenas Served — September 2, 2016
Plaintiffs serve former Axanar chief technologist Terry McIntosh with the first publicly acknowledged subpoena, which also reveals additional persons of interest to CBS and Paramount.
Depositions Delayed — September 16, 2016
Plaintiffs’ lawyers postpone the scheduled deposition of the director of Prelude to Axanar director Christian Gossett, promising to reschedule sometime in October. Meanwhile, Terry McIntosh’s deposition was rescheduled to October 14 in his hometown of Seattle.
Motion to Compel Discovery — September 29, 2016
The defense files a motion asking the court to make CBS and Paramount produce financial records stretching back 50 years concerning the studios’ Star Trek-related finances. They also seek communications with Star Trek directors J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin regarding their public support of Axanar. The studios say most of what the defense is asking for is irrelevant to the case.
Supplemental Filing on Discovery Motion — October 7, 2016
Attorneys for both sides file supplemental memos supporting their earlier positions on the motion to compel discovery. The filings reveal Axanar is no longer pursuing discovery on the question of CBS/Paramount’s ownership of Star Trek copyrights, and reveal details about the two sides’ disagreements about what evidence can be requested through discovery.
Hearing, Ruling on Discovery Motion — October 21, 2016
Attorneys for both sides present arguments regarding the Motion to Compel Discovery before federal magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick in Los Angeles. Eick issues an order partially granting and otherwise denying the motion, which requires plaintiffs to turn over a number of documents requested by the defense.
Uncovered Emails Spur Emergency Motion — October 27, 2016
After learning about emails Axanar producer Alec Peters hadn’t disclosed to plaintiffs, their attorneys file an emergency motion for another deposition of Peters, and ask a judge to allow them to use Axanar’s confidential financial data in questioning other witnesses. Plaintiffs also ask for a log of privileged communication between Peters and lawyers he consulted before the lawsuit.
Defense Opposes Emergency Motion — October 28, 2016
Axanar’s lawyers ask the court to reject the plaintiffs' requests in the previous day’s emergency motion, calling it a “colossal waste of the court’s time.”
Magistrate Grants Much of Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion — October 31, 2016
Judge orders new deposition of Axanar producer Alec Peters, in the wake of newly discovered email he hadn’t turned over to plaintiffs. Restrictions on disclosing Axanar’s financial data are also loosened, and plaintiffs gain access to log of Peters’ communication with other lawyers pre-lawsuit.
Court-Mandated Settlement Talks — October 31-November 14, 2016
Talks led by a federal magistrate work to move Axanar and the studios closer to a settlement, hoping to avoid the time and expense of going to trial. The first face-to-face meeting was to be followed by conference calls on November 4, 10 and 14.
Factual Discovery Cut-Off — November 2, 2016
Factual discovery (e.g., depositions, interrogatories, admissions, documents) is due to be complete by this date.
Both Sides Ask for Summary Judgment — November 16, 2016
In massive filings, the plaintiffs and defendants both asked Judge Klausner to rule in their favor, based on what each described as “uncontrovertible facts,” attempting to avoid the need for a full trial on Axanar’s copyright infringement lawsuit.
Both Sides Oppose Summary Judgment — November 28, 2016
Attorneys for defendants and plaintiffs file briefs objecting to one another’s call for summary judgment.
Attorneys Reply to One Another's Opposition to Summary Judgment — December 5, 2016
Both sides file replies to one another’s December 5 opposition to the summary judgment motions.
Judge Cancels Summary Judgment Hearing — December 14, 2016
Judge Klausner says the submitted summary judgment filings are sufficient for him to rule; he cancels the hearing that was to have been held December 19. His decision could therefore come at any time.
Objections to Admitting Evidence — December 16, 2016
Motions are due by this date asking the court to exclude or limit certain evidence at trial. Each side will have until January 5, 2017, to oppose one another’s motions, and then until January 21, 2017, to reply to the opposition. The judge will rule prior to trial on January 31.
Memorandum of Fact and Law — December 19, 2016
Both sides filed summaries of what they contend are the facts and law supporting their cases, as well as a joint list of witnesses to be called and evidence to be admitted at trial.
Judge Denies Fair Use Defense — January 4, 2017
While Judge R. Gary Klausner denies both sides’ motions for summary judgment, his ruling eliminates fair use as Axanar’s defense for copyright infringement. Klausner also determines Axanar was indeed a commercial venture posing potential harm to CBS and Paramount’s market for Star Trek, and that the defendants used copyrighted Star Trek elements in their film works. The case moves forward for a jury to determine whether the “total concept and feel” of Star Trek and Axanar are substantially similar, and to what extent the defendants will have to pay damages in the case.
Expert Witness Disclosure — January 4, 2017
Both sides must disclose what expert witnesses they intend to have testify at trial, including written reports of the opinions and facts they will express and exhibits they intend to offer.
Attorneys Oppose Efforts to Dismiss Evidence — January 6, 2017
By this date, lawyers for both sides must file their opposition to opposing counsel’s motion to exclude evidence.
Pre-Trial Conference — January 9, 2017
Judges at these final meetings between the parties often use such conferences to encourage settling cases. At the conference, the judge and the lawyers can review the evidence and clarify the issues in dispute. They may also try to agree on undisputed facts or points of law in order to shorten the trial’s duration.
Settlement Announced — January 20, 2017
Just 11 days before the trial was due to begin, Axanar reached an accord with CBS/Paramount. The settlement allows Alec Peters to produce a two-part, 30-minute short version of Axanar, but prohibits him from seeking further public funding. Peters also admitted he ran afoul of the studio’s copyrights in Star Trek.



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