In news which recently made the headlines, it was reported that Paramount and CBS were suing the makers of a fan-made Star Trek film, Prelude to Axanar, for copyright infringement. According to new reports, the studios have now dropped that lawsuit after an intervention by JJ Abrams, the director of the highly-successful recent "official" Star Trek films.
Among the more interesting aspects of the lawsuit, it had been reported that CBS and Paramount sought to go where no lawsuit had gone before, in asserting that the fan film infringed copyright in the Klingon language. Although Klingon is an artificial language which was first devised for the Star Trek films in the 1980s, the notion of asserting copyright in a language per se, rather than in respect of the expression of particular ideas in that language, is controversial to say the least. For now, it seems that this will remain a matter of legal conjecture.
Although this is likely to be portrayed in the media as a victory for fandom against the might of the studios, at least one source speculates that an out-of-court settlement may have been reached with the fan film's makers. While the Klingon copyright claim may have been questionable, other aspects of the CBS/Paramount case seemed to be on firmer ground and it seems likely that, had the dispute reached the courts, the fans may have found that resistance was futile.
It is now reported that guidelines are being drawn up which will allow fans to make their own Star Trek homages and tributes without incurring the wrath of the studio. If these guidelines are successfully assimilated by fans, this seems potentially to be a logical move from a studio seeking to avoid alienation of its large and dedicated fanbase, while also protecting its legitimate interest in its intellectual property rights to ensure that the official Star Trek franchise can live long and prosper.
Paramount's decision to drop its lawsuit doesn't mean open season on copyrighted characters and materials. Despite its comparatively high budget and a cast of known actors, Axanar is being made on a not-for-profit basis. Anyone looking to make a Trek fan-film and sell it would likely feel the full force of Paramount's lawyers.