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Star Trek Discovery and the "Kelvin Contamination Conspiracy"

redvengeredvenge Member Posts: 1,313 Arc User
Before the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery was broadcast, there was a theory that the show was made using "Paramount's Kelvin Timeline License". I don't know who started it, but it started circulating on social media after the leak of the Nu Klingons. Fans said there were similarities between the JJ Klingons and the Nu Klingons. Others pointed out the lens flares and prolific Dutch angles in some of the promotional material. Then, some posted the fact that Alex Kurtzman was one of the producers and, shortly after this, social media posts about STDZ being "JJ Trek in disguise" started popping up. The YouTube channel Midnight's Edge made several videos spreading "rumors of dubious veracity" and now there is a group of Star Trek: Discovery detractors who are convinced that somewhere behind the scenes, the Bad Robot Production company (and,by extension, JJ Abrams) are behind all the decisions that made STDZ the show it is today. They believe there is a "Paramount Star Trek License" that is somehow influencing the show.

So, why bring this up? Well, a month or so ago, a privately operated (yet popular) Star Trek Facebook page banned the posting and sharing of Midnight's Edge videos. They were banned for "spreading unverifiable rumors and instigating vitriolic threads/responses". While I don't know about the "vitriolic threads" bit, they do like to spread the "Kelvin Contamination Conspiracy". Then, about a week ago, Midnight's Edge posted a "part one" video about the rights issues of Star Trek. It was basically a brief history of the ownership of Trek, which quickly ended with the assertion that Paramount had a "special license" to make their Trek movies, which were the Kelvin Timeline. Since I want this conspiracy to die in a fire, join me as we debunk this nonsense. Maybe one of the creators on Midnight's Edge will see this post before "part two" comes out, and they can stop saying stupid things.

At this point, it is unclear how much of the IP rights Paramount holds. When Viacom split into the CBS Corporation and Nu Viacom, it divided the rights to the Star Trek IP between CBS and Paramount. Up until recently, my investigations pointed to Paramount having the right to make any Trek movie it wants, but now it seems less clear than it was. What information is available, is fragmentary and broad, leaving it open to interpretation. What is certain, is that CBS remained the sole entity for marketing and licensing of the Star Trek product line for both the television as well as the movie properties. This is important, because Paramount cannot promote, market or merchandise a Star Trek movie without working with CBS. Specifically, CBS Consumer Products.

However, CBS does not have the rights to all of the concepts from the Bad Robot movies. In January 2011, License! magazine reported that CBS Consumer Products had deals for " Playmates Toys for action figures and accessories; Mattel for Star Trek-themed Barbie collector dolls; Tyco for flying radio-controlled vehicles; Scene It? DVD game; Radica for 20Q Star Trek trivia game; Pocket Books for a movie novelization; IDW Publishing for a comic book prequel "Star Trek: Countdown;" Fundex for customized versions of classic games UNO, Scrabble and All About Trivia; USAopoly for a Star Trek Continuum Collector's Edition; Vandor for gift items such as business card holders, salt and pepper sets, mugs, clocks and magnets; Funko for bobbleheads and vinyl figurines; Briefly Stated for adult sleepwear and loungewear; E.S. Originals for kids' footwear, bags and accessories; and AME for kids' sleepwear.".

Yet, CBS Consumer Products still had to work out licensing issues for products like our very own Star Trek Online: "until CBS/Paramount come to some sort of agreement over the new movies, we will not be able to add any items or references from the "JJ" movies. -Executive Producer Dan Stahl, in Ask Cryptic June 2011

Most of those issues seemed to be ironed out when CBS Consumer Products declared that the Bad Robot movies would be the "Kelvin Timeline". A June 2016 Tweet by Holly Amos, Product Development Coordinator at CBS Consumer Products, stated "we needed an in-universe term since we needed some way to refer to it in the encyclopedia". The name was credited to Michael and Denise Okuda, authors of the 50th Anniversary Star Trek: Encyclopedia.

It seems clear that Paramount does hold a copyright for some creative portion of the Bad Robot movies. In order for CBS to utilize this version of Trek, it would have to enter into another round of negotiations with Paramount/Bad Robot, then pay to use their intellectual property. It makes no sense to use any portion of the Kelvin universe in a CBS product. There is NO BENEFIT to CBS. NONE.

I have seen people refer to a tweet stating "the Enterprise had to be 25% different from the original", which these conspiracy theorists use as a "smoking gun" to prove their "Kelvin Contamination Conspiracy". Marketing research shows that millennials do not like "old stuff". It could just as easily have been the result of marketing, rather than "that Bad Robot license".

In any case, if anyone comes across more "proof" of the "Kelvin Contamination Conspiracy", feel free to post it and I would be happy to research (and probably counter) any evidence you come across.

Comments

  • brian334brian334 Member Posts: 1,925 Arc User
    In the Axenar lawsuit, CBS claimed to be the sole owner of the Trek IP, and that claim was accepted by the judge. If Paramount owns a separate Trek IP, then that was a false claim. If not, then Paramount is a licensee of CBS's IP.

    Not sure where that sits as proof.
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 8,025 Arc User
    brian334 wrote: »
    In the Axenar lawsuit, CBS claimed to be the sole owner of the Trek IP, and that claim was accepted by the judge. If Paramount owns a separate Trek IP, then that was a false claim. If not, then Paramount is a licensee of CBS's IP.

    Not sure where that sits as proof.
    The Star Trek IP is kind of an odd duck, legally speaking. All rights were once held by Desilu Studios; they became Viacom, which later broke apart. Through a series of Hollywood mergers and sales, Paramount wound up with the exclusive right to make Star Trek theatrical films, while CBS got all the other rights, from publishing to TV to marketing.

    In the Axanar case, the specific property Peters was ripping off was the CBS-owned TOS. CBS does hold all rights related to that. If Peters had chosen to try to portray events following TMP, and using a similar aesthetic, Paramount would have gotten involved. (And, given the money they've made from that franchise over the years, I strongly doubt they would have been any more kindly disposed toward Peters than CBS was.)
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  • lordrezeonlordrezeon Member Posts: 393 Arc User
    edited December 2018
    Midnights Edge did a video laying out how the Trek IP has changed hands over the years. It was originally owned by Desilu Productions and Norway Productions (Roddenberry's production company). Desilu was later purchased by Gulf & Western, parent company to Paramount Pictures. Gulf & Western would then be purchased by Viacom who aquired CBS. Viacom was then split up with Paramount splintering off to solely focus on movies and CBS to solely focus on TV, this in particular was around the same time Enterprise got cancelled and Trek's future was placed in limbo.

    CBS walked away from the split owning all rights to the overall series, with Paramount only retaining ownership of the pre-existing movies but not the IP itself, they also lacked the rights to make any new ones. To do new movies Paramount had to license the IP from CBS like any other third party would, the terms of said deal required them to make things different from old continuity hence why they went the reboot route.

    So pretty much at this point Paramount is totally at the mercy of CBS, with CBS holding all the cards. There are talks that Viacom might merge CBS and Paramount back together again now that Les Moonves has been booted from the company, but only time will tell if that happens.

    edit: Reworded things to make it flow a little better.
  • brian334brian334 Member Posts: 1,925 Arc User
    Who would want Paramount at this stage? It owns more debt than any three television production companies can make, and if they do nothing but sit on residuals, interest on that debt will out-pace income. They need a 'Star Wars' type game-changer and they need it now, (but if they have one in their pocket, it hasn't been among their recent offerings.)

    My bet is that five to ten years from now Paramount gets broken up and sold at auction under bankruptcy laws, and that the people who would have wanted to invest in it instead put their money into another corporation which then buys the pieces of Paramount that they want for pennies on the dollar.

    Even CBS cannot afford to take on 10+ billion dollars worth of outstanding debt for a library of films they can only rent to Netflix or commercial television for a small, (but steady) income which is currently insufficient to keep Paramount operational. That same library, washed clean of debt through bankruptcy, however, would be a sweet nest-egg for a startup with a lean, mean, and hungry management team.
  • redvengeredvenge Member Posts: 1,313 Arc User
    lordrezeon wrote: »
    CBS walked away from the split owning all rights to the overall series, with Paramount only retaining ownership of the pre-existing movies but not the IP itself
    Yes, Midnight's Edge made this claim. However, what rights Paramount actually owns in regards to Star Trek and what new Star Trek products they can make is not publicly available. It's speculation. I personally speculated (based on articles and interviews) that Paramount could make any Star Trek movie it wanted. The issue is moot, however, since Paramount cannot market the movie or license merchandise based on the Star Trek IP.
    lordrezeon wrote: »
    they also lacked the rights to make any new ones. To do new movies Paramount had to license the IP from CBS like any other third party would, the terms of said deal required them to make things different from old continuity hence why they went the reboot route.
    There is no proof of this. In fact, if this was the case, CBS would have no issue giving merchandising rights to STO (and other merchants) much, much earlier than 2016. As I stated, Cryptic wanted Kelvin content before it was called "Kelvin content".

    It's obvious that Paramount and Bad Robot have some kind of IP rights with the content in the 3 recent movies. If CBS wanted any "Kelvin content" in their product, they would have to pay Paramount/Bad Robot money to do that. Why would CBS do that? Nothing in Star Trek: Discovery is directly related to those movies. So, why would CBS pay money for indirect content? Content they cannot even advertise they have? That's pure conspiracy level nuttery there. It's the equivalent of burning money.
    lordrezeon wrote: »
    So pretty much at this point Paramount is totally at the mercy of CBS, with CBS holding all the cards.
    Indeed. An even stronger reason for CBS to just ignore the Bad Robot movies. They don't need them.
  • starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 10,308 Arc User
    Midnight's Edge seems just like Alex Jones, entertaining to watch, but requires taking everything they say with a bag of salt since just a grain is not enough.
  • redvengeredvenge Member Posts: 1,313 Arc User
    edited December 2018
    brian334 wrote: »
    In the Axenar lawsuit, CBS claimed to be the sole owner of the Trek IP, and that claim was accepted by the judge. If Paramount owns a separate Trek IP, then that was a false claim. If not, then Paramount is a licensee of CBS's IP.

    Not sure where that sits as proof.
    It sits as nothing. The legal ownership of Star Trek is complicated and not entirely public knowledge. Paramount's legal claim to creating Star Trek "movies" could be restricted to what is shown in cinemas. Since Axenar is a "fan film" which will never show on a big screen, that lawsuit could very well be an issue with CBS's ownership. At the very least, ALL Trek merchandise goes through CBS, which Axenar violated (and earned all it's money. i don't think they were selling the short film itself).

    So, what do we know about Paramount's owership of the IP? Not much. The most widely quoted series of events comes from the New York Times:
    Gail Berman, then the president of Paramount, convinced Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, to allow her one more chance at a “Trek” film; he gave her 18 months to get the cameras rolling or lose the property. (Under the arrangement CBS retained the “Star Trek” merchandising rights.)
    https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/movies/26itzk.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all

    This seems to suggest that Paramount's ownership of the Star Trek rights is similar to how 20th Century Fox owns an exclusive license to make X-Men films, but Disney owns the Marvel universe. Except in the case of Star Trek, there is an added layer of complexity in merchandising rights.

    Further research just state state versions of the Times article:
    in September 2005, Gail Berman, then president of Paramount, convinced CBS' chief executive, Leslie Moonves, to allow them eighteen months to develop a new Star Trek film, and if it wasn't in production by then CBS would re-earn the rights to develop a new television series.
    http://www.warpedfactor.com/2015/11/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-star.html

    Edit: Added links to the articles.
    Post edited by redvenge on
  • mustrumridcully0mustrumridcully0 Member Posts: 11,949 Arc User
    Keep in mind, just because CBS is the sole owner of the Star Trek IP, it does not necessarily have direct control to use every Star Trek related thing as it sees fit.

    Owning the franchise means that they can decide who gets to use it. Typically, they negotiate some kind of contract with someone that wants their IP, which defines what can be done and what not, money might change hands and what not. Unless the contract specifically states that whatever the second party created belongs to CBS, it still belongs to that party.

    That is why Cryptic has to make separate negotiations with Rademaker for the Vesta, and can't just recreate Star Trek Armada assets.

    Of course, within a contract basically anything could be agreed on. It is possible that Paramount said that they wanted to make their "reboot", but only if CBS guarantees they won't make a series with the ship or a ship too similar with it for some time. That doesn't mean Paramount has control over the franchise, it just means there is a contract that outlines duties and responsibilities and permissions for both sides.

    Of course, there is absolutely no need for any such contract to be in effect to explain why visuals change. And you certainly don't need conspiracy theories to make sense of it. Sometimes the simplest explanations are the right ones. They changed the look of the Enterprise because the original look seems a bit dated to contemporary audiences. That seems to be what drove design decisions in TMP and TNG, too. Why would this time be different?
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  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 8,025 Arc User
    edited 5:58AM
    Red, you can repeat that false statement until the cows come home, but it's still false. CBS owns all rights except theatrical. Paramount owns theatrical rights. How it got that way is weird and complicated, but it's no more unusual than the fact that the only rights J. Michael Straczynski maintains to the Babylon 5 franchise are the theatrical movie rights.

    CBS' television-serial rights are unrelated to Paramount's film rights. There are, at present, no circumstances under which Paramount could possibly lose the movie rights, as they own that portion of the IP. They might decide not to exercise those rights, but that's another matter altogether.
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  • crypticarmsmancrypticarmsman Member Posts: 3,133 Arc User
    edited 6:42AM
    Um, CBS holds the rights to everything Star Trek; except the TOS and TNG feature films (owned by Paramount) - here's the full page on becoming a Licensee (and they couldn't offer it if they didn't own it):
    http://www.cbsconsumerproducts.com/startrek/star_trek_original.html
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  • redvengeredvenge Member Posts: 1,313 Arc User
    Whoa. That is A LOT of reposts. I did not do this. What weird shenanigans are going on here? I have not even looked at this thread in weeks.

    I most certainly do not repeat myself endlessly. That is not going to convince anyone of anything.
    jonsills wrote: »
    Red, you can repeat that false statement until the cows come home, but it's still false. CBS owns all rights except theatrical. Paramount owns theatrical rights. How it got that way is weird and complicated, but it's no more unusual than the fact that the only rights J. Michael Straczynski maintains to the Babylon 5 franchise are the theatrical movie rights.
    Citation required.

    As I posted, the only public statement we have is: Gail Berman, then the president of Paramount, convinced Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, to allow her one more chance at a “Trek” film; he gave her 18 months to get the cameras rolling or lose the property. (Under the arrangement CBS retained the “Star Trek” merchandising rights.)
    jonsills wrote: »
    CBS' television-serial rights are unrelated to Paramount's film rights. There are, at present, no circumstances under which Paramount could possibly lose the movie rights, as they own that portion of the IP. They might decide not to exercise those rights, but that's another matter altogether.
    Citation required. Again.

    Mods: Can you delete all those spam posts? Again, I do not know where they came from.
  • baddmoonrizinbaddmoonrizin Member Posts: 4,673 Community Moderator
    My bad. I cleared the spam queue last night and basically restored ALL the eaten posts back to the forum. I posted about this in the Edit Monster thread. Again, apologies if it looks like folks are "spamming" threads suddenly. It's not their fault.
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  • redvengeredvenge Member Posts: 1,313 Arc User
    My bad. I cleared the spam queue last night and basically restored ALL the eaten posts back to the forum. I posted about this in the Edit Monster thread. Again, apologies if it looks like folks are "spamming" threads suddenly. It's not their fault.

    No worries. Thank you for work on the forums and for wearing the thankless mantle of "forum moderator".
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