The Axanar Settlement


Image/Axanar Productions

Axanar Removes Public Fundraising Plea — Sort of

Also Gone: Axanar’s Portrayal as a Nonprofit, Donor Store

After concerns were raised about Axanar trying an end run around the public fundraising prohibition in the settlement negotiated with CBS and Paramount Pictures, the film had removed the appeal for public donations from its homepage.

Also excised from the movie’s website by February 6, 2017: Language portraying the for-profit Axanar Productions as a “not-for-profit project” following a federal judge’s ruling it was in fact a commercial enterprise, and potentially running afoul of the California Nonprofit Integrity Act.

See also: Axanar Continues Public Appeal for Donations

‘It’s fair to assume that people who receive correspondence directly from Axanar will also have opportunities to directly support the company by making a contribution.’ Axanar spokesman Mike Bawden

'Join the Mission'

More than a week following the settlement announcement, the Axanar homepage still featured a large banner reading, “Click here to donate,” sending visitors to a donation page now titled “Join the Mission.” The donation language was replaced following AxaMonitor‘s coverage with a corresponding banner on the homepage.

Asked if the change was due to the settlement’s public fundraising prohibition, Axanar spokesman Mike Bawden replied:

Axanar Productions is making a series of modifications to its operations and website that reflect some of the conditions of the settlement with CBS and Paramount as well as some internal discussions we’ve had about the future of the organization and other possible projects. Those conversations are on-going. We will continue to make changes to the website, our social media presence and plans going forward as things come together.1)

See also: The Settlement: Where Do We Go From Here?

Harvesting Emails

Rather than soliciting direct donations as he had done even during the lawsuit, producer Alec Peters was now publicly harvesting email addresses — surely to be used to privately solicit individuals for money after he spent all $1.4 million that was to have gone to the feature-length Axanar.

CHANGES The Donate page is gone but its replacement urges viewers to ‘Join the Mission’ by volunteering their contact information for eventual private funding appeals. Click image to view full size.

Indeed, the new copy on the page now read:

Every donation helps make the dream of producing high-quality fan fiction a reality – and every bit we raise from our donors and backers goes directly into making that happen. … Help bring Axanar to life by joining our constellation of donors and backers today! If you want to help make Axanar a reality, please join our mailing list.2)

Still an End Run?

While the public ask was removed from the homepage, it remained to be seen whether asking members of the public to provide a means for follow-up private funding appeals remained within the settlement’s boundaries of 'no public fundraising.’

Asked if the email addresses requested on the ‘Join the Mission’ page were intended to be used for private solicitation for funding the slimmed-down Axanar, Bawden responded:

If people wish to stay informed, they can … receive a semi-regular e-newsletter with information on our plans and updates on projects. I think it’s fair to assume that people who receive correspondence directly from Axanar Productions will also have opportunities to directly support the company and its various projects by making a contribution.3)
THE NEW ‘Join the Mission’ page as it appeared on the Axanar website on February 6, 2017. Click image to view full size.

Donations are Vital

High on Axanar’s priority list has to be raising more money. Unable to depend on further crowdfunding, Peters can only produce the shortened version of Axanar with new cash infusions; he already spent all $1.4 million that was to have gone to making the Axanar feature.

Nonprofit Portrayal Removed

Where formerly Axanar had described itself as a not-for-profit project, that language was removed by the time this article was initially published.

In an interview on the TrekZONE podcast nearly a year before, AxaMonitor raised questions about whether Axanar describing itself that way on a page designed to solicit donations might violate the stringent California Nonprofit Integrity Act.4)

At the time, Bawden conceded he didn’t see what particular benefit seeking nonprofit status would bring Axanar.5) Even so, Peters has continued to insist Axanar intends to seek nonprofit status — a lengthy process that includes rigorous public examination of an organization’s finances. Nonprofits also require a board of directors to whom the head of the organization is accountable; Axanar has yet to name such a body, and Peters remains sole owner of Axanar Productions Inc.

See also: Fact Check: Axanar's Nonprofit Status

Commercial Operation

In his ruling denying both sides’ motions for summary judgment, federal Judge R. Gary Klausner nonetheless found Axanar was a commercial operation with several revenue streams that financially benefitted Peters himself.

Donor Store Offline

Among Axanar’s revenue streams was its Donor Store, which offered a full range of Axanar merchandise for sale. Immediately after the settlement, the Donor Store went offline, returning several days later as only a portal for previous crowdfunding contributors to arrange for receiving perks should the 30-minute version of Axanar ever be produced.

Physical perks for donors are now forbidden by CBS’ fan film guidelines but under the terms of the settlement Axanar was allowed to fulfill the rewards it had promised to donors.

Merchandise

See also: Axanar Merchandise

While Peters has been very public about the forthcoming “independent” financial review of Axanar’s finances, he also admitted that the review only examines spending of money directly raised on the crowdfunding platforms. The committee reviewing his finances are not examining spending from the revenue generated by Axanar’s merchandise sales. That amount has never been publicly disclosed but estimates place it well into six figures.

1) , 3)
Email from Mike Bawden to AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza, 2/6/17.