A fan-produced recreation of the Enterprise D from Star Trek: The Next Generation has shut down following a cease and desist from CBS legal.
Stage 9 (not to be confused with the Stage 9 Productions, based out of Kingsland, GA) spent the last two years painstakingly recreating the interiors and the exterior of the famous Galaxy Class Starship that featured in the live action Star Trek series.
This reproduction was in fact so comprehensive not only was it a more or less a complete duplicate of the entire ship right down to the exterior but it featured objects you could interact with even fire a phaser.
In a video posted to Stage 9’s YouTube last night, the head of the project, Rob Bryan explained he had no choice but to end all future production on the reproduction and wipe their social media accounts after lawyers from CBS refused to budge on their cease and desist.
“Throughout all of this we knew it could end at any point,” Scragnog (Rob) said.
So what went wrong for Stage 9, not knowing the exact details of the items CBS found objectionable it is hard to determine, however, after looking into this further we have picked up on what we think might be some of the issues that they faced.
Ubisoft and Star Trek: Bridge Crew?
In 2017, Ubisoft released a VR game that allows the player to “explore space in Virtual Reality as a member of the Federation and take place on the bridge in a Starfleet ship”.
Although Bridge Crew is essentially only a bridge sim, the fact Stage 9 offered not only PC support but support for virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive would have just hit too close to home for Ubisoft, as Bridge Crew was designed for this purpose with PSVR, Rift, Vive, support from day one and then Windows when the TNG DLC dropped this year.
Ubisoft would have paid CBS for the rights to create this game, and the exclusive rights to be the only one to produce anything like this therefore for CBS not to do anything about Stage 9 would have opened them up to possible legal action by Ubisoft.
Contractual Agreements With The Actors Cause CBS To Act?
Back in April a Fan Film called “Temporal Anomaly” faced a very similar issue in regards to their proposed fan film, in this fan film they used the likeness of the Star Trek actors in their trailer, now unlike the Star Trek IP, CBS does not own the likeness of any of the actors.
When an actor signs on to do a TV series or Film, the contract they sign gives the studios extremely limited rights to what they can and cannot do with the actor’s performance, for example, in a normal contract the actor allows a studio the rights to use their image for, promotion, merchandise, trailers, and what they have filmed under contact, what the studios do not have is the right to allow third parties to reproduce, copy or alter their performances in any way.
Contractual agreements are complex, long and extremely binding as to what is allowed and what is not, with that said, what CBS had here was not only a fan using their IP in both the use of the Enterprise, but they also have the likeness of at least 3 Star Trek actors.
This might have drawn CBS’s attention to this production, however, monetary gain is not! a key factor in determining Copyright Infringement, you do not have to make any money at all for it to be deemed infringement, in fact, the only time money comes in to play is, if or when any damages are determined.
Although this fan reproduction did indeed garnish donations from fans through a direct PayPal link situated on their website, it is highly unlikely that they raised anywhere near a dollar amount that would raise eyebrows, that said, making money off an IP you do not own is a big no-no and majorly frowned upon by any IP owner.
But It Was Only A Fan Production
Fan productions exist at the grace of the IP holders, when you create a fan production be it a Fan Film, Fan Art, Fan Fiction, Models, Fan Sites, Audio or Video Dramas, Games, Posters, etc, the simple fact is all these are derivative works of a copyrighted IP and that does not grant you automatic copyright on your work, although you are the artist, CBS still owns the IP that is was based upon, and if the rights holders do not like what you are doing they can and will shut you down at any point and the law states they can.
Unless you change the meaning for example for parody, educational or reporting which would possibly fall under fair use, all use of a protected IP is infringement regardless if money is made or not.
Even having a disclaimer does not protect you from infringement, although this does help show that you do respect the official rights holder ownership.
In conclusion, we at Treksphere feel the pain the team at Stage-9 must be feeling, as it is never easy seeing your work come to an end due to factors that are not in your direct control, we fully recognize CBS’s action in this matter and to be honest we can not blame them, after all it is their IP and they have to protect it.
Nevertheless, regardless of the reasons CBS chose to shut down this production, we are saddened by what has transpired and we wish Rob and the team at Stage 9 all the best for their future endeavours and who knows what the future holds.
A Tour Of The Work Completed