Plaintiffs Answer Counterclaim

CBS, Paramount Say Their Lawsuit Isn’t Over, Move on to Discovery

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

CBS and Paramount Pictures filed on June 15, 2016, their Answer to the counterclaim filed by Axanar’s attorneys, denying the copyright lawsuit is done, despite the protests of producer J.J. Abrams and Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin.

In their Answer, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Loeb & Loeb, responded directly to the counterclaim, which is essentially a suit by the defendants against the plaintiffs, reversing roles and with its own timetable. The defendants have the burden of proof for their counterclaim.1)

DOWNLOAD the Answer to Axanar's counterclaim, filed by attorneys for CBS and Paramount.

The answer was filed 21 days after the counterclaim was served on the plaintiffs by Axanar attorneys Winston & Strawn, who have the opportunity to respond before the case was to continue into discovery.

Counterclaim

In their counterclaim, the defendants, producer Alec Peters and his Axanar Productions alleged they have:

  • “A real and reasonable apprehension” they face additional litigation if they proceed with Axanar.
  • Put Axanar on hold until the studios provide “necessary guidance” to prevent the defendants increasing their liability.
  • Grounds for a declaratory judgment that Prelude to Axanar, the Axanar screenplays, its “Vulcan Scene,” and any other alleged infringing works are not “substantially similar” to Star Trek, or constitute fair use under copyright law.2)

Studios' Response

With regard to its ‘uncertainty as to how Axanar may proceed with its film,’ the plaintiffs stated ‘their [legal] action remains pending. ’Plaintiffs’ answer to Axanar counterclaim

In their eight-page response, CBS and Paramount generally denied Axanar’s claims, especially challenging Axanar’s assertion that “until this lawsuit, Plaintiffs, or any predecessor claiming to own copyrights in the Star Trek universe, had never filed a lawsuit against any Star Trek fan in connection with that fan’s efforts to contribute to the wealth of Star Trek fan fiction that currently exists.”3) Instead, the plaintiffs replied:

[Plaintiffs] admit that they have not sued with respect to all uses of the Star Trek Copyrighted Works, but deny that they have not previously sued to enforce their intellectual property rights in the Star Trek Copyrighted Works.4)

Tolerated Use

The plaintiffs disputed Peters’ claim that given his “extensive history with CBS,” he believed he was “operating within the tolerated realm of Star Trek fan fiction,” and that he “reached out to CBS on multiple occasions in an effort to seek guidelines about the production.”5) Instead, they stated:

[The plaintiffs] deny that Defendant Alec Peters “reached out to CBS” on multiple occasions, admit that Defendant Alec Peters spoke to [CBS officials] Bill Burke and to John Van Citters, but state that Mr. Peters was never given permission to use Star Trek Copyrighted Works, nor was he provided with “guidelines” regarding ways in which he could use Plaintiffs’ intellectual property for his Star Trek film projects, for either commercial or non-commercial use, nor was he told that his use of such Star Trek Copyrighted Works would be tolerated.6)
INTERCEDING At a Star Trek Beyond event, producer J.J. Abrams (left) and director Justin Lin (right) claimed the copyright suit against Axanar was “going away.”

The studios also denied Peters’ version of his August 2015 meeting with CBS officials, from which he claimed he received no warning he had “gone too far,” despite his “years … of contributions in support of both CBS and Paramount.”7)

Instead, the plaintiffs denied that they did not “‘express any concerns’ to Peters prior to this lawsuit.”8)

Overstatement

In the counterclaim, Peters described his previous association with CBS as his “expertise” regarding Star Trek props and costumes, “recognized by CBS when they hired him to sell the assets of the Star Trek Experience [sic],” volunteering to help CBS cataloging its Star Trek prop and costume archive and donating his warehouse to house some objects.9)

Alec Peters

Instead, the plaintiffs minimized their experience with Peters: “[We] admit that CBS Consumer Products Inc. worked in the past in a limited capacity with a company with which Alec Peters was involved,” otherwise lacking information to substantiate his other claims.10)

Abrams-Lin Intercession

On May 20, 2016, Star Trek producer Abrams claimed the case was “going away … within the next few weeks,” by which Axanar claimed Abrams and Lin had “publicly renounced” the suit.11)

Instead, the plaintiffs stated that while Abrams’ and Lin’s public statements “speak for themselves,” otherwise the plaintiffs denied Abrams and Lin had renounced the suit.12)

With regard to its “uncertainty as to how Axanar may proceed with its film,”13) the plaintiffs stated “their [legal] action remains pending.”14)

Relief

Axanar also sought the following as relief from the court:

  • Declaration that the Axanar works do not infringe on Star Trek copyrights.
  • Defendants’ Attorneys’ fees and costs.
  • Additional relief the court finds “just, proper, and equitable.”15)

In reply, the plaintiffs generally denied Axanar’s fair use defense under copyright law and denied the defendants “are entitled to any relief whatsoever.”16)

Next Steps

Axanar’s attorneys have the opportunity to file a response to the plaintiffs’ pleading as the case formally moves into discovery.

In the meantime, settlement talks are said to be continuing between the parties. If successfully concluded, the two sides could each drop their complaint and counterclaim. Otherwise, the case continues on its schedule toward trial in January 2017.


Keywords

2)
Answer of Defendants … to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial, p. 27, ¶36-38, 5/23/16.
3)
Answer of Defendants … to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial, p. 17 ¶9, 5/23/16.
4)
Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc.'s Answer to Counterclaim, p. 2 ¶9, 6/15/16.
5)
Answer of Defendants … to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial, p. 20 ¶18, 5/23/16.
6)
Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc.'s Answer to Counterclaim, p. 3 ¶18, 6/15/16.
7)
Answer of Defendants … to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial, p. 21 ¶19, 5/23/16.
8)
Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc.'s Answer to Counterclaim, p. 3 ¶19, 6/15/16.
9)
Answer of Defendants … to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial, p. 18-19 ¶14, 5/23/16.
10)
Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc.'s Answer to Counterclaim, p. 2 ¶14, 6/15/16.
11)
Answer of Defendants … to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial, p. 23 ¶23, 5/23/16.
12)
Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc.'s Answer to Counterclaim, p. 4 ¶23, 6/15/16.
13)
Answer of Defendants … to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial, p. 23 ¶25, 5/23/16.
14)
Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc.'s Answer to Counterclaim, p. 5 ¶25, 6/15/16.
15)
Answer of Defendants … to Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint; Counterclaim for Declaratory Relief; Demand for Jury Trial, p. 26, “Prayer for Relief,” 2 & 3, 5/23/16.
16)
Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc.'s Answer to Counterclaim, p. 6, “Response to Prayer,” lines 10-13, 6/15/16.