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The Situation: Copyright wars. Google and database company Oracle have been at each other's copyright throats for almost a decade, with an $8 billion-with-a-B lawsuit over Oracle's copyright claim of APIs used in its Java programming language — a dispute with profound implications for all software development. Now the Trump administration is stepping into the middle of their fight — on Oracle's side — as it heads for the Supreme Court. A lawsuit about nothing? Jerry Seinfeld fends off a copyright dispute over the idea behind his hit series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, with a judge ruling the lawsuit's three years too late. Not to mention, you can't copyright an idea.

1. Sources: CBS Lawyers Inform Axanar it Has Breached the Copyright Settlement

Photo: Axanar Productions
LOOKING UNHAPPY? Producer Alec Peters may not be happy with this latest turn of legal events.
Settlement breach. Just days before Axanar Lite was to go before the cameras, CBS/Paramount lawyers reportedly tell producer Alec Peters that he and Axanar Productions have violated terms of the 2017 settlement of their rancorous Star Trek copyright lawsuit.

Multiple sources familiar with the settlement, speaking on condition of anonymity, tell AxaMonitor the issues include at least:
  • Earning money publicly in Axanar's name, such as through superchat donations on Axanar's YouTube livestreams.
  • Portraying Axanar as an "independent Star Trek film," as we reported and fact-checked most recently in an Atlanta media release about this coming weekend's first shoot for the Axanar short films.
Demands for financial accounting. Our sources say a letter from Loeb & Loeb, the law firm that represented the studios against Axanar in the 13-month lawsuit, demands Peters fully account for money he has raised under the auspices of Axanar since 2017.
  • Raising money. Sources don't specify what money is supposed to be accounted for, but AxaMonitor has, over the years, documented various schemes Peters has used to ultimately support production of the two Axanar short films he's allowed under the settlement.
  • What money? Among the amounts Peters has managed to extract from Axanar fans since the settlement:
    • $22,000 from an Indiegogo campaign in 2017 to move out of Axanar's failed California warehouse, built with donors' money, to Atlanta.
    • An ongoing $2,200-a-month ($26,400 a year) Patreon to pay for the Lawrenceville, Ga., warehouse, which Peters calls Ares Studios, that houses Axanar's sets and offices.
    • A $200,000 plan for a "white label Kickstarter" to raise the money Peters says he needs to make the Axanar shorts.
    • The promised $10,000 Peters used to entice Axanar fans to take part in the recent auction he conducted on behalf of the failed Trekcetera Museum in Alberta, Canada.
    • The $1,200 a month ($14,400 a year) Peters claims in YouTube ad revenue and superchats — direct donations during livestreamed shows like Axanar: Confidential and Reel Trek.

Photo/Axanar YouTube channel
Producer Alec Peters accepts hundreds of dollars in direct donations each time he livestreams on YouTube (click image to view full size).
Other violations? While AxaMonitor's sources didn't specify other violations of the settlement, we do know CBS and its attorneys have been monitoring questionable Axanar activities noted by Axanar critics, including:
  1. Professional actress Carrie Ann HuntUsing professional actors, including the recently introduced Carrie Ann Hunt (pictured, left, with Peters), which is against CBS' fan film guidelines.
  2. Copyright takedowns of repurposed Axanar footage on YouTube, in which Peters legally attests he's the copyright holder for Axanar despite the settlement's and the guidelines' prohibitions of such claims.
  3. Apparent YouTube monetization of behind-the-scenes and other footage from Prelude to Axanar.
  4. Continued merchandising. Repeated attempts by Peters to monetize leftover Axanar merchandise and brokering the sale of Axanar-related art and other products to raise money.
  5. Public appeals to join a mailing list expected to be used for private fundraising for Axanar.
  6. PayPal donations. Peters has also publicly solicited PayPal donations.
  7. Apparel. Axanar's YouTube producer, John "Stoggy" Strekis, has solicited support from Axanar fans for "a new line of Axanar apparel."
Implications. It's not clear what the implications of the Loeb letter are for Peters. Presumably, the settlement agreement includes provisions for what happens in case of breach, such as monetary damages or CBS/Paramount declaring the entire settlement null and void, reopening Axanar's liability for copyright infringement. Our sources did not say.

Why this matters: With the settlement's validity in doubt, this could interfere with this weekend's scheduled shoot for Axanar, the first of five scheduled. It may prevent Peters' upcoming private fundraising efforts. The situation could even affect whether Axanar's chief apologist, blogger Jonathan Lane, may proceed with his own Axanar fan film, Interlude, for which he recently raised nearly $20,000 on GoFundMe. He's relying on use of Axanar assets, such as its U.S.S. Ares bridge set.
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2. Amid an Escalating Business Dispute, Peters’ Once-Secret Coffeehouse Appears Doomed

Yelp says: The notice on Yelp seems innocuous enough: "The Federal Coffee House is temporarily closed. Scheduled to reopen on December 31, 2019." Except none of that appears to be true.

AxaMonitor learns that amid repeated delays in reopening and accusations of stolen equipment, a long-simmering business dispute over Axanar producer Alec Peters' year-old coffeehouse has spilled over into public view.
  • Radio silence. The well-reviewed Federal Coffee House has been closed for months, supposedly moving to a new, larger and more easily accessible location in nearby Alpharetta, Ga. Since then, radio silence, except for that increasingly flimsy explanation on its Yelp page. That changed with a recent Facebook post by Axanar producer Alec Peters.
  • Stolen equipment. On September 9, Peters tried to file a police report alleging the Federal's vital equipment had been stolen by former Axanar and Propworx employee Curtis Short, marking the fourth time a business partner had stolen from him. With his typical bluster, Peters said it was "time to go Bobby Axelrod on their asses," referring to the ruthless hedge fund manager from the Showtime series, Billions. If reporting the equipment as stolen was supposed to intimidate any of his business partners, however, Peters' effort fell far short.
  • No crime. AxaMonitor obtained a copy of the report Peters filed with the Roswell, Ga., police department (click image to view 20K PDF). It shows police found no crime had taken place at the premises where The Federal was supposedly moving. Instead, the "theft" appears to be a civil matter between Peters and at least two partners in the business he disavowed owning since it opened — a dispute that makes it unlikely The Federal will ever reopen.
  • Unsupported accusations. According to Peters account, "an employee/shareholder, Curtis Short, took the equipment out of the building without Peters' permission." Peters described the equipment as a "donation" from Thomas Maegdlin of Hansa Coffee, the company that once made and sold Axanar-branded coffee. Police found no evidence either claim is true. The responding officer wrote, "I advised him [Peters] this was a civil matter at this time." Peters had to settle for the report merely documenting his complaint.
  • No donation. Maegdlin, a partner in The Federal, contacted Roswell police himself to dispute Peters' account that the equipment was anything other than an investment in the fledgling business. The report states Short took the equipment at the behest of its owner, Maegdlin, who told police the equipment was no donation but rather a 20 percent stake in the business, something Peters himself had confirmed on Facebook in June.
  • Repossessed. The police report confirms earlier leaks about investor trouble at The Federal, despite Peters' denial months before he actually went to police. In a June 13 Facebook post, Peters excoriated Axanar's former technology officer, Terry McIntosh, for supposedly claiming the equipment had been repossessed: "Terry, you ignorant asshole. That equipment was stolen, and I … am waiting for reimbursement from the thief" — whom he eventually named as Short and described as "an alcoholic and a drug user." In fact, though, the equipment was repossessed by its owner. Maegdlin confirms for AxaMonitor: "The equipment named in the police report belongs to Hansa Roasting Ltd., an Illinois corporation."
Ground & Pound. In another sign of Peters' derailed coffeehouse aspirations, AxaMonitor has learned that another coffee business, named Ground & Pound Coffee, is scheduled to open in the space The Federal was to have occupied in Alpharetta, Ga.
  • Name's significance. While clearly a coffee reference, "Ground & Pound" is also a phrase used in mixed martial arts (MMA).
  • Owners unknown but… The owners of the Ground & Pound are not named in the August 28 LLC filing with the Georgia secretary of state. However, among The Federal's disaffected corporate officers is Peters' former personal trainer, Sophia Crawford, a renowned stuntwoman and noted MMA enthusiast.
Why this matters: Peters' disintegrating relationship with the makers of Axanar Coffee, and with a new set of business partners, points to significant credibility problems, like these:
  • Successful entrepreneur. Peters often uses his claimed entrepreneurial success to convince Axanar supporters to keep giving him money in the wake of his failure to actually produce the promised film after spending $1.7 million. He made this claim as recently as in an Atlanta media press release announcing an upcoming film shoot.
  • Owner of The Federal. Despite Peters' long-expressed interest in opening a coffeehouse, he public hid his interest in The Federal, claiming he was only helping his friends open a new business. In a September 24, 2018, interview with his chief apologist, Jonathan Lane, Peters dismissed AxaMonitor's reporting, saying AxaMonitor "has taken to covering a bunch of other random topics and trying desperately to find some way to link them to me and Axanar," adding:

“[AxaMonitor editor] Carlos [Pedraza] is convinced there’s something shady going on just because a bunch of my friends and acquaintances have decided to invest in starting up a local coffee shop.”

As revealed months later to police, Peters now admits he owns The Federal.

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3. The Secret History of The Federal Coffee House

AxaMonitor photo illustration based on image originally posted on Fan Film Factor
HAPPIER DAYS In an attempt to discredit AxaMonitor's story connecting Alec Peters' financial interest in The Federal, Axanar's chief apologist, blogger Jonathan Lane posted this photo of the coffeehouse's "four owners."
  • Hansa Coffee Owner. Pictured at left is Tom Maegdlin of Hansa Coffee, whose behind-the-scenes dispute with Peters, led to him taking back the tens of thousands of dollars worth of coffee equipment behind the operations of The Federal. His company also supplied the coffee served at The Federal.
  • The girlfriend. Peters' live-in girlfriend, Crysstal Hubbard, is listed as the corporate treasurer. The extent of her financial interest, however, hasn't been publicly disclosed.
  • Peters' personal trainer, Sophia Crawford, is the corporate secretary. Apart from the title, her actual financial stake in The Federal is unknown, though she was an on-site manager of the operation. She may have moved on, though…
  • The loyal employee. Curtis Short, The Federal's corporate CEO and on-site manager, is a long-time Peters employee at Propworx and Axanar Productions, where he oversaw construction of the production's lauded but never-used sets. Short, whom Peters called "an alcoholic and a drug user," is the one who removed Hansa's equipment at Maegdlin's behest.
Hidden interest. For most of The Federal's year-plus of operation, Peters publicly described it as his friends' shop, not his; privately, he told a different story. He accused AxaMonitor of promulgating a "conspiracy theory" about his financial interest in The Federal.

Successful operation. By most accounts, The Federal experienced some success, winning fans on Yelp (rating: 5 stars), Facebook (rating: 4.9/5) and Google (rating: 4.8/5), and making a name for itself as a jazz music venue.

Taking notice. Area residents waiting for The Federal to open in its new location wondered online what might be interfering with the reopening.
  • What Google says: Google lists The Federal at its new Alpharetta address with the label "Permanently Closed."
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Short Takes: Patreon plunges. Space Command soaks fans. Pay for Axa-trips! In toxic wake, silence helps Axanar.

Patreon plunges! The first of the month is the usual occasion for Ares Studios donors on Patreon to re-evaluate all that money charged to their credit cards every month and wonder if they're getting the value of paying for Alec Peters' rent on the warehouse he calls a studio. Graphtreon runs the numbers, which essentially erase four months of progress.
Soaking fans? Marc Scott Zicree, producer of the crowdfunded Space Command, follows Axanar's example in trying to get fans to pay thousands of dollars just to convert a warehouse to a studio and pay its $5,000 monthly rent. His $200,000 GoFundMe launched this week. I've lost track of how many separate crowdfunding campaigns it's taken to get his project this far. It's a lot. (Full disclosure: I worked with Zicree on the award-winning Star Trek New Voyages episode, "World Enough and Time.")

Axanar shoot: Pay my way! Following Alec Peters' example, enthusiastic Axanar fans volunteering to work at this weekend's film shoot think others should pay their way. YouTuber J.P. Pool of Egotastic Funtime started a GoFundMe on to raise $750 to attend; he's raised only $55. Another Axa-fan's month-old $1,000 fundraiser garners just $10.

Toxicity buys silence. An observation: The mere mention of Axanar in Star Trek-related Facebook groups sparks flame wars of such intensity many have banned any mention of the wayward fan production. But that enforced silence actually works in Axanar's favor. It prevents information about Peters' and Axanar's questionable history from being posted, leaving Star Trek fans susceptible to the excitement Prelude to Axanar still generates, and therefore unwitting targets for Axanar's renewed efforts on other social platforms to raise still more money ($200,000).
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Find Us on Super Geeks

Join AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza every week on the Super Geeks live podcast in the Real Super Geeks Facebook group every Friday at 10 p.m. PDT/1 a.m. EDT. Super Geeks is hosted by George Silsby. 
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