Star Trek has been unique among intellectual properties in the sense that its owners, Paramount and CBS, have historically allowed and even encouraged unofficial fan-made productions. Many Star Trek films have been made as passion projects, some featuring cast and crew from past official productions.
A fresh effort has been in the works for some time to produce a studio-quality fan film called Star Trek: Axanar. The production is unprecedented in its ambition, benefiting from over $1 million in crowdfunding utilized to hire a professional Hollywood cast and crew. You can see much of what the team has produced so far on their YouTube channel.
In what may be a backhanded compliment, Paramount and CBS have suddenly reversed their attitude toward Axanar, as detailed in The Hollywood Reporter:
Paramount and CBS, represented by attorneys at Loeb & Loeb, are now demanding an injunction as well as damages for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. Although the plaintiffs have allowed ample cosplaying over the years and even permitted other derivatives like amateur Star Trek shows to circulate, the lawsuit illustrates that there is a place where no man has gone before, where the entertainment studios are not willing to let be occupied: crowdfunded, professional-quality films that use copyrighted “elements” like Vulcans and Klingons, Federation starships, phasers and stuff like the “look and feel of the planet, the characters’ costumes, their pointy ears and their distinctive hairstyle.”
The suit has been perceived by many fans online as a slap in the face. After all, that $1 million was raised with the understanding that such projects were allowed by the rights-holders. Many feel as though the studio’s sudden shift reflects the quality of Axanar. Some speculate that the studio, which is in development of a revitalized Star Trek television series, feels upstaged by the fan production.