Looks like Star Trek fan, Prelude to Axanar producer, and all-around maker of poor life choices Alec Peters is in legal trouble with Paramount and CBS again… this time to the tune of nearly $300,000.
Remember Axanar, the Star Trek fan film that was the source of so much drama back in 2014-2015? No? We covered it in an article about infamous fandom lore, but allow me to you a quick rundown.
Way back in the late 90s, a guy named Alec Peters wrote a fanfic about a character from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy”. He was inspired by a supplement to the Star Trek roleplaying game FASA released in the 80s, but that’s not super relevant.
What is relevant is that Peters, along with co-writer and director Christian Gossett, created a short fanfilm, Prelude to Axanar. The meta is that it’s part of a documentary about a four-year-long war between the Federation and the Klingons that supposedly happened twenty years before TOS begins. This war is from the FASA game, not the canon Star Trek history, so don’t be confused if you’ve never heard of it.
Fans were intrigued enough that the Kickstarter raised ten times its $10k goal. Peters and Gossett managed to get some decently well-known sci fi actors on board including Richard Hatch and J. G. Hertzler, plus Star Trek alum Gary Graham. They also put focus on costuming and sets with a real TOS feel. With so much care given to its production. Prelude to Axanar premiered at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con to enthusiastic reviews.
I’ll add the YouTube video here for the curious. It’s pretty good, actually, very moody.
I bet you’re wondering where those poor life choices I mentioned come in, huh? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.
Almost immediately after Prelude to Axanar dropped, Peters announced an upcoming sequel titled (you guessed it) Axanar. He also launched a new Kickstarter to cover production costs. That campaign raised $638,471 from fans excited to see what the crew could do with more money. Fan film creators aren’t allowed to profit off them personally in order to comply with copyright laws, so that chunk of change should have gone straight into production value.
Spoiler: it did not. Peters and company decided to use this campaign to build an actual studio that would then produce Axanar. Peters also paid himself and his girlfriend salaries as employees while enthusiastically using the Star Trek name to raise both awareness and money. All told they raised just over a million dollars between 2 Kickstarters and an Indiegogo campaign.
Axanar has yet to be released.
Of course, CBS and Paramount Pictures dropped the hammer. They sued Peters and his company for copyright infringement. The suit dragged on and on until eventually a settlement was announced in 2017. It was a surprisingly sweet deal for Peters, maybe because Prelude had been so well received and maybe because Star Trek: Discovery was about to premiere and the studios wanted to cut the drama.
Whatever the reason, Peters would be allowed to produce two 15-minute Axanar short films as long as he refrained from more crowdfunding campaigns using the Star Trek IP (among other restrictions).
Now, according to this Law360 article I’m reading at 2 a.m., Paramount Pictures and CBS have filed a petition to confirm a penalty from the settlement due to Peters’ continued violations. Specifically:
Peters has violated the agreement by continuing to publicly raise funds for himself and his affiliated entities, continuously leading on donors with representations that the finished film segments are on the verge of completion. In addition, Peters has violated a restriction within the settlement that prohibited him from using the Star Trek name or marks in connection with the permitted Axanar project by using the hashtag #startrek to promote the still-to-be-released segments.
The article also alleges that Peters has been selling merchandise with Star Trek elements for the past ten years despite being instructed in the settlement to knock it off.
See? Poor life choices. Peters has allegedly already been claiming the hashtag was a mistake by his social media team. Do we believe him? I don’t know, how likely is it that someone who’s been doing something since 2014 would do the thing again? Judge for yourself.
We’ll keep an eye out for any updates. In the meantime, axamonitor has a truly exhaustive compendium of history on Axanar. I can’t recommend it enough if you have questions about… well, anything related to this situation. There are even quick start guides and primers and timelines.
If that sounds like too much work, just stay tuned. We’ll walk you through it if more drama comes down the pipe.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that Peters paid himself and his wife salaries. She was actually his girlfriend- they weren’t formally married.
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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