Table of Contents
Fan Productions Guidelines Comparisons
Main articles: Official Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines and Fan Films Primer
See also: Guidelines Aftermath and Axanar Tries to Rally Fan Films to Its Proposed Guidelines
Screenwriter and producer Jody Wheeler compares and contrasts CBS and Paramount’s guidelines for fan productions seeking to avoid objection or legal action against them, with the contest rules imposed by Lucasfilm and Disney on fan filmmakers. Wheeler’s analysis shows the two sets of rules share many similarities.
This is a companion piece with Wheeler’s article, “Come Not Between Draconians” on 1701News.
Star Trek Guidelines vs. Star Wars License
Star Wars and Star Trek fans want to make films about their favorite properties. Those properties are legally owned by corporations, each of which has exclusive rights to those properties.
CBS and Paramount have now published a list of guidelines that, if followed, won’t get the fan filmmakers sued for copyright infringement. They are not granting Star Trek fan filmmakers a license, an approval, or endorsement of the work, however.
Lucasfilm, a division of Walt Disney Studios, actually gives fan filmmakers a legal license to use the Star Wars intellectual property (IP), but with limitations. The only way to get the license is to enter its fan film contest. The contest only grants the license for a small window of time, the license contains many restrictions, the license expires at the end of the contest, the right to use Star Wars intellectual property ends with that expiration, but Lucasfilm nevertheless retains a permanent and irrevocable license to use those fan films in any way they see fit.
|CBS/Paramount to Fan Films||Lucasfilm to Fan Films||Explanation|
| Intro: “…Therefore, CBS and Paramount Pictures will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional and amateur and meet the following guidelines.”|
Last Paragraph: “… These guidelines are not a license and do not constitute approval or authorization of any fan productions or a waiver of any rights that CBS or Paramount Pictures may have with respect to fan fiction created outside of these guidelines.”
| Sponsor grants you a non-exclusive license to create the Video using Lucasfilm IP or officially licensed Star Wars® products for the purposes of creating a Video for this Contest only, provided that such license shall be conditioned upon your assignment to Sponsor of all rights in and to the Video (if such rights are not assigned to Sponsor, your license to create the Submission using Lucasfilm IP or officially licensed Star Wars® products shall be null and void). |
At all times, as between Sponsor and Contestant, Sponsor shall retain all right, title and interest in the Lucasfilm IP and officially licensed Star Wars® products as well as all copyrights therein; this grant of a license is not intended to transfer any ownership rights in the Lucasfilm IP or officially licensed Star Wars® products or the copyrights therein. This grant of license is made contingent upon the Contestant maintaining all copyright and trademark notices included in the Lucasfilm IP in the Pack The licensed rights will automatically expire at the end of the Contest. Any other use of the Lucasfilm IP in the Pack is strictly prohibited and constitutes an actionable violation of Sponsor’s rights.
| CBS/Paramount are clear that they aren’t granting fan filmmakers a license, merely outlining rules to not get sued “objections.”
Lucasfilm is clear it is granting the fan filmmaker a license, but only if the film is entered in to the contest. Once the contest is over, the fan film has no right to Star Wars.
What Fan Productions Give the Copyright Holder
|Fan Films to CBS/Paramount||Fan Films to Lucasfilm||Explanation|
|None||By entering this Contest and having a chance to win an award, you agree and represent that grant to Sponsor a non-exclusive, sublicensable, irrevocable and royalty-free worldwide license grant to Sponsor a non-exclusive, sublicensable, irrevocable and royalty-free worldwide license under all copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, privacy and publicity rights and other intellectual property rights to use, reproduce, transmit, communicate to the public, print, publish, publicly display, exhibit, distribute, redistribute, copy, index, comment on, modify, adapt, translate, create derivative works based upon, publicly perform, make available and otherwise exploit your Submission, in whole or in part, in all media formats and channels now known or hereafter devised (including on third-party sites and platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), in any number of copies and without limit as to time, manner and frequency of use, without further notice to you, with or without attribution, and without the requirement of permission from or payment to you or any other person or entity.|| Trek fan films aren’t the property of CBS/Paramount (though the content inside is.) They take no title or interest in your work.
Lucasfilm, on the other hand, attaches a permanent right to use a fan film in most any way they’d like, during or after the expiration of the contest. This right is attached to even otherwise legal uses of the Star Wars IP (parody, documentary) outside of the film contest. While not exclusive, Lucasfilm can use a filmmaker’s work basically forever.
|“1. The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.”|| “Videos must not exceed five (5) minutes in length. If a Video exceeds five (5) minutes in length, it will be disqualified. |
— “You may submit only one (1) Submission.”
| CBS/Paramount have limited the run times and certain continuing content from fan films from here on out. However, they haven’t limited the number of fan films a creator can make. If a creator can pump out 20 fan films in a year, there’s nothing in the guidelines that prevent that, provided you stick to the posted length.
Legal Star Wars fan films are always in the context of the contest. The contest is always about one five minute film. Lucasfilm allows one official fan film a year.
|“2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.”||N/A|| CBS/Paramount’s rules are a change from the way fan films were previously done. They’ve clearly spelled out what verbiage is needed to better differentiate fan films from Official Licensed Star Trek.
Since licensed Star Wars fan films are in the context of the contest, this labeling requirement isn’t applicable.
|“3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.”|| “Do be original.
Feel free to put your own spin on the Star Wars franchise and make sure what you create is original and doesn’t contain third party materials protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights.”
Don’t show any brands or logos, famous landmarks, buildings, books, works of art etc. That means no visible/recognizable use anywhere in the Video of brands on clothes, sneakers, in the background, or other things which may be subject to third party intellectual property rights, such as (for example) famous landmarks, buildings or works of art. Please do not include any references to Star Trek®.
| Trek fan films now have some limitations on the kinds of stories they can tell. Flat out. They are encouraging originality.
Lucafilm rules don’t forbid anything content wise. However they, too, encourage originality.
That said, Lucasfilm is far stricter on 3rd party content than CBS/Paramount are. Lucasfilm bans any thing, including buildings, whose IP is owned by another. CBS/Paramount require written releases for anything unrelated to Star Trek in a Trek fan film.
|“4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.”|| “YOU CANNOT USE ANY SOUND MATERIALS (E.G., MUSIC OR SOUNDCLIPS) OTHER THAN WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PACK. YOU MAY USE OFFICIALLY LICENSED STAR WARS® TOYS, COSTUMES, ACCESSORIES AND CLOTHING.”
“If you want to use music or soundclips in your Video, only use sound materials provided in the Pack on the website. Please do not include any sound materials that are not from the Pack or you will be disqualified.”
| While there is probably some give in terms of borrowing props from other productions, CBS/Paramount is now forbidding the use of any prop that could otherwise be bought from licensed merchandise. This is a big change from before.
Star Wars fan filmmakers simply aren’t required to purchase Official Merchandise. They are, though even given permission to to use such merchandise in their films.
However, unlike Trek, SW limits the music and sound clips / effects used in productions. It’s a requirement that only assets issued by Lucasfilm be used in projects. Trek makes no such demands.
|“5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.”|| Any individuals (including but not limited to employees, consultants, independent contractors, and interns) who have, within the past six months, performed services for Sponsor, Administrator, Lucasfilm Ltd. or any other company within the Walt Disney family of companies, and any organizations responsible for sponsoring, fulfilling, administering, advertising or promoting the Contest or supplying the prizes, persons involved in the creation, development or production (including cast and crew) of Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie or other content or products related to the Star Wars franchise and/or any related parent, subsidiary, affiliated and successor companies, and immediate family and household members of such individuals, are not eligible to participate or win any prize in the Contest.
(Sec IV )
| At first glance, the lifetime ban appears as though Trek is more restrictive here.Going forward, no professionals, especially talent, can ever be involved. Lucasfilm only bans such people if they’ve worked within the last six months.
But since Star Wars is a yearly contest, that six month ban isn’t that big of difference, especially since Lucasfilm extends that ban to any area of Star Wars created, promoted, or licensed in those last six months, across all of Disney’s companies and license holders, and to family members as well.
The son or daughter of a Trek celebrity or Hollywood professional can work on a Trek fan film. The child of a Star Wars celebrity or professional can’t.
|CBS/Paramount Guidelines||Lucasfilm Rules||Explanation|
|6. “The fan production must be non-commercial:”||N/A||Star Wars fan films are part of a non-commercial contest. C/P is now explicitly stating everything must be non-commericial.|
|6.1) “CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.”||No published restrictions on cost. Comments from Lucasfilm forbidding crowdfunding.|| The $50k limit is a big change in the world of Trek fan films. In relation to a 15- or 30- minute movie, $50k still seems like a large amount of money to create a work. This is a change, though.
Lucasfilm does not explicitly prohibit crowd funding in their rules. However,there have been numerous public remarks by Lucasfilm officials forbidding the use of crowdfunding in their films.
|6.2) “The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.”||N/A||Trek can be shown on any video platform, provided no revenue is raised. Star Wars films are only allowed to be submitted to the Star Wars contest, and they may or may not get shown publicly, at the discretion of Lucasfilm and Disney.|
|6.3) “The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.”||N/A||CBS/Paramount is now pretty clear: Nothing physical. Star Wars fan films are only allowed to be uploaded digitally to the fan film contest site.|
|6.4) “The fan production cannot be used to derive advertising revenue including, but not limited to, through for example, the use of pre or post-roll advertising, click-through advertising banners, that is associated with the fan production.”||“Submissions may not be used to advertise Contestant’s or any third party’s product or services.”||Slightly different processes but essentially the same outcome. CBS/Paramount forbids multiple ways of making money off content on digital platforms. Star Wars films can only be submitted to the contest site, but the films themselves can’t have anything in them that would pay out to a third-party.|
|6.5) No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.||N/A||Forbidding premiums, perks or rewards is a new restriction on Trek films crowdfunding efforts. While the Star Wars Official Fan Film Rules don’t forbid this, again, comments from Lucasfilm saying crowdfunding in general isn’t allowed makes this equal between the projects.|
|“6.6) The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or costumes.”||“Submissions may not be used to advertise Contestant’s or any third party’s product or services.”||Slightly different contexts, but essentially the same result: no revenue.|
|CBS/Paramount Guidelines||Lucasfilm Rules||Explanation|
|“7) The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy.”|| “… Submissions must be appropriate for audiences of any age under any youth protection laws, as determined by Sponsor by its reasonable judgment.”
“Videos must be suitable for public presentation. Videos MUST NOT include nudity; obscenity; pornography; offensive language, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, or any harmful or illegal activity; material that is fraudulent, deceptive, racially offensive, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, harassing, disparaging, libelous (including trade libel) or defaming; or include any other content that is by reasonable judgment inappropriate for this Contest or otherwise breaches these Official Rules. Sponsor reserves the right to make the final determination as to the suitability for public presentation.
|Same restrictions, almost the exact same wording between Star Wars and Star Trek.|
|CBS/Paramount Guidelines||Lucasfilm Rules||Explanation|
| “8) The fan production must display the following disclaimer in the on-screen credits of the fan productions and on any marketing material including the fan production website or page hosting the fan production: |
“Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”
|No disclaimers and Commercial Exhibition is not granted by the license in Section IV, Item 6. n/a on Commercial Exhibition|| Again, context here. Star Wars fan films are submitted to a contest. The contest is the only platform officially allowed to show the fan films. In that sense, there’s no need.
Also, the Star Wars license doesn’t allow commercial exhibition of the fan film by anyone other that Lucasfilm or Disney. The outcome is the same.