Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
CBS Shuts Down Stage 9, a Fan-Made Recreation of the USS Enterprise (torrentfreak.com)
242 points by okket 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments

Back in the day, early on in Reddit's life, people started making fan art of the Reddit alien, and some cases they started making products with their creations and then giving them away. We pretty much just let that go. Then someone started selling their products with their fan art, just to make their costs back. At that point we had a decision to make. Do we shut down all the fan art, or do we do something about it?

The decision we came to was that our fans are what make us, so we asked our lawyers to write up a licensing agreement for us that we could use with all the fans. It included provisions for profit sharing so that people could even make a profit off their fan art, as long as they cut us in for a small percentage and got our permission first. And that's how we ended up things like a complete reddit bike kit. [0][1]

After that, it was easier for us to license stuff than it was to try and shut it down, not to mention the right thing to do. I'm sad that CBS couldn't come to the same conclusion.

[0] http://i.imgur.com/AEPJh.jpg

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/bicycling/comments/2je6z2/2015_redd...

Politically controversial yet completely legal things, like weapons parts, were not only banned on manufacturing, but as a logo on the subreddit[1]. Meanwhile, a federally illegal, in different ways controversial activity such as marijuana consumption is permitted[2]. It's the right of the company, but there is certainly bias in the use of the logo, and not all fans of reddit are welcome.

1. https://imgur.com/a/bAOhi#tY6JS4l

2. https://old.reddit.com/r/trees/

I kinda knew this would come up. The gun thing was my call. I'm the one who approved the use of the logo on a lower receiver.

I consider it one of the worst decisions I ever made.

Yes, it was legal, but it caused a huge controversy and made the controversy even worse when we had to pull it back.

The balancing act with allowing fan art is that one group of fans hates the work of another group of fans, you have to make a moral decision as to which group is "right", and it's always the wrong decision to some people.

In that case we should have predicted the controversy and said no from the beginning.

I respect your willingness to engage in conversation like you have here. I'm trying to remember there are humans on the other side of the keyboard.

I really do think it is questionable to reject a community's use of an otherwise almost universally free logo, and permit them on the site.

I'm one to recognize that in every discussion about everything, "there is a line somewhere" and the debate is where the line is. My belief is that guns are on a defendable side of the line, and you didn't.

I believe if firearms are so morally wrong that reddit doesn't want associated with it, then it would be most consistent to quarantine the sub to make clear how morally opposed reddit is to legal, responsible firearms ownership. At the end of the day, though, it is about money. You figured out you could piss off the gun owners, but not enough for them to leave the platform, while placating the anti-firearms protesters.

So it goes.

Remember that Reddit is also a website with a global footprint.

Many other places in the world find the near constant mass shootings abhorrent, feel the US’ obsession with the AR-15 is an abusive relationship, and that the arguments around "guns = freedom" or any discussion of controls around weaponry defy all logic and reason.

The USA is a very small part of the global population and are apparently only around 50% of the Reddit user base.

For every user who feels Reddit should allow their logo to be associated with guns there are likely 2 or 3 who feel they have a moral obligation to not to promote them.

I maintain that if reddit cared as much as the hypothetical majority of reddit users, so much as to revoke licensing of the logo for a US-legal activity, they would quarantine all subs that promote such "immoral" behavior.

The reddit admins only care about staying out of the crosshairs. Let jailbait stay around until it's in the news. Let racist subs stay around until an uproar. Let /r/guns use Snoo until a bunch of activists yell long enough. There is no ideology, only pragmatism about keeping pageviews and revenue. They could quarantine /r/guns and related, but they would alienate 350,000 plus accounts.

They could ban T_D too, but there are millions of users there. As an aside, I think that is a federal honeypot for Russian agitprop research, but we won't know for years.

>and that the arguments around ... any discussion of controls around weaponry defy all logic and reason.

I didn't parse that.

There's also a corporate liability/PR question to ask yourself: how would you feel if some fringe pot group was publicized or mass murderer used a logo-branded weapon stock (that was sold and your company profited from) in an high profile event?

Would you be ok with 24/7 news coverage of your brand being associated with that? If so, great, and work to allow it. If not, you should work to reduce your exposure.

I'd say that can explain why MJ is ok where guns = not so much.

Same here on HN, I sometimes have the feeling people think "It's English, so it's about the US".

I deleted my reddit account after they banned /r/gundeals and haven't been back since.

Thanks for this posting, it's always good to see people looking back on their decisions and being willing to admit a mistake in public.

To the other posters I would say it's not a "double" standard but a "standard"; there are some things that Reddit is happy to be associated with and some that it isn't.

Agreed. The people in this thread don't seem to have any understanding of optics. You don't allow your brand on something that will be opposed by the majority of your users. It isn't about fairness or a double standard. It is about controlling perceptions of your brand, which you have every right to do.

They weren't that unhappy to be associated with the community. They still cashed in their page views for advertising money. The double standard is treating the advertising revenue different from the licensing revenue on the same content.

I see this in a different light, perhaps because of a nuance.

If I were to navigate to a sub-forum /on/ Reddit for a controversial topic it would not surprise me to see some Reddit IP involved in the theme/art; it's a recognition of the underlying platform and the context of the speech makes it feel more like the community using it is paying respect to the platform than the platform overtly supporting/endorsing that community.

When you see the logo on actual items outside of that platform the context has shifted. Now it's a holster, tee-shirt, or something else that is advertising an association between the groups; maybe without even a contextual link to where the sub-forum is.

The context changes the perception of what is being said even with the exact same work.

So allowing a logo on a gun was the problem (because of the backlash) and not the double standard? Telling.

Yes. That's the issue with licensed fan art. The fans are in control, and if the fans are against you, you're stuck in a hard position.

I don't really consider it a double standard, every company with branding and has to choose their associations. Saying "we don't wish to have our branding associated with firearms because we don't like them" seems perfectly reasonable. When it's such a politically charged topic that even agreeing to host gun enthusiast communities is a political statement having officially licensed firearm decals is practically an endorsement.

The fact that Reddit allows their branding to be associated with other things I don't think plays into it very much.

I'm very pro-gun but I think you made the right business decision. The only nit I have to pick is that you called the decision a moral one. In context it seems more like an economic one. I'm probably just being pedantic about language choice though.

The choice was economic but it expresses a morality. So you’re right. :)

"Had to" pull it back? Well no, you chose to act - your hand wasn't forced. And saying no from the beginning is the same kind of picking and choosing when drug paraphernalia gets a pass.

GP is completely correct in their read on the situation - there is a double standard.

It was totally a double standard, I don't deny that. I tried to take the path of "no double standard", but that's not how real life works. Licensing fan art is a balancing act between being permissive and channeling the general consensus of your fans. That's why it's hard and a lot of companies don't do it.


I hope this is a joke, because it unfairly stereotypes gun owners, and also because earlier posts talk about how terrible emergency LEO service is in Oakland. Next time a group of people break into your house to rob you with the willingness to kill to cover tracks, let me know how your gun free zone works out.

I have aggressive streaks like many men, but in practice I am known as even handed, mediating and compromising among colleagues. I am a peacemaker. I also own almost a dozen firearms.

Ironically, your comment is needlessly antagonistic.

I'd call it a case of Poe's Law because I can't tell if it's satire or not.

> … we had to pull it back.

No, you didn't. The Right Thing™ to do would be to have simply told the complainers to carry on with their lives. There's no reason to give hecklers a veto.

That's a lovely naive position to take when you aren't dealing with the fierce backlash of a vocal community. It was in fact that position I started from -- live and let live. What I learned is that you can't always take that position. Sometimes you have to take a moral stand, and that will necessarily be in opposition to some people's points of view (sometimes including your own point of view). But it's what you have to do when you're managing a community of users with differing opinions.

So whatever community can be the most "vocal" and generate the most "fierce backlash" gets to control the expression of everyone else. No principles, only power.

This does seem to describe Internet culture, all right.

It only happens because people in your position so often roll over in the face of pressure from any group who can make noise, even inconsequentially, even for a short time. And then you go and say you "can't" take the position of treating people evenhandedly. Yes you can. It may be challenging but you could've done it. You chose the easy path; don't act like you had no choice. Take responsibility for violating your principles.

(I say this as someone who has faced such backlash on the Internet and succeeded. The sleepless night are real but once people realize you're not a pushover they move to easier targets.)

EDIT: For an example of a major company having a spine in such a situation, consider Valve's recent decision not to be the taste police with regards to what goes on Steam.

Whatever your moral point, someone has the opposite moral point. If you cave to one, your stand for the other and vice versa.

Also, if a creator wants to censor someone's use of their IP, anyone telling the creator that they're being the thought police is being a dunce. At some point the creator's desire for freedom of speech and the secondary party's freedom of speech will be in direct opposition. Someone has to lose, and its their IP, so the general understanding is that they can take their bat and ball and not let you play with them.

>Whatever your moral point, someone has the opposite moral point.

People have many more than just the opposite moral point - they also have moral points that interact with any discussion in countless different ways, from different points of view, with different reasoning.

>If you cave to one, your stand for the other and vice versa.

Nonsense. There are more than two positions on any given issue. Here are three on Reddit/guns.

1. Allowing the Reddit alien on guns is wrong because guns are bad and allowing it is endorsement.

2. Allowing the Reddit alien on guns is right because guns are good.

3. Allowing the Reddit alien on guns is right because Reddit is a company that doesn't take positions on issues like this, because it's good to treat participants even-handedly when you're managing a diverse community. This applies even if you think they're wrong. Whether or not guns are good or bad is irrelevant in determining whether the logo usage should be allowed, because the higher principle of even-handedness takes precedence.

If you don't go with 3, you're saying that Reddit is morally endorsing everything they allow on their platform. Which also means the phone company, credit card company, banks, and even the government are endorsing everything they don't use their power to prevent. Which is a view that drives straight to a world of pure tyranny - no principle, only power, with every actor using all available levers of control to suppress any view they disagree with. That's Lenin's "Who, whom" view of politics, and we see how it ended when he gained power.

No, no. Live and let live. Treaty of Westphalia. We figured this out 300 years ago; let's not forget the lessons please.

The "throw your hands up in the air and blame it on the guy who actually made the offensive thing with your IP" approach has failed SO many times. I agree with you entirely, you're going to be making the morally wrong choice to someone no matter what you do. I think this is why so many people limit what can be done with their IP.

Of course there's a double standard. That's how civil societies exist. People will always make equivalencies (false and fair) and get bent out of shape because of the contradicting choices on how each is handled.

How did you prevent your brand-oriented website from accidentally ruining itself? I can imagine that without doing a ton of due diligence, you could end up licensing your Alien to someone who sold lead-painted bikes, or something similarly horrifying.

It wasn't easy and it was a big risk. Sometimes things didn't go well. We did diligence on all the products -- everyone was required to send a sample to us before we granted a license (which is why the reddit office was filled with fan art, nice bonus!). We did diligence into their previous expertise in manufacturing and who their vendors were. Sometimes we even hooked them up with vendors we knew were good if they just had an idea and didn't know where to go to make it happen.

One thing I did was create a public "alien design standards" document that described the correct proportions and colors for the logo, which had to be followed.

But yeah, it was a risk. But it was less risky than ignoring it, and far easier to do the diligence than it was to C&D everyone (I think, I don't know since we didn't C&D people).

Honestly, I don't understand the logic of some people.

They're so desperate to keep a tight grab on what they have, they lose sight of what could be. It's like the music industry ~20 years ago. Rather than suing people that were downloading - FANS that were downloading - they could have gone "how can we monetise this?" Or even, "we have a ton of cash, let's buy the small companies that are doing MP3 stuff and see what happens." But they fight it to the extreme (looking at you, Metallica) and everyone loses. Until now, when a large portion (what was it last week, 75%?) of the revenue is now precisely what they fought against, but they've lost a large portion of the control.

Same thing here. I haven't watched Star Trek for ages. But fans and fans talking are what makes something successful. Based on the article alone, this looks far more like a passion project than a revenue driver. Surely a more sensible approach would be "We love that you've done this. We'd like you to advertise our new/old show/merch/whatever" and we'll send you some goodies to say thanks. Everyone wins.


>It's like the music industry ~20 years ago.

You should go read some of the movie industry quotes from when Valenti ran the MPAA. He likened Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs) to a serial killer; 'I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.' [1]

Yet his industry was dragged kicking and screaming to progressively more profitable media. VCRs made the movie industry billions. DVDs did it again. Bluray? Yet again more oceans of cash. And still the MPAA fought every innovation and did their best to limit the utility of each iteration.

[1] https://news.slashdot.org/story/02/05/31/1622232/valentis-bo...

Short term profits > long term profits in the minds of many managers.

This year's profits & bonuses are more important than "what may happen to humanity if we open up to...".

Plus they want to set a precedent and show to anyone else that may want to make an Star Trek spin-off/infringe their IP that no mercy means no mercy.

In other words, you're not going to get fired for what might happen 15 years from now. But you could get fired if you fuck something up this quarter.

How does shutting down Stage 9 help their short-term profits, either?

I don't think it does help the short term profits. But if you want to have complete control the brand, you need to lock stuff like this out.

It's not personal. It's business. Though that may not be what the fans feel.

In this case the music industry was rational (although wrong) as 100% of $14 in 1999 is better than 75% of $4B in 2016. [0] Now there’s a more diverse revenue stream for musicians and there’s inflation to consider, but in this case the music industry was acting in their best interest. One or two companies (Apple) came out ok, but the industry would have been stupid to internally decide to give up $11B in revenue. It’s possible that they could have figured out a new model, but unlikely as we aren’t anywhere near record revenue much less higher. Society is better off, but the industry sucks.

That’s why it is up to external forces to disrupt. It’s not rational for an industry to destroy itself. Only certain companies can survive when you have a big shift in revenue.

[0] https://musicbusinessresearch.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/3340/

One interesting aspect is that the market was going to peak and crash regardless of P2P, CD-R burning, or whatever.

CDs were the first mass-market audio format that weren't going to wear out through normal use. In a related matter, this made them very viable for used sales-- buying secondhand LPs or tape is a crapshoot by comparison.

So you'd end up with a very clear curve on the valuable back-catalog sales-- ramping up as CD players became affordable, then omnipresent, and then trailing off once the market was primarily composed of replacements for damaged discs and a small amount of new consumer discovery.

The industry's alternatives were limited:

* Try to get people to re-buy their collection again with SACD, DVD-audio, etc. * Ever broader catalogs hoping people will keep buying.

Neither was sustainable. Even if people went all-in on SACD, it would have just kicked the can 10 years down the road. And trying to constantly groom new acts is expensive, risky, and eventually consumers say "I've got more recorded music than I know what to do with" and stop buying.

It's a legal thing. Everyone is worried that their intellectual properties might turn public domain.

Copyright doesn't turn public domain if you don't exercise your rights. A work only becomes public domain if the copyright period lapses or (in some countries) if they make an explicit declaration to that effect.

Copyright would cover the original design documents for the sets and props, but not the shapes and colours themselves 'as seen on TV'.

From what I understand unlicensed clean-room reproduction of sets could violate design marks, if those were even registered. Like other trademarks those do indeed need to be enforced.

But trademark infringement doesn't trigger merely from copying.

The infuriating thing about dealing with lawyers on IP is they'll write a C&D that "your work infringes on the IP of my client." There is never any mention of what infringes, except the broadest possible, and there is no responsibility for a false claim.

> It's a legal thing. Everyone is worried that their intellectual properties might turn public domain.

If that's the case, couldn't CBS have just licensed its IP to these people in a good-natured way?

cbs seems to be a machine of human automatons not actually thinking or doing anything.. just following an algorithm, copying the shapes and colors from gene roddenberrys works and sticking on a price tag every business cycle

Companies are still composed of people, and you’re denying their agency and culpability. If you work for Company X and are deciding or helping to implement something bad or wrong, you are personally doing that wrong thing and are culpable. They shouldn’t be able to hide behind the company. Actual people are doing things. Throwing our hands up and saying “well, it’s the company that’s wrong, nobody in particular!” Just helps to enable bad people to behave badly in bad companies.

This is true for silly things like Star Trek to serious things like working with dictators, NSA spying, etc.

i agree with you 100%! i think you misunderstand -- thats exactly what im saying

This is why phrases like "IP" are tricky: copyright is not in danger of going public if undefended. Neither are patents. Trademark is, because trademark is about preventing consumer confusion, not about encouraging you to innovate.

And even if this was a concern, you can grant fan licensing, as reddit (see that comment), Lucas arts, most rpg companies, etc have done. In fact, paramount has such a policy, but apparently aren't applying it here.

It really bugs me that companies have convinced people that they "have no choice" but to make people less happy by twisting a law intended to HELP consumers.

That's not the case, and even if it was they still have options.

The only thing you can lose by failing to defend it is trademark. Declining to enforce copyright or patent now does not prejudice your ability to do it later. That's actually the whole point of "submarine patents". You wait until the infringement is profitable, then you sue to take it.

yup. cbs should be handing the team a wad of cash and saying, "run with it!!!"

- "Oh yeah, we own that old series? How come we aren't making more money off it?"

- "Let's bring that show back and hire showrunners who have stated that they hate the original show."

- "The existing fans of the show are geeks and nerds. Let's alienate them so we can appeal to a more general audience. And let's also be sure to punish them for expressing their adoration of the show."

- "Add more special effects! Lens flare! Insert gratuitous eroticism and obvious political propaganda! Enraged viewers are profitable viewers." (Rule of Acquisition #287)

- "Why aren't millennials watching cable TV anymore? Nitflix? We're a multi-billion dollar company, so why can't we have our own streaming service? That'll be hip with the kids, right?"

That's basically why I don't watch Star Trek anymore or TV in general. Why would I pay money to people who don't appreciate what I did for them all those years starting from age 6?

> obvious political propaganda

Can someone please recommend an article/documentary/book/etc. that goes into detail about how this works in practice? It's so obvious when you watch shows like Jack Ryan or Madam Secretary or Zero Dark Thirty that there are some backroom dealings going on that insert a particular political association onto the viewer, but the scale and scope of such a targeted insertion is so ridiculous that you start to wonder if you're just being paranoid. The amount of people that would have to be involved with it, and for everyone to go along with it...

Someone must have blown the whistle on this at some point, right? I'm not out of my mind, am I?

I'd be interested in that too, if it exists, although my assumption would be that it arises naturally because, if you want your work to be successful, you've got to conform to the group that you're in and drink the kool-aid. Hollywood and the entertainment industry are like that more than ever because the press, which makes a lot of money off making people enraged, are watching what they're doing 24/7 and waiting for even semi-notable figures to do something politically incorrect. There's a lot of pressure in entertainment to avoid anything that might be politically incorrect because that can mean a loss of profit in short order. If an actor in a movie or show says something on their own time that can be construed as offensive, that can mean millions in losses.

So I don't think there's someone from up top telling writers what to write, but the nature of the industry encourages people to write a certain way and believe certain things(publicly).

>>So I don't think there's someone from up top telling writers what to write...

Why not? The military spent tens of millions of dollars to inject patriotism into every sporting event as a way of advertising following 9/11. Stadiums weren't paying the Navy to do a flyover at halftime, it was the Navy paying for increased visibility. Seems just as likely that they have some clout/spending in film and television.

Oh, I'm not completely dismissing the possibility. It's just something that I doubt because not only would it have come out(as we know of what the military has done), but they probably wouldn't need to do it in the first place. Why explicitly tell people to write propaganda when the state of politics and the media causes them to write it for you?

> Why explicitly tell people to write propaganda when the state of politics and the media causes them to write it for you?

Because political influence is valuable to people. Movies are the best way to ingrain a political narrative in such a way that it may persist for decades. If the next decade was full of movies casting the military as the antagonist, we know the long-term effects would be increased scrutiny on the military and reduced recruitment.

This is why military injects themselves into the movie making process. They give production companies get access to billion dollar equipment and in return, the production company employs a host of high-ranking officers as "consultants" to ensure the film complies with the narrative they want to see.

This is also why the Catholic church forced their way into the MPAA very early on. They wanted to ensure that movies portrayed Christian morals.

> This is also why the Catholic church forced their way into the MPAA very early on. They wanted to ensure that movies portrayed Christian morals

Well, that didn't lasted for long...

You should check out Tom Secker's "Spy Culture" website. You'd be quite amazed how much influence the US Military (and other US departments) have when it comes to producing movies and TV series that need even the slightest assistance from the US Air Force/Navy/CIA/FBI etc.

"Need to hire a couple of UH-60's for a scene? Let's be having a look at your script first."

Secker also has a book (it's on my reading list) called "National Security Cinema"[1] which investigates these same themes.

[0]: https://www.spyculture.com/

[1]: https://www.amazon.co.uk/National-Security-Cinema-Government...

The military wouldn’t give assistance with props and such in Independence Day unless they took out references to Area 51.


Yes, that's a very typical example.

I'm sure you can find a better example than the people you are renting the helicopter from obviously not wanting to be shown in a bad way.

It's just a throwaway to explain the point with regard to the examples the parent poster cited.

Peruse the site yourself and you'll find all sorts of other examples.

Tom Clancy himself had strong conservative political views and his work always reflected that mindset. If anything it would be disingenuous for a show like Jack Ryan to stray from that.

Same could be said about Clint Eastwood, for that matter.

"Manufacturing Consent" is about the press, but it probably applies just as well to most media owned by big corps. You don't need a big conspiracy, just to set up the right conditions.

To quote the best popular work on political economy, Yes, Minister:

- Jim Hacker: "I thought these planning inspectors were supposed to be impartial?"

- Bernard Woolley: "Oh really, Minister. So they are. Railway trains are impartial too, but if you lay down the lines for them that's the way they go."

For straight propaganda look no further than "the last ship", show practically written by Navy.

How about just watching the shows? Every little quip about a one political party or groups of people. Who do the shows make the villain? Who do they talk down to?

It's pretty simple when most content comes from a small area and has the same assumptions. The diversity of thought in Hollywood is pretty narrow.

Someone must have blown the whistle on this at some point, right? I'm not out of my mind, am I?

There are plenty of books, but I get the feeling you would think all the authors are obviously tainted. Try "Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took over Your TV" by Ben Shapiro. Now, if you consider him alt-right, then you have been seriously misinformed.

and obvious political propaganda!

Yes and no. Consider Dr Who. Loved that show when I was a kid and still love the classic episodes but it’s not made for me now, it’s made for the Twilight/Harry Potter crowd. “Supernatural boyfriend with magic wand”, not the character I remember. And if you’re going do that radical a change you might as well go all in.

Similarly Star Trek and Star Wars, I just don’t watch them now.

The struggle is being self-aware enough to know whether or not you're being a curmudgeon stuck in the past. For example, I used to hate the new direction of the Ninja Turtles after the original cartoon and movies. But a lot of people love it. It's not even bad, on reflection. I was just mad they changed something I had a lot of good, even foundational memories attached to. I formed new memories and moved on.

I have no problem with the direction of Star Trek. I was never into Star Wars, but I have few complaints about what I've seen. I have never seen an episode of Dr. Who, but a supernatural boyfriend with a magic wand sounds great! You made it sound appealing to me.

Exactly, though unfortunately a lot of people don't manage to get unstuck. I used to be one of those people stuck in the past, pissed off at the people who are ruining a fixture of my life, giving way too much of a shit about things that aren't real. Then I realized that it's actually very boring for my interests and for the media to always be the same thing. Does there need to be more of the Star Trek that I used to enjoy? No, not really. It's been played out. If people want to completely change it to their liking, they can have at it.

That being said, I still find companies like CBS, Viacom, Nintendo, 343i, and Sony to be quite off-putting. If people enjoy their stuff, I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I don't want to give support to companies that don't appreciate their customers.

At least Lucasfilm understood that the enthusiasm of Star Wars fans, their ability to make goofy and even elaborate fan films, was a big contributor to the continuing success of Star Wars.

I read a fan theory that Kylo Ren embodies all the fans who can't deal with the franchise changing for new audiences. He's the archetypal curmudgeon, like his dad.

The struggle is being self-aware enough to know whether or not you're being a curmudgeon stuck in the past

I love love love the reboots of BSG and Westworld, as well as loving the originals, so I don’t think it’s that :-)

supernatural boyfriend with a magic wand sounds great! You made it sound appealing to me.

In that case check it out, I am not saying it’s bad per se, just not for me, or for old-skool fans. The original premise of the show is that Doctor Who is a aristocratic but disgraced old scientist on a distant planet, he and his granddaughter steal a time machine and go off to explore the universe and have adventures along the way. In the reboot, he is in some sort of sexual relationship with the time machine, and various teenage girls from present-day Earth. The actress who plays Nebula in the MCU got her big break on this show.

When this project hit HN a month ago I said

> It does look cool. And it also looks like a huge labor of love. Luckily CBS and Paramount Pictures already have guidelines in place for allowing noncommercial fan-made productions. One hopes that they will continue to recognize how important hardcore fandom like this is to the success of the franchise.

And now I'm saddened.

I'd have gone more of The Orville approach and made a game loosely inspired by Star Trek or something to that extent and made a ship that looks somewhat like the USS Enterprise which I've seen done in at least one commercial game, I can't recall the name of it though.

Oh, what sad times are these when IP/copyright ruffians can 'cease and desist' at will to old fans. There is a pestilence upon this land. Nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design video games are under considerable economic stress at this period in history.

Bridge Crew is basically just a really pretty, licensed version of Artemis (https://store.steampowered.com/app/247350/Artemis_Spaceship_...)

they're sort of mail-blasted out to anything even remotely infringing; you put the onus on the recipient to prove otherwise. for fans and small shops without the resources to make their case (which may well be legitimate), its bullying :(

The "survey ship" in the Galactic Civilizations series looks pretty much exactly like the USS Enterprise.

They shut down the (fantastic, at the time) Tricorder app[0] for Android about ten years ago. I have no idea how that (or this) could possibly do anything other than piss off fans of their shows.

That being said, Star Trek is pretty much dead to me now.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vxvqrwxu-84

thanks for this! developer here; im going to recreate this app for the sole pleasure of telling cbs to 'suck it' when they send the inevitable cease and desist. and when it goes to court, ill be back pleading for help! :)

+1 to you, it's always amazing who hangs out on HN.

I agree, and I really put the fanatic in fan when it comes to Star Trek. I decided I couldn't be bothered anymore when they made Discovery available only on their streaming service. I could think of nothing else it would be good for and did not want yet another monthly payment just to watch one show.

I can't remember the last time I watched anything on CBS, and I wouldn't have paid even if I wanted to see the new show. I watched the first episode and it was dreck, one of the stupidest things I'd ever seen.

However, Netflix has the other Star Trek shows, and those are still good (well, mostly), so I will continue to enjoy them.

Creating a vision of a moneyless future of a federation of planets to be ruled over in the actual world by a fracturing money-hungry conglomerate is my vision of all that is wrong in the world.

Worst part is this wouldn't have cost them a dime.

Is there a word that holds the same meaning as "irony", but with stronger implication?

>Creating a vision of a moneyless future of a federation of planets to be ruled over in the actual world by a fracturing money-hungry conglomerate is my vision of all that is wrong in the world.

It's a television show made to sell advertising, not an anti-capitalist manifesto.

Do you really expect Paramount to treat this multi-million dollar franchise differently than any other intellectual property because its fictional universe doesn't use money?

As a dyed-in-the-wool trekkie, this makes absolute sense. Fans understand Trek in ways that CBS execs do not and never will. Therefore, CBS are scared shitless whenever some fan work comes up that they think may remind the fans how shitty the official output is and how far from what many consider the true spirit of Trek.

... yeah, I'm talking about the Abrams stuff. And -more controversially, I guess- Star Trek Discovery [1].


[1] No, not because there is a black woman in the lead. Christ, already. It's just ... nice SciFi but not Trek.

Babylon 5 is one of the best Star Treks out there.

It ain't like CBS isn't already known for their long list of unprofitable behavior ;)

>It's just ... nice SciFi but not Trek.

I don't know, I'm kind of getting tired of the Trek template. It can be nice to take a risk now and then.

They did that with Deep Space Nine and that turned out to be one of the best series IMO. Voyager, on the other hand, stuck to it so much that they ruined their own premise, as did Enterprise.

"Star Trek Continues" was better than anything commercial that bears the "Star Trek" name going back quite a few years. It is as if they realize they can't compete with people who actually love the show, so they have to shut them down, even though they are not losing money.

I was recently exposed to this interpretation of copyright law. I was trying to get an ad for 3D printing services approved and I was informed that although I personally designed and built a vase that looks like a prop from the film "The Fifth Element", I did not own the rights to reproduce it in any way, including using photos of my object. When I read into it it appeared that every visual element in a film is covered by an implicit copyright, and any derivative work based on those elements is controlled by the copyright holder. There is no practical way to acquire a license or determine if one is even necessary. I don't understand how people who blatantly derive their work from people who can't defend it feel justified in taking control of derivatives of their work from their fans.

Whatever happened to "fair use"?

The thing the Greater Internet calls "fair use" doesn't actually exist. There is a legal concept that does exist and can be used, but it is much smaller than the Greater Internet supposes.

It is narrowly defined as transformative comments, criticism, and parodies. Being inspired by a small visual element of a much larger work apparently requires licensing.

That seems wrong. You didn't copy the object. You reproduced its design. The distinction isn't much in the language, but it is important legally.

You couldn't scan the object and print an exact copy, or use still frames from the movie, but you can certainly create your own object and slicer files from scratch to make a novel object visibly indistinguishable from it, or even make a new instance from the original construction recipe (if one exists). You could also take the original prop and make a new photo of it yourself.

All that activity is instead governed by patents, specifically design patents. It is very unlikely that a film production company would seek out design patents for random prop elements that were seen in the final cut of a movie, unless they are to be used for merchandising purposes. Lucas could certainly create a design patent on Obi-Wan's and Darth Vader's lightsaber props, so the licensee could have a protected monopoly on selling the reproductions as toys. In that case, you couldn't 3D-print your own Vader lightsaber. You could still make your own lightsaber design, and print that, but the design patent prevents you from making one that looks specifically like the one in the patent. With no design patent, you can reproduce from scratch anything you see. Copyright is about rote copying of an embodied artwork. Derivative works must include some piece of the original. That isn't what you did.

Alternately, an image or object can be trademarked, wherein certain visual elements can be claimed as symbolic of your work within a specific domain. That's stronger, but narrower protection. If a lightsaber is a trademark image for something like a computer game production company, you couldn't use similar objects or images to promote your own business relating to computers, software, or scientific equipment. But you could probably use it on a beer label with no problems whatsoever, because that's a different domain. You don't need to register your trademark in order to defend it; you just have to use it in commerce. The major characters, unique props, and distinctive sets are all potential trademarks, particularly if they appear in multiple works within the same domain.

Whomever it was that denied you on copyright grounds should not have done so. There is no way to acquire a license because none is necessary. In any case, copyright violation is a civil matter, and only the owner of a copyright has standing to defend it. There is no requirement for anyone else to do it on their behalf.

(I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.)

As for Stage 9, it seems like that C&D would have been based on a claim that the bridge set of ST:tNG is a trademarked element of the franchise, in the domains of entertainment and computer software. Copyright is not the issue. The set design was integral to the show and the games based on it; it appeared in almost every episode. That's one of the ways you knew you were watching Star Trek, in addition to the uniforms and logos. If someone were to use a perfectly replicated model of the bridge to produce a video, there could be legitimate brand confusion by a viewer, who might think that their video was officially sanctioned by the Star Trek trademark owner.

Something like Robot Chicken, which uses licensed toys to make videos that include the elements trademarked in the same domain, walks a fine line, that is likely saved only by the crudeness of the reproduction. It is clear that the sets and actors are toys, and not pretending to be the things they represent.

You are incorrect or perhaps slightly misleading about making a visually indistinguishable reproduction of something.

Say if we applied to this to a piece of artwork such as a painting or sculpture.

That’s why it is called “copyright.” It is the right to make a copy, and if you make something that is visually indistinguishable, that is by definition a copy, irrespective of the process used.

Copyright law is a little hazy for me there. There is apparently a distinction between "slavish reproductions", as one might obtain by photographically scanning the original, reconstructions, as one might get by painting a forgery with the visible part of the original as reference, and reimplementations, as one might get by returning to the same scene the original artist painted, and doing the same landscape with similar style.

Depending on the camera view, the reproduction object might only be indistinguishable from the original when restricted to certain viewing angles. Going from 2D to 3D clearly involves some creative effort. I don't think you can seriously say that a printed object can be a copy of a movie frame.

If you're that far into it, you probably need to consult a lawyer.

I maintain that making a 3D-print of an object file inspired by a prop in a movie is not protected by copyright, should never be protected by copyright, and that anyone suggesting otherwise ought to be kept far away from any business involving intellectual property protection.

Its because lawyers (of which there are already too many) need to have something to do to justify their salaries. They don't care if they hurt the franchise they are "protecting". At this point I'd love for someone like Patrick Steward or LeVar Burton (very interesting guy with nice projects like LeVar Burton reads btw...) to drop some comments on Twitter about this nonsense.

These lawyers do nothing but hurt people that love Star Trek a lot and probably are among the franchise's best customers.

A cease and desist letter is one billable hour. Writing a licensing agreement could easily be dozens of hours, and would still protect the company's IP equally well.

This is a management decision, as it is for most media companies. The lawyers might even disagree with his strategy, that they wrote a C&D is no more indicative of their minds than an engineer's code. Professional execution doesn't imply agreement, just recognition of authority.

"At this point I'd love for someone like Patrick Steward or LeVar Burton ... to drop some comments on Twitter about this nonsense."

I have heard rumours over the years that a lot of Star Trek actors are creeped out by the fan community. Some might hide those feelings so that they can get some nice income from the convention circuit, but could you really expect them to rush to support obsessive fans in a case like this?

Who hasn't met a Star Trek fan that creeped them out? That doesn't mean that the majority of fans are weird or bad people.

I don't understand why CBS won't just let them do their thing. It's not like they are loosing profit from it. I further don't understand why the maker's didn't just release this anonymously to begin with.

Anyway, I believe (hope) one day copyright and ownership of stories will be seen as a major injustice. Why can't everybody have their own Star Trek? There is no need to control it, or for copyright to be exclusive. There still can be an "official" CBS Star Trek if we legalize fan works.

Because Patrick Stewart signed on for another Star Trek reboot. This would obviously feature the bridge of the Enterprise D.

A few years ago, CBS shut down the fan film Axanar, because it told the story of the Star trek universe about 10 years before Kirk, during the Klingon war. Last year, Discovery aired, which tells the story of the Klingon war.

Take this as a sign of what the new Picard series will include.

Don't forget that they go form very relaxed police with fanfilms to a stupid police (for example, they enforce to use ORIGINAL merchandising from Star Trek for props on fan films)

Axanar is a bit different. They were paying people and crossed into profit. This whole thing is as non-profit as it gets, and I really don't see the harm.

I'm pretty sure the new Picard stuff is way after and will not have an Enterprise D element.

>This would obviously feature the bridge of the Enterprise D.

I'm not sure that's obvious or even likely, but they clearly are being aggressive about the IP, whether it's justified or not.

A perfect recreation of the Enterprise-D in an "Experience" that you just walk around, would probably not be a problem for them if that's all it was. The problem was probably that anyone could take the model and assets and turn it into either a game, or use it for CGI to place behind actors filmed in front of green-screens. Their model being available would make either of those things happening more likely and cheaper for those that might do it.

Makes sense but I think you're giving them a lot of credit here. I doubt they put this much thought into it.

"Oh god, we have a fanatical fanbase which wants to drown us in cubic miles of their disposable income, what should we ever do?"

"Find out something they like, then sue the hell out of it."

I think it's trickier than that.

"Oh god, we have a fanatical fanbase which isn't interested in buying our (expensive new product) but which still loves this (discontinued product), and are making more of it without paying for our licensing"

"Find the unlicensed (discontinued product) and sue the hell out of it"

I suspect this has little to do with wanting to piss off TNG fans, but about trying to coerce them into the newer products (like Discovery, or the unnamed Patrick Stewart reboot), or at least protecting the licensing fees they still get around TNG. (See how they are suing Stage 9, but are totally ok with Star Trek: Bridge Crew and Star Trek: Online -- which have TNG stuff in them).

I don't agree with this method of enforcement. But I could imagine how/why an executive might think this way.

They could have easily used these same lawyers time to help Stage 9 move into proper paid licensing instead (making them even more money, and simultaneously being nicer to the fans and creators). But I'm not a highly paid executive, so what do I know?

> Star Trek: Bridge Crew and Star Trek: Online

I'm pretty those two products are officially licensed by CBS, so I don't think CBS is stupid enough to sue them.

That’s what you get when you have lawyers on retainer with nothing to do. They look for someone to sue to make money. Every time the lawyers write a letter they also write a bill for services.

This is what I don't understand, who hires a lawyer to represent them and then gives them an open remit to go after anyone and everything?

At some point I would have thought, heads of creative or marketing would be going, "so what's our customer base saying about us lately? Oh, everyone's angry because of something our lawyers did, maybe I should look into that before we lose more valued fans."

Is there some enshrined rule somewhere that says, "Lawyers get to burn the house down, if they're doing it there's probably some complicated legal reason. Ho hum."

Are people like John Van Citters the apparent "CBS Vice President for Product Development" holding vanity positions that have no real power in the company so the organisation doesn't feel the need to back any statements they make?

Or is it just that fans need to learn the lesson, "feel free to enjoy what we give you, just not enough to make anything too much like it, or we'll hit you with a lawyer"?

I did not hear about this project until I saw the story yesterday.

The wayback machine has an archive of the download page's link to the torrent, which is heavily seeded.

The Streisand Effect strikes again...



More importantly... is there a torrent of the last VR release?


Thank you!

Usually something _this_ aggressive is because the license owner already has another party lined up to make a product that would be in direct competition with the fan made product, either in name only, or in content.

So I guess expect a star trek game that lets you walk around the USS Enterprise coming out in the forseeable future, and expect it to be not as good as Stage 9 because it needs to make money, not let people just "walk around".

That's terrible, seriously. If it were up to me, I would move to east Asia and continue this project in Hong Kong or China or some place where this sort of thing happens all the time.

"The Orville" has season 2 coming out.

I gotta hand it to MacFarlane, he's carrying the torch forward better than anybody else, IMHO.

Alright, so, where should these projects go when they're threatened out of existence? IPFS? Secret organization on Keybase?

Maybe I should start a company in Somalia or somewhere which will head/protect maintainers/release worthwhile OSS projects that have been threatened with legal action.

"The answer ... is no. We are therefore going anyway." -- Kirk, Star Trek III

I don't know why people attempt huge efforts like this when they must know that they will get shut down as soon as it becomes sufficiently visible. Same goes for "fan remake" games and the like.

swat teams don't raid COMICON and carry away everyone dressed up in star trek outfits in paddy wagons right? fan art is a legitimate and protected form of artistic expression

Because common sense tends to prevail.... eventually.... so long as you persist.

And for many the years of being slammed for doing it will just make the eventual freedom all the sweeter.

Sounds a like a real shame, lots of faithful energy put to good quality work.

Perhaps this is more about projected issues than this specific work. Law is based off the precedence of previous cases. If this project is allowed to continue other future projects may get legal precedence to continue, and those future projects may damage the brand or the profitability of the IP.

If it's about setting precedent, CBS could still offer licenses free-of-charge. Lawyers would still get their rights, and PR doesn't have to deal with the fallout of a C&D against a fan project.

My son plays minecraft off and on. Recently he showed me a fan created online world that would surely be shut down if the Corp entity that controls the brand was to discover it. Its not very well know as far as I can tell.

It sounds like these Star Trek fans were a victim of their own success and large community.

> The member of the CBS legal team that issued the order went on holiday for a week immediately after sending the letter through, which slowed things down considerably.”

So, only one person on the legal team is allowed to work on this case? This is just hugely unprofessional. I think I would contact the ABA.

Here's a prime example of why existing Copyright law is extremely harmful and should be shredded asap.

Ignore CBS' unwillingness to cooperate. Remove copyrighted elements like anything you didn't create by hand, remove references to 1701-D and Enterprise and any character. Take it to court.

I'll help with the GoFundMe.

It won't stop them from suing on the grounds that a "typical person" would recognize the material, ie close enough.

eg: https://99designs.com/blog/tips/5-famous-copyright-infringem...

So they'll sue and it's not at all clear you'd win. Win or not, that's going to be a huge defense pot to match the CBS lawyer armada.

Just my opinion, but if you're going to throw a bunch of money into the wind with low certainty and low reward, there are many worthy charities in great need.

Extremley defensive reaction by CBS. CBS should have done the opposite, sponsor the project or financially support it, so it becomes theirs or at least have some influence on it. Prosperity for all would follow.

Rename it Star Trick, change the badges on the uniform slightly - maybe have the NPCs say random insulting things, and then call it satire. I'd imagine it's at least one way to cover your bases?

Ah fuck, this is the first I even heard of this, but it sounds really cool. Guess I’ll never get to experience it now.

I just don’t get why companies feel the need to be a dick to everything that moves.

Funny how the lessons of the shows seem completely lost on CBS. I'm done with them. Will always love ST, but the latest movies and TV show miss the mark. Time to move on.

This is what we lose when the public domain becomes outlawed by endless copyright extensions.

When that genre-based concept gets locked up for decades under the same corporate masters, we get Star Trek: Discovery, behind a paywall on a shard of the fragmented video streaming market. The fans inspired by the earlier series while they were younger simply do a better job-with fan-art like this and Galaxy Quest and The Orville--than the officially-sanctioned studio can crank out.

It's almost as though we need some "copyleft" seeds for various genres able to support large fandoms, such that anyone can add to them, and submit pull requests to the community-elected maintainers to become canon. Licensing is free (gratis, not libre) and automatic. Rather than going all in on Star Trek, or Star Wars, or Starcraft, or Stargate, or Star Control, or Babylon 5, or Dune, or Asimov-verse, or whatever, all that open-culture fan-fiction can be actually publishable for profit and adding to the common fandom. Like public domain used to be, before they choked it out.

I think it would take an alliance of authors/playwrights who don't individually have great chances at becoming rich and famous to essentially enter into a suicide pact lite, to sacrifice the possibility of more rich to improve the likelihood of more famous. They agree upon the rules for the fiction universe, and divvy it up such that each writes a piece of the canon. Then they publish on a fixed initial release schedule and hope it catches on. Once the fan-fic starts coming in, they actually read it, and declare the best work to also be canon, re-publishing it and paying the authors their cut. If it catches on, do a pilot teleplay with the best community theater actors available. Publish digital models of the signature props for at-home 3D printing. It could eat the lunch of the closed-culture franchises. But it could also fall flat, or fall victim to infighting.

It seems like this idea is not new, and it isn't. Creative Commons has laid the groundwork. The problem is that it only provides the vision and the legal framework, and hasn't tackled the aspect of creating an intentional community to seed a specific fertile plot in the field. There's nothing there yet to tie disparate creators together as being part of the same overall thing. Space Opera and Sci-Fi Adventure-Drama are proven genres. The conventions don't lie; people go and spend.

Way to build and maintain a fan base CBS.

I'm assume you were legally within your rights to do this but you guys suck!

Maybe it's time to reboot Babylon 5.

Star Trek was always a vehicle for communism, kind of funny that CBS protects it with capitalist vigour.

Lesson to learn: when you are working so hard on something like this, make your own story and design every single time, don't copy somebody's ideas even if it is for free. Team up with similar people if you lack in some part of required imagination.

But the whole point of this project was to carry nostalgia for TNG. There's millions of 3d models for generic spaceships. The only reason this one existed was to be Star Trek down to its smallest details.

Yes, you are right. However lawyers gave us all an answer we didn't want to hear, hence it's futile to be a creative fan of copyrighted works, unless one wants to restrict their creations to dark web only and risk consequences way out of proportions.

The Constitution guarantees the right to free expression. CBS's strategy is based on threats, not law. A common misconception: Stage 9 looks the same as the USS Enterprise and that matters; nope. Legally, if Stage 9 is an original work, there isn't much CBS can do to stop it other than to try to look scary w/endless litigation. With the ACLU's help Stage 9 should easily prevail.

From the video linked in the article, it looks like they are using the music, and characters from the show. The content of the screens also appear to be copies from the show. I am not a lawyer, but those do look like infringing elements.

Still, maybe with these elements removed they could have a case.

You are utterly and completely wrong.

Edit - As an example: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130304/18411522197/insan...

Your opinion is based on convention between a bunch of studios that have a self interest in preserving an asset portfolio. There is no case law that supports your opinion that I'm aware of. If I'm wrong, please do go ahead and cite it.

The Constitution also guarantees property rights.

You have the right to free expression, but that doesn't mean you can exercise that right on my wall.

So if I draw a perfect Mickey Mouse, can I hang it on my wall at home? Can I post it on my website? When exactly does my right to free expression become no longer exerciz-able? You can see what a slippery slope that would be.

From what I remember (not a lawyer), the border between “that’s grand” and “right, you’re taking the mickey” is different between countries, and in particular the USA allows arbitrary reproduction for personal use while the UK forbids reproduction even for personal use.

The edge cases are more complex than I have stated, in both countries, but courts have definitely had to answer the question “is it copyright infringement to load a computer program from (tape|drive|etc) into RAM”, so it’s not like they don’t know the simple definition is problematic.



You can't just say that without citing Dara Ó Briain.

> When exactly does my right to free expression become no longer exerciz-able? You can see what a slippery slope that would be.

I'm not a lawyer so I wouldn't try to give you advice. I believe though you are asking about fair use and a lot has been written about that.

Do you have something you can cite regarding this? If I write my own novel that happens to look exactly like Stephen King's "It", I can't just start publishing it.

You can write a novel about a fear-based evil clown monster named "Centsmarty" that pulls kids into the sewers and does horrible things to them, and sell it all you want. Plot is not copyrightable.

It just can't contain any uniquely identifiable sentence fragments from any other novel. And you know people will be checking it particularly closely against the sentences in "It".

And you'd better be sure not to say "Pennywise" anywhere, as that would be a trademark character. The bridge of the Enterprise-D is a trademark set design.

If yours was an original work, how would you know it's the same? It's absurdly unlikely that you could write "It" but I'm sure people co-invent blocks of text every day.

I wonder what the longest block of text is on the internet that two people independently wrote.

The law doesn't operate on such a binary scale; "if we can't formulate an extremely precise distinction then no distinction can exist at all".

If someone claimed to write an original work that was exactly the same as It, a 1200-page novel, nobody would accept that it was independently written, even if we can't exactly pin down the word count at which we draw that line.

> I wonder what the longest block of text is on the internet that two people independently wrote.

Not more than a couple of dozen words I would think. The number of possible combinations is astonishingly high.

You might find this interesting: http://rstudio-pubs-static.s3.amazonaws.com/187848_0ec906d62...

My point is that if someone recreates an exact replica of the NCC-1701-D bridge, or another creative work that someone else made, it's ludicrous to suggest that the first amendment somehow magically protects you from doing whatever you want with it.

What exactly do you consider an exact replica? A screenshot from the TV series? It's a fictional object. It's not like it's the bloody Concorde and they photocopied the plans from BAC/Aérospatiale and posted them on the internet.

That's a fair point; other commenters pointed out that parts of the ship as depicted are identical to the parts seen on TV (e.g., the screens with the LCARS systems on them.) That's pretty damning.

More elegantly stated: Copyright covers expressions of ideas, not ideas.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact