May 23 2024

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Axanar Case Headed To Jury Trial

2 min read

R. Gary Klausner, a California federal judge, ruled today that the Paramount Pictures/CBS vs. Axanar case will be decided by jurors.

The ruling, which can be read here, found that the Axanar works have “objective substantial similarity to the Star Trek copyrighted works,” and would not be considered fair use.

“Under the extrinsic test, the Axanar works are substantially similar to the Star Trek copyrighted works,” said Klausner. “This conclusion finds strong support in Defendants’ intent for the Axanar works. Defendants expressly set out to create an authentic and independent Star Trek film that [stayed] true to Star Trek canon down to excruciating details.”

While this will not be welcome news to the defendants and while most of the ruling by Klausner was in favor of the Plaintiffs, Paramount and CBS did not get the summary judgment for which they had hoped. According to the ruling, a jury will “decide subjective substantial similarity.”

“The intrinsic test is subjective and asks whether the ordinary, reasonable person would find the total concept and feel of the works to be substantially similar,” wrote Klausner “The jury, not the court, is ordinarily the reasonable person. There is, however, some uncertainty for substantial similarity under the extrinsic test…the Court cannot find, in any case law in the Ninth Circuit, where the court finds summary judgment for the plaintiff after applying the intrinsic test. Thus, the intrinsic test appears to be “exclusively the province of the jury in the Ninth Circuit. The Court will leave this test to the jury.”

“Defendants further argue that the Axanar works, through their promotional value, actually increase the sale and visibility of the Star Trek copyrighted Works,” said Klausner, “but ‘the boon to the [latter] does not make [Defendants’] copying fair.” Klausner also found that Alec Peters did infringe upon the plaintiffs’ works but will wait for the result of the jury trial before granting “declaratory and injunctive relief.’

“The Court thus finds that all four fair use factors weigh in favor of Plaintiffs. If the jury does not find subjective substantial similarity, Defendants did not infringe and fair use defense is moot. If the jury finds subjective substantial similarity, the Axanar works are rightfully considered derivative works of the Star Trek copyrighted works. Rejection of Defendants’ fair use defense is consistent with copyright’s very purpose because derivatives are ‘an important economic incentive to the creation of originals.'”

The jury trial will begin on January 31.

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