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Intellectual Property Rights and Star Trek
Dr.Bedlam posted a topic in Off-Topic RampancyI have a question for the group mind, and I'm tossin' it out HERE because this board is a congenial bunch and perhaps geeky enough that someone might have a clue as to the answers I'm lookin' for. But it's a COMPLICATED question, and requires some background. Awright, Star Wars. SW is owned by Lucasfilm, outright. No one owns any PIECES of it. And Lucasfilm is owned by Disney, so Disney's who you ask if you want to make a SW TV show, movie, theme park, candy treat, garment, or toy product. Period. One stop shopping. Perhaps Disney's licensing department has a special Star Wars division, but that's about it as far as divisions go. Now, The Walking Dead is a little different. Anything based on the TV show has to go through AMC, the TV cable channel that produces the show. However, there is an entirely separate licensing division based on the comic book that the TV show was lifted from. Hence, you want to make a Daryl Dixon action figure, or use the likeness of Andrew "Rick" Lincoln, you go through AMC... but you could make a TWC miniatures game based on the likenesses of the comic characters by simply contacting rights owner and TWC creator Robert Kirkman. But there's TWO different ways to go. ...which brings us to The Avengers/Marvel. The Marvel Cinematic Universe... that is, The Avengers, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America... is OWNED by Marvel Comics, which is owned by Disney, who made the movies. However, the Fantastic Four are owned by Marvel/Disney, but 20th Century Fox has the movie rights, and made the movies, while Sony has the movie rights to Spider-Man, and I'm STILL trying to figure out who-all has the rights to X-Men. All the CHARACTERS are owned by Marvel, but the MOVIES and MOVIE RIGHTS are tied up nine ways from Sunday by different companies, to the point where getting Spider-Man for the last Avengers flick was considered a major achievement. And SOME of these people are JERKS about it; the first Fantastic Four movie was literally made solely to keep the movie rights, and was never intended to be released, and when the rightsholders wouldn't sell back or even lease the rights back to Disney, Marvel cancelled the FF comic in retaliation... despite it having been in print continuously since 1963. But I'm digressing; this is piled too deep as it is. So back to my question: I'm thinkin' about Star Trek. Been on a bit of a kick lately; bought the Modiphius minis for the Next Gen bridge crew, and have begun acquiring the HeroClix minis of the original series. And I have been in several discussions about the new Star Trek TV series, about which I have mixed feelings, particularly about the Klingons, who for some reason still speak tlhIngan Hol, straight out of Okrand's dictionary, but in no way resemble any Klingons ever seen on TV or movies previously, as well as having some weird new cultural traits. I do not care for this. I want the Next Gen Klingons back. But the show is what it is, and some like it and some don't, and, well, we'll always have Qo'Nos, right? But then someone on Facebook was tellin' me, "Dude, it's because the people makin' this new show don't have the rights to the old style Klingons." I said, "Hah? It's Paramount. Paramount Pictures bought the rights from Desilu Studios, back in the day. How can they not have the rights to their own show?" "Naw, dude, Paramount split from Viacom, and now they both have different rights to different parts of Star Trek, dude. That's why Shatner's Captain Kirk was born in Iowa but grew up on space colonies, but Chris Pine's Captain Kirk grew up on Earth and stole classic cars. That's why the new Klingons are bald and blue and fly around in giant Christmas ornaments, dude -- they had to create NEW Klingons, because the OTHER company has the rights to the Michael Dorn Klingons." "................do WHA?" So I did some research. Then I stopped, because my head hurt. Near as I can tell, boiled down, Viacom has SOME of the Star Trek IP rights... and Paramount has some OTHER Star Trek IP rights... but as far as I could tell, it was largely a matter of who could make TV shows as opposed to who could make and distribute movies. And if Klingons are a bone of contention, why are there Vulcans in all the new iterations? Are Klingons an issue of property rights, or did someone just say, "Naw, I think Klingons should be bald and blue now, for no apparent reason, other than that I am a Hollywood Big Shot, and I Say So,"? And what about the merch rights? Can anyone out there shine some light on this?