Photo/Robert Couse-Baker

Attorneys Focus on Axanar Jury Selection

Both sides in the Axanar copyright infringement suit have asked for a jury trial, banking on their ability to find jurors sympathetic to their case.

Attorneys submitted their proposed questions to U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner on December 30, 2016. The first days of Axanar’s upcoming January 31 trial was to be spent on selecting the jury. The process is formally known as voir dire (from the French, literally, “to see, to speak”), and it’s meant to ensure jurors are unbiased.

PICKING A JURY About juries in federal civil trials, and how they are selected (PDF).

According to Semantic Shenanigans writer and retired attorney Janet Gershen-Siegel, one of the hosts of the popular Star Trek podcast, The G&T Show:

Voir dire essentially consists of the questions the lawyers can ask the prospective jurors. So recognize most of these Axanar Pretrial Voir Dire questions are rather standard, (e.g., questions concerning educational levels, whether a person has seen press coverage of the case, etc.).1)

Defendants' Voir Dire Questions

Here are the proposed juror selection questions submitted by the defense team, organized by topic:2)

NOTE: The defense had sought to eliminate the use of the term ‘Star Trek’ completely from the trial.

Star Trek
1. Are you familiar with Star Trek?
2. Do you consider yourself a fan of Star Trek?
3. Have you ever seen any Star Trek movies?
a. Which ones?
b. What is your opinion of them?
4. Have you ever seen any Star Trek television episodes? a. Which ones?
b. What is your opinion of them?
Science Fiction
5. Are you familiar with science fiction?
a. Would you consider yourself a fan of science fiction?
b. If so, are you a fan of any particular books, movies, or television series?
The Defendants
6. Are you familiar with Alec Peters?
7. Have you ever heard of Axanar Productions?
The Film/TV Industry
8. Do you or any immediate family members work in the film or television industry?
a. If so, doing what?
b. For what company?
9. Have you or any immediate family members ever worked for either of the Plaintiffs?
a. If so, when and doing what?
10. Have you or any immediate family members ever worked on a movie or television show that involved either of the Plaintiffs? a. If so, what was the project and your role?
Fan Films/Fiction
11. Do you know what “fan films” or “fan fiction” are? a. What is your understanding of what a “fan film” is?
b. What is your understanding of what “fan fiction” is?
12. Have you ever watched any fan films or read any fan fiction?
13. Have you ever been involved in creating any fan films or fan fiction?
14. Have you ever heard of Prelude to Axanar or Axanar?
15. Have you ever watched Prelude to Axanar or the “Vulcan Scene?”
Crowdfunding
16. Have you ever given money to a “crowdfunding” website such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo?
a. Which websites?
b. Which fundraising campaigns?
This Lawsuit
17. Do you have any prior knowledge of this lawsuit?
18. Are you a member of any Facebook group relating to Axanar or this lawsuit?
a. Which ones?
19. Have you ever read any articles, news stories, or blog posts about this lawsuit, Alec Peters, or Axanar Productions?
a. What was the content of the story or blog post?
20. Have you ever heard of, or been acquainted with, any of these parties or their attorneys, or any persons employed in the same offices as the attorneys?
a. If so, who have you been acquainted with?
Prospective Jurors' Educational Level
21. What is your highest level of education?
a. If you attended college, what did you study?
b. If you attended graduate school, what did you study?
Copyright
22. Do you have any knowledge about or experience with copyrights?
23. Have you ever been involved in the creation of an artistic work (book, film, music, painting, etc.) that was sold to others?
24. Have you ever felt that someone stole or misused an artistic work that you created?
25. Have you ever registered a copyright?
26. Have you, a relative, or a close friend ever made a claim of copyright infringement?
27. Have you, a relative, or a close friend ever been accused of infringing another’s copyright?
28. Do you know what “fair use” means in the context of copyright infringement?
a. What is your understanding of “fair use?”
Experience with the Legal System
29. Have you, or anyone in your immediate family, attended law school or had any other training in the law?
30. Do you have any specific feelings or opinions about lawsuits or lawyers, either positive or negative?
31. Have you, or anyone in your immediate family, been a party (either as a plaintiff or as a defendant) to any civil lawsuit?
a. If so, who (you or a family member) was a party to the case?
b. Were you (or your family member) a plaintiff or a defendant?
c. What was the nature of the case?
d. Was the case tried by a jury?
e. What was the outcome of the case?
f. Is there anything about that experience that would cause you to question your ability to decide this case fairly and impartially, only on the basis of the evidence and law presented during this trial?
32. Have you ever been a witness in any lawsuit?
a. If so, did you testify for the plaintiff or the defendant?
b. What was the nature of the case?
c. Is there anything about that experience that would cause you to question your ability to decide this case fairly and impartially, solely on the basis of the evidence presented during this trial?


Plaintiffs' Voir Dire Questions

Here are the proposed juror selection questions submitted by the plaintiffs organized by topic:3)

Potential Bias
1. You have heard the general statement of the case. Do you believe there is anything that might prevent you from being fair and impartial in this case?
2. Do you believe that you will not be able to follow the Court’s instructions in this case, even if you disagree with them?
3. Do you believe that you will not be able to apply the law in this case as described for you by the Court, if it turns out that you disagree with the law?
4. Do you believe that you may decide to disregard the law as described by the Court, and instead make decisions based on your own views and experience?
Employment
5. Are you presently employed and, if so, full time or part time?
a. Who is your present employer?
b. What is the nature of the business of your employer?
c. What is your position?
6. Who were your prior employers (including self-employment) and places of employment (including work at home) for the past ten (10) years?
7. Have you ever been employed at Paramount Pictures or CBS, or any company connected with them?
8. Has anyone you know ever been employed at Paramount Pictures or CBS, or any company connected with them?
9. What is your spouse’s occupation?
Educational Level
10. Do you have a high school diploma or equivalent?
11. Do you have a college degree?
12. Do you have a master’s degree?
13. Do you have a doctoral degree?
Experience with Legal System
14. Have you ever been charged with a crime? If so:
a. Please describe the crime that you were charged with.
b. Please describe the outcome.
15. Have you ever been a party, either as a plaintiff or a defendant, in a lawsuit? If so: a. Where was it brought?
b. What was the lawsuit about?
c. What was the outcome of the case?
d. Were you satisfied with the result?
16. Have you ever served on a jury before? If so: a. In what courthouse did you serve?
b. Was it a civil or criminal case?
c. Did your jury reach a verdict?
17. Are there any lawyers in your family? If so: a. Who?
b. Where are they located?
Film/TV
18. Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit involving films, television, or the television industry?
19. Are you a filmmaker?
Fan Fiction
20. Have you ever created any fan fiction?
21. Have you ever read or seen any fan fiction projects?
22. Have you heard of Star Trek: Axanar?
23. Have you seen Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar?
Creative Experience
24. Have you ever written or created something that you consider to be a literary work, work of art, or other creative work? If so:
a. What did you create?
b. Can you describe the process of creating it?
c. What motivated you to create it?
Copyright
25. Have you ever felt that someone copied part or all of something that you created? If so:
a. How did that person copy your creation?
b. What did you do when you found out he or she copied it?
26. Have you ever registered for a copyright, patent, or trademark?
27. Do you have someone close to you who has been involved in a dispute over a copyright, patent, or trademark?
28. Do you believe that copyrighted material should not be entitled to protection under the law?
29. Some people think that intellectual property is different than regular property, and that stealing intellectual property is not as bad as stealing regular property. Do you agree with that?
Star Trek
30. Have you ever heard of Star Trek?
31. Have you ever seen a Star Trek movie, television show, or read a Star Trek book?
32. Do you consider yourself a Star Trek fan?
33. Have you ever attended a Star Trek convention, or a Comic-Con Convention, or any science fiction convention?
34. Have you ever bought any Star Trek merchandise?
The Defendants
35. The defendants in this case are Alec Peters and Axanar Productions, Inc. Do you know Mr. Peters or Axanar Productions, Inc.?
36. Do you know Erin Ranahan, Diana Hughes Leiden, Kelly Oki, Brian Li-A-Ping, Amy Stern, Joe Mornin, or their firm Winston and Strawn, who are the attorneys for the defendants?
The Plaintiffs
37. The plaintiffs in this case are CBS Studios Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation. Have you or anyone close to you had any negative experience with the products or services of these companies? Do you have any strong feelings, positive or negative, about these companies?
38. Do you have any negative feelings about motion picture companies or television networks in general?
39. CBS Studios and Paramount Pictures are large companies. Do you think that you can treat them equally with the individual defendants, and that you will not be swayed by sympathy for the “smaller guy”?
40. Do you know Jonathan Zavin, David Grossman, Jennifer Jason, or their firm, Loeb & Loeb LLP, who are the attorneys for the plaintiffs?
Witnesses
41. You may hear testimony from a number of expert witnesses. Are you acquainted with or do you know anything about the following potential witnesses:

42. You may hear testimony during trial from a number of other witnesses. Are you acquainted with or do you know anything about the following potential witnesses:

Reading Habits
43. Do you read entertainment blogs like The Hollywood Reporter? Do you read “amateur” or online blogs, or listen to podcasts about Star Trek or other science fiction works? Do you read any “tech” blogs, such as Tech Crunch, Mashable, Giga Om, or Gizmodo?
Crowdfunding
44. Have you ever donated money via crowdfunding for fan fiction, including on Kickstarter or Indiegogo?
Judging this Lawsuit
45. Have you read or heard anything about this case?
46. Do you think that you are good at deciding if someone is telling the truth? Do you think that you are not good at deciding if someone is telling the truth?
47. Do you believe that it is appropriate to make money from someone else’s work?
48. Have you seen or heard anything that would make it hard for you to guarantee that you will judge the parties equally?
49. Do you have strong feelings about damage awards in lawsuits? Do you believe that damages should be capped at a certain level in litigation?


What Lies Behind the Questions?

As noted by Gershen-Siegel in Semantic Shenanigans, while most of the questions are standard for jury selection, some jumped out at her:

  • Whether the prospective juror might be biased against large corporations like the plaintiffs in favor of “the little guy.”
  • Prospective jurors’ reading and listening habits with regard to the entertainment industry, technology, science fiction and Star Trek.

She wrote:

Hence as might be expected, plaintiffs need to concern themselves with potential jurors who might ignore the facts and instead seek their own brand of ‘justice’ (an issue for either side, I might add).

Furthermore, that means our [Semantic Shenanigans podcast] listeners and listeners to the G&T Show, and … readers of blogs like Fan Film Factor, AxaMonitor, Trek Geeks, etc. would be challenged. And this would not surprise me.4)

Keywords

2)
Defendants’ Proposed Voir Dire Questions, Docket 159, 12/30/16.
3)
Plaintiffs’ Proposed Voir Dire Questions, Docket 161, 12/30/16.