Saturday, January 23, 2016

Legal Geek - New Home

As a part of archiving all of my segments online (independent from the Current Geek show, for those who want just the segments or need to refer back to one), I moved all of my script posts to a new blog.  Please give a follow to the blog below if interested.  Thanks!

Also, the audio is on under my username BuckeyeFitzy. Enjoy!

All new posts will show up on that blog, and this blog will remain for gaming focused posts. Eventually (although it will be a much slower process), Character Insight will also be archived and moved, so stay tuned.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Character Insight No. 174: (Medical Assistant) Martinez

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile the most prolific background character in The Next Generation, crewman Martinez.

Martinez 2373
(Martinez the nurse, during the movies, courtesy Memory Alpha)

Martinez first shows up as a crewman grade officer in the season two episode The Child, although his first appearance as a medical assistant in sickbay came later in The Survivors. He then appears in many more episodes as a background sickbay character throughout season 3 through 7, totaling 84 episodes in all along with the movies First Contact and Insurrection.

Ironically, Martinez is nicknamed Dr. Death in many of the scripts for these episodes, despite being given a name early in Season 3. In addition to his medical duties, he is one of the parents with a child on board, as shown in the episode New Ground, which is a unique construct of this version of Star Trek. Although he initially appeared more on the bridge and in Ten Forward, once his character finds a groove as a medical assistant, he becomes more regular and rises up the ranks through ensign to lieutenant, junior grade. That's more promotion than you can shake a Harry Kim at!

Although Martinez does not have many speaking lines, he is one of a few background characters to merit some different bits of dialogue over the years. That being said, his most often-used phrase on camera is one to be expected:
"Yes, Doctor."

Although Alyssa Ogawa probably has the most fame for being on the medical staff under Dr. Crusher, Martinez is the steady hand you see both in the background of those sickbay scenes as well as at many other crew functions like birthday parties and formal dinners and ceremonies. It is a bit of a shame that we don't get to see more of his character other than in the job setting, although with such a big ensemble cast, it can be hard to expand the universe to be much bigger.

Martinez was played by regular background actor Michael Braveheart, who was not credited for his appearances despite collecting more appearances than any other background character in the series. He played various Klingons and other aliens in Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, and he can also be seen in Cagney & Lacey as well as the Steven Spielberg film Always.

Until next time, be nice to your nurses, as they can save your life.


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Character Insight No. 173: Legal Geek Breakdown of Axanar Copyright Suit [also Legal Geek No 60]

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Legal Geek, I mean, Character Insight! This week, we take a look at the reasons for the copyright lawsuit against the Star Trek fan film Axanar and provide analysis of the merits of the claims for both sides. For those not familiar with my Legal Geek segments, if you enjoy hearing rapid breakdowns of trending topics where the nerd world meets the legal landscape, check out my segments like this every week on the Current Geek show by Frogpants. Now, let's dive in,...

star trek
(Star Trek stuff, courtesy CNN)

As Mike and Darrell covered last week, Paramount and CBS, who jointly own IP rights to Star Trek, sued Axanar Productions and Alec Peters for copyright infringement. Why did this fan film production get singled out over others like Red Shirt Diaries and Star Trek Renegades?

It probably comes down to two factors: money, and the upcoming active use of the IP by both companies: Paramount with Star Trek Beyond, and CBS with the unnamed 2017 TV series. Axanar has raised $1.3 million, which is significantly larger than what other similar film projects have produced. For reference, Star Trek Renegades is the only thing in the ballpark money-wise, having recently Kickstarted for $400,000, but there's a ton of original Star Trek actors reprising roles in that production which may favor against stopping it with a lawsuit. That being said, I wouldn't be comfortable as Star Trek Renegades given what is now happening to Axanar, as it always comes down to money in the legal world. Otherwise, there's no reason to waste valuable resources on litigation. 

But how will that all come out? Not well for Axanar, in my view. 

First, Axanar is unabashedly infringing some Star Trek copyrights, including several characters like Garth of Izar and General Chang, the starship Enterprise, and several Klingon ships. That's enough to make a few actionable copyright claims, with damages of potentially $150,000 per creative item infringed. 

Peters first noted that when his team met with CBS prior to production, the network would not offer any specific guidelines for what would make an acceptable fan film project. CBS apparently indicated he couldn't make money off the project, and Peters argues that he is not making money off the project so it has to be allowed. Copyright infringement and fair use is not such an easy equation, unfortunately. Merely making money or not does little to decide the issue. 

Peters also argues that fan films like Axanar are fair use permissible despite the copyrights. Fair use is a four factor balancing test and it is possibly the most complex test in intellectual property law. 

One factor is the purpose and character of the use, and fan films are more like disfavored commercial products than favored works like parody and commentary. Another factor is the nature of the copyrighted work, and specific film characters and specific starships in a fictional work is a highly creative work rather than less creative and less protected things like collections of facts. A third factor is the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and with respect to the characters it's an absolute copy of all of the creative expressions and features of the character. The final factor is the effect of the use on the potential market for the original, and while Axanar argues this improves the market for Star Trek, it's a gray area when the original is also coming back on the market. 

So all told, the first three factors strongly favor Paramount and CBS, and the final factor cuts down the middle. Even though Fair Use can be hard to predict, this seems like a rare clear-cut case where Fair Use does not apply. 

The Bottom Line: Fan films are usually fun for consumers, but creators have rights that must be respected, and without the protections of Fair Use, Axanar is likely doomed unless a settlement on a license can be negotiated. If CBS and Paramount were willing to bring the lawsuit, it's not likely to make an easy settlement. 

Character Insight will be back to normal next week, but if you enjoyed this, check out Legal Geek on the Current Geek show!

Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.