The LIEF Erikson

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Copyright & Merchandising

My comrade in arms Keela noted on another forum

"… you still have to remember that all aspects of Star Trek are copyrighted. And the lawyers of Viacom don't mind going after anyone who infringes on their copyright especially if it makes "money" for someone."

With respect to copyright, I'll be the first to admit the idea of Trek United producing it's own works is untested ground. "New Voyages" is arguably the most ambitious fan Movie to date, but it is still a legitimate fan production in that …

  • It seeks to expand on to the Trek franchise, embellish it, publicise it
  • It does not seek to make a profit
  • It will not be released in a media that would put it in competition with Viacom/Paramount

As she so rightly points out, Viacom has the whip-hand here and could easily do a Disney on us and close up the whole She-Bang! I think however, that we have some significant bargaining chips on our side when negotiating with Viacom with regards to copyright …

A) Trek fans have a long history of working with Paramount as an unofficial publicity department, creating fiction, artworks, music. There might be a precedent for established practice. We should build on this. We are not their enemy, we want to help them make money.

B) Viacom/Paramount see their Trek franchise as a capital investment that they want to get the maximum return possible from. Whatever we plan to produce, I would suggest that we find some way of tying it into approved Paramount merchandise so that Paramount and the merchandisers can see that we are making them money. For example …
- A fan funded episode or movie could revolve around a Trek ship, say a Klingon Bird of Prey or Steamrunner Class, which a plastic model company such as AMT could release as a special edition.
- Similarly a fan funded episode or movie could revolve around an existing piece of Trek merchandising, for example a toy. Remember the old cowboy flick "Springfield Rifles"? Why not do a kids orientated, action short that features the phase pistol and communicator set made by Art Asylum. Hmmm … by the way, has anyone thought of making a shooting game for the X-Box or PS2 similar to "Time Crisis" that uses the phase pistol?
- A fan funded movie could be made of one of the Trek video games

C) This last idea of a fan funded movie based on a Trek video game brings to mind the court case between Activision and Viacom when Activision alleged that Viacom/Paramount were in breach of contract by not maintaining/developing the Trek franchise aggressively enough. Stop me if I'm wrong but it would appear that Paramount have a contractual obligation to maintain the media profile of the Trek franchise. If they were to block Trek United from doing that when they were not, I think you would find that the merchandisers would have something to say.

D) It is important NOT to do anything that would place Trek United in opposition to or in competition with Paramount. I doubt if they would appreciate us trying to sell a movie, TV program or DVD that people might watch or buy rather than the Paramount productions. This mainly applies to live-to-air & cable TV as well as direct to DVD.

Basically what I'm trying to show here is that there is a positive spin on copyright as well as a negative side. Trek United can work with the system to show Paramount that their fan base is not just a cash-cow, to be milked for all it can give, but a vibrant community of SciFi fans who see Trek as the focus of their "fan experience".

Sure, Trek fandom is a merchandising demographic, but it is a slice of the market that can only be maintained by constant development. All Trek United wants to do is keep the Trek flame burning, if we can show that by doing this we will be helping Paramount reach their corporate goals of survival and growth, so much the better.

This was posted in substantially the same form on Trek United.


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