Lately, fanficcers seem intent on testing how far they can claim "ownership" of their work before the authors/rights-holders of the original media properties take legal action (just look at the Organization for Transformative Works or the Rowling dispute).
But now there is a new wrinkle. For many years now, a group of ardent STAR TREK fans have been producing STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES (aka STAR TREK: PHASE II), their own, hour-long version of the original series. Original cast members like George Takei and Walter Koenig have "guest-starred" on the web-broadcast episodes and FX experts from the various "real" STAR TREK series have donated their talents to the project. So far, Viacom/Paramount has turned a blind eye to the project, presumably since it’s a "fan production" and nobody has tried to make any money off of it.
That could change.
I just got my 2007 Nebula ballot from the Science Fiction Writers of America and among the movies & TV shows vying for the Script award is "World Enough and Time," an episode of STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES written by Marc Scott Zicree & Michael Reeves that "aired" on 8/23/07.
Here’s the problem. The Nebula Rules state that to be eligible for the award that it must be "a professionally produced audio, radio,
television, motion picture, multimedia, or theatrical script."
But the fans behind STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES have claimed repeatedly that what they are doing absolutely isn’t a professional production, it’s just for fun, the video equivalent of fanfic:
cost of the production is being paid out of pocket by the producers/crew. Yes,
it is expensive, but we’re fortunate to have many talented people donate their
time and money for a worthy cause and a once in a lifetime trip around the
galaxy! We in no way make money from this show and we all volunteer our time,
effort and our own money to bring these shows to the internet. If you desire to
help us in that capacity, please see "How can I donate" below
[…]Due to copyrights, there are no stations broadcasting our episodes.
Star Trek: Phase II is a web-series. The episodes are available for
FREE via the Internet. IF YOU FIND OUR EPISODES FOR SALE or RENT
ANYWHERE, WHAT YOU HAVE FOUND IS AN ILLEGAL COPY. We cannot and do not make any money from the episodes. We ask you to inform us if you find anyone selling our work.
If they are now claiming to be a professionally-produced program, it puts their "fan" status in doubt…especially if they are now hiring writers…and it could bring Viacom/Paramount crashing down on them.
There’s no question that all the other nominees in the Script category were paid for their screenplays. The inclusion of the script by Zicree & Reeves among the nominees (CHILDREN OF MEN, THE PRESTIGE, PAN’S LABRYNTH, etc.) suggests that they were paid for their work, too. If they were, that’s a big no-no… and would also seriously undermine the claims by the producers of STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES that they are just doing the Internet equivalent of putting on a show in the barn for their friends.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. Could Zicree & Reeves’ submission of their script for a Nebula spell the end of STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES…?
UPDATE: I’m not plugged in to the SF scene so I had no idea that a controversy about this was already raging. See the comments section for statements from Marc Scott Zicree, who says he was paid for the script so it’s a professional job, and ST:NV producer/star James Cawley, who emphatically maintains that his show is not a professional production and should not have been nominated. It will be interesting to see how this affects the future of ST:NV, not just with Paramount but with SAG, DGA, and WGA…