Where no lawyer has gone before:
October 29, 1997
the Star Trek copyright battle
Web posted at: 4:20 p.m. EST (2120 GMT)
(CNN) -- There are countless Web sites devoted to the
science fiction phenomenon "Star Trek," but only one of them
is official. Therein lies the basis of a copyright battle
being fought in the final frontier.
The official site, Star Trek Continuum, is open to everyone, but to see all of it, you have to join the Microsoft Network, which requires a monthly fee.
The MSN membership requirement protects the "Star Trek" franchise, says
Paramount, the movie studio that owns film rights based on
the original "Star Trek," a 1966-69 television series, and
the subsequent series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," which
debuted in 1987.
"The 'Star Trek' world is full of rumor, and a lot of it is
unsubstantiated," says David Wertheimer, president of
Paramount Digital Entertainment. "So what we try and do is
give people the source to get live, up-to-the minute
information on what's going on in the 'Star Trek' universe
and bring the fans closer to the show."
But thousands of those loyal fans have created their own
Internet sites devoted to Star Trek. Paramount and its
subsidiary Viacom say many of them illegally contain
Star Trek: WWW is one of the most comprehensive and popular
fan sites. Its creator, Italian Webmaster Luca Sambucci,
discovered a number of site developers were getting letters
from a Paramount/Viacom lawyer saying their sites were in
violation of copyright laws.
Sambucci responded by forming OFF, the Online Freedom
Federation. "If you have a 'Star Trek' Web site, and
somebody asks you to take off all the 'Star Trek' material
you have, this means you have to shut down your Web site," he
"We're willing to do whatever it takes to protect the
franchise," says Wertheimer, who posted an open letter to
fans on the official "Star Trek" Web site.
Paramount and Viacom say their stand is something they owe to
"Star Trek" fans. But OFF volunteer legal counsel John
Pisa-Relli believes the studio risks losing fan loyalty "by
not permitting fans to make what we believe is a fair use of
certain copyrighted materials on their home page."
OFF has an online a petition with more than 10,000 signatures
that will soon be submitted to Paramount/Viacom asking for
Meanwhile, if you want to see more of what's out there, visit
Webring and do a "Star Trek" search. You'll find rings of
linked sites full of Trekker lore.