Paramount Pictures has filed a DMCA complaint against the Wolf 359 Project, a fan-made project that recounts the first Borg invasion and battle of Wolf 359, which was one of the most devastating battles in Federation history. The details about the actual DMCA complaint remain scarce, but those behind the Wolf 359 Project have removed their works from public access. It’s important to note that those behind the project haven’t made, or attempted to make, any profit from their Star Trek fan work.
Fan fiction occupies a very complex space within copyright law. The whole Star Trek universe, including its characters, settings, and other elements, are protected by copyright laws. Therefore, fan fiction without official permission from the owner of the IP is technically a violation of their copyright. If the writer of fan-fiction profits from their fanfic, the infringement becomes clear-cut from a legal perspective.
However, in most cases, owners or right holders of the IP tolerate or even appreciate fan fiction as it fosters a strong fan community and maintains interest in the original works. For instance, 50 Shades of Gray novels originated as Twilight fan-fiction. Though they’re not even remotely connected to Star Trek, it only goes to show just how powerful fan fiction can be while also being a fantastic lesson in marketing.
The Wolf 359 Project creators were not making any profit from their work. However, this does not shield them from legal repercussions if their work is interpreted as copyright infringement, and it most certainly did not stop Paramount from issuing a DMCA takedown notice, prompting the writers of Star Trek fanfic to remove the content and shield themselves from further infringement.
The Battle of Wolf 359 took place in The Next Generation series when the Borg, a cybernetic species intent on assimilating other cultures, attacked the Federation and captured and assimilated Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise-D. In response to the Borg threat, the Federation assembled a fleet of 40 starships at Wolf 359 to intercept and stop Borg advancement. However, the battle proved to be a disaster for the Federation, which counted 39 ships and 11,000 Starfleet personnel lost.
The battle and its ramifications are considered pivotal events in the entire Star Trek lore and have been referenced in several episodes and several Star Trek series. Perhaps therein lies the problem; maybe Wolf 359 Project warranted enough attention as work that still wasn’t explored by the IP owners.
What is DMCA?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that was passed in 1998. It was enacted to implement two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The DMCA criminalizes the production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works, commonly known as digital rights management or DRM. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet.
The DMCA is most commonly connected to a process known as a DMCA Takedown. This process allows copyright holders to request the removal of infringing content from websites and other online platforms. If a website or platform receives a DMCA takedown notice, they are required by law to remove the infringing content or risk legal action.
One can only hope that the white hot spotlight of Paramount’s DMCA attention will not be pointed toward United Federation Starfleet.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act – Wikipedia
Paramount’s DMCA Claim Against Fan-Made Star Trek Project Is a Huge Mistake – Comic Book Resources
Star Trek Fans Threatened By Lawyers For Writing About Trek History – Giant Freakin Robot
Wolf 359 Project – The oral history of the first Borg invasion and battle of Wolf 359 – A Star Trek Fan Project by @Andy3E & @Starfleethist. Art by @IllustratesSte & @GrahamTG
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1966 – Gene Roddenberry shows the original version of TOS: “Where No Man Has Gone Before” at the annual World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. This marks the first showing of Star Trek: The Original Series to the general public. Soon after, to the request of convention goers, Roddenberry also screens a black-and-white print of TOS: “The Cage“.
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The United Federation Starfleet Blog is written by Fleet Captain Hal Jordan and is published every Friday. Join in the discussion! Engage with us on Discord at: discord.io/ufstarfleet