CASE STATUS January 20 Axanar settles its copyright infringement lawsuit, admitting it overreached; both sides file for dismissal of the case in U.S. District Court. || January 9 Judge holds final pre-trial conference with attorneys for both sides to set final terms for trial — also a last-ditch effort at settlement || January 4 Judge throws out Axanar’s fair use defense || Up-to-the-minute news and views on Twitter @AxaMonitor


Gary Graham reprises his role as‭ Soval in the‭ 'Vulcan Scene,’ from the legally entangled and otherwise unproduced‭ ‬Axanar‭ ‬feature film‭.

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

Lawsuit

On December 29‭, ‬2015‭, CBS and Paramount Pictures filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in California’s Central District‭, ‬alleging copyright infringement by the company producing the feature film‭, Axanar, formerly Star Trek: Axanar.1)

The Players

Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs' Attorneys

The studios are represented by Loeb & Loeb, whose lead attorney is Jonathan Zavin.

Defendants

Defendants' Attorneys

Axanar Productions and Alec Peters are both represented pro bono by‭ Winston & Strawn, ‬whose lead attorney is Erin Ranahan.

Judge

The case was assigned to federal District Court‭ Judge R. Gary Klausner.2)

On March 11, 2016, CBS and Paramount filed a more detailed, amended legal complaint, which is available for download [1.8 MB PDF].

You can also read the original,‭ December 29, 2015, legal complaint.3)

Summary

Here’s a summary of the lawsuit, identifying the players and what’s at stake, minus the legal mumbo-jumbo.

Pre-Trial Order

A PRE-TRIAL conference may be where the terms of the Axanar copyright lawsuit are hashed out.

See also: Joint statement and Scheduling conference

On March 4, 2016, Judge Klausner issued a standard pre-trial order4) setting a scheduling conference on May 9. In a joint statement filed May 2, both sides summarized claims at issue, set settlement talks and proposed a pretrial schedule leading up to a 10-15 day trial in May 2017.

The statement outlined the two parties’ respective plans for discoverypre-trial procedures to gather evidence , and requested settlement talks before a federal magistrate judge.

The motion to dismiss the case filed by the defense was denied by the judge following the May 9 conference.

Axanar's Response

The filing of the amended complaint, on March 11, 2016, gave the defendants 20 days to respond. On March 28, attorneys Winston & Strawn filed a new motion to dismiss on behalf of the defendants.

The original legal complaint gave the defendants 20‭ ‬days to formally respond to the plaintiffs‭’ ‬suit‭. ‬On January 22‭, ‬2016‭, ‬all parties agreed to a 30-day extension for the defendants to file their‭ AnswerDefendants’ plea outlining their defense to the complaint‭. ‬In the meantime‭, ‬Axanar agreed to not proceed with filming until after the February 22 filing‭.‬

Defendants' Answer & Counterclaim

Following two unsuccessful motions to dismiss the copyright infringement lawsuit against them, Axanar Productions and producer Alec Peters on May 23, 2016, filed a formal Answer to the legal complaint filed against them by CBS and Paramount Pictures.

The Answer included a counterclaim by the defendants, seeking monetary relief for harm caused to Axanar by the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The plaintiffs replied to the counterclaim on June 15, 2016.

Motions to Dismiss

Instead of an Answer, Winston & Strawn initially filed two Motions to Dismiss or strike parts of the legal complaint. The first was found moot by the judge after the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. The second, filed March 28, 2016, cites the plaintiffs’:

  • Insufficient and implausible citations of instances of copyright infringement.
  • Attempt at censorship by halting production of Axanar.
  • Inability to sue based on a film that has not yet been produced.5)

The plaintiffs filed briefs opposing the second dismissal motion on April 11, arguing against all three points.

Dismissal Denied

In a sweeping rejection of arguments made by Axanar’s lawyers, a federal judge on May 9, 2016, denied the pending motion to dismiss and ordered the copyright infringement lawsuit should move forward.

DOWNLOAD the judge's order denying the defense motion to dismiss the copyright infringement lawsuit against Axanar Productions and Alec Peters.

The eight-page “civil minutes” published by the court denied each point of law Axanar’s attorney, Erin Ranahan, asserted in the pending dismissal motion.

In issuing the order, Klausner included a sly reference to Vulcan philosophy:

Although the Court declines to address whether Plaintiffs’ Claims will prosper at this time, the Court does find Plaintiffs’ claims will live long enough to survive Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. IT IS SO ORDERED.6)

With the dismissal motion disposed of, the case proceeded forward to an expected filing by Axanar’s law firm, Winston & Strawn of its answer to the legal complaint on or before May 25, 14 days after the judge’s ruling.

While the motion did not specifically outline Axanar’s‭ legal defense, it did hint at fair use as one means the defendants plan to pursue, among others previously mentioned by ‬Axanar attorney‭ ‬Erin Ranahan‭ did hint at two possible defense avenues ‬in an interview with the newspaper‭ Crain's Chicago Business.

More hints about the emerging defense strategy appeared in the joint statement submitted May 2 by both sides to the judge.

Despite both sides’ agreement on a two-week continuance7) on the case, Judge Klausner denied the delay.8)

Instead of arguing over the original dismissal motion, the plaintiffs opted to file an amended legal complaint on March 11. According to a defense notice to the court filed March 7, 2016, plaintiffs had failed to respond to the dismissal motion on the due date, adding that their attorneys had informed them of its intent to file an amended legal complaint. With the filing of the amended complaint, the judge ruled the original dismissal motion moot, sending the case to the next scheduled pre-trial meeting.

Axanar's Public Reaction

The amended legal complaint appeared to address the issues raised in the defense’s dismissal motion. While Axanar producer Alec Peters didn’t comment on the new complaint, Axanar spokesman Mike Bawden released this statement:

As you know, Axanar Productions and Alec Peters filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against them by Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios on the grounds that the complaint was deficient in various respects. … We will have an opportunity to publicly respond to Plaintiffs’ amended complaint later this month by filing a responsive pleading (either a motion to dismiss or answer) with the court. We appreciate that supporters are understandably anxious to know what is going on. We ask for your patience while we work with our lawyers at Winston & Strawn to formulate a response. There’s a legal process in play which is in the hands of our capable legal team, whom we have absolute confidence in.9)

On December 30‭, ‬2015‭, ‬Axanar producer Alec Peters released a statement ‬in response to the original complaint, ‬expressing disappointment that CBS had not advised him of the filing prior to release to film industry press‭, ‬but hoping for an eventual amicable settlement‭:‬

AXANAR PRODUCER Alec Peters
‬I was disappointed to learn about this through an article in an industry trade‭. ‬For several years‭, ‬I’ve worked with a number of people at CBS on Star Trek-related projects‭, ‬and I would have hoped those personal relationships would have warranted a phone call in advance of the filing of a legal complaint‭. ‬Nevertheless‭, ‬I know I speak for everyone at Axanar Productions when I say it is our hope that this can be worked out in a fair and amicable manner‭.‬10)

In his statement upon filing the motion to dismiss, Peters revealed that he made a settlement offer to CBS and Paramount when he learned the lawsuit was filed:

Although our initial settlement offer made to CBS the day we received the original complaint was rejected, we look forward to the opportunity to work something out that can be mutually beneficial to all parties.11)

In his public statement‭ at the time, though, ‬Peters sought to portray the lawsuit as an affront to all Star Trek fans‭:‬

‬It is the Star Trek fans themselves who are most affected here‭, ‬for by suing Axanar Productions to stop making our movie and collect so-called damages‭, ‬CBS and Paramount are suing the very people who have enthusiastically maintained the universe created by Gene Roddenberry so many years ago‭.‬12) [emphasis added]

In a March 1 statement, Peters characterized the plaintiffs’ decision to forego filing a brief opposing the dismissal motion as a sign of weakness:

Paramount/CBS decided not to bother opposing our motion, and to instead amend their complaint (this was their best option given the strength of our motion) in an attempt to address the deficiencies. The rules now allow plaintiffs to amend their complaint before the 3/21 hearing.“13)

Following the March 11 filing of the plaintiff’s amended legal complaint, Judge Klausner ruled the original motion to dismiss was moot, and canceled the March 21 hearing.

That’s where the case stood until March 28’s new dismissal motion, which asked for a hearing date considering the motion on May 9, the same day as the scheduling conference.


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