Dreadnought Explorations and the Cease and Desist Letters

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In 1977, the editors of the Star Trek zine Dreadnought Explorations received the first of several letters from Paramount demanding that the zine cease publication due to copyright infringement with Paramount.

The letters illustrate many things, some of which are confusion over what constituted copyright, the definition of a fanzine, differing opinions about fair use, the difficulties of communication, red-tape, various TPTBs and their interests, and the futility of a fan publication's editors trying to figure anything out.

The end result: general confusion all around and fear kept the sixth volume of a long-running zine series go unpublished.

For years, fans brought up this case as an example of the heavy hand of TPTB and fan publications.

an ad in the second and third Space-Con program guide (1976, 1977); this relatively high profile was likely one reason Dreadnought Explorations came to the attention of TPTB

From the Zine's Editors

In 1978, the editors wrote a very long and detailed account, complete with dates and transcripts of letters regarding the cease and desist that Paramount had sent the editors of Dreadnought Explorations; the very short version: Paramount sent the fanzine editors a cease and desist letter, Paramount appeared to be confused as to what constituted a fanzine (length? quality?), Paramount went back and forth with their demands and terms and sent more confusing letters. In the fall of the 1978 printing of 'Scuttlebutt,' the issue had not been resolved. In any event, while the first five issues of the zine continued to be sold, as well as two collected volumes, the sixth issue of 'Dreadnought Explorations' was never printed. [1]

first page of the article "Dreadnought Expirations" printed in Enterprise Incidents #10

In 1982, one of the editors wrote an article called "Dreadnought Expirations" for Enterprise Incidents #10 and offered this information: "As the readers of the fanzine Dreadnought Explorations already know, Volume VI of the series was never published to a copyright hassle with Paramount Pictures. The attack on our 'zine seems to be unique in fandom, and though we tried to see the battle through to some conclusion, Paramount proved to be too slippery for us -- the "war" ended in an unsatisfying draw."

Fannish Comments

This zine and the letters the editors received from Paramount became an example in media fandom of how the rights of fans to create fanworks based on Star Trek was given a green light. In 1980, a fan complains of old information in a debate in Interstat between Mary Lou Dodge and Leslie Fish:
The very first of their [Dodge and Fish] debates dealt with the rights of fans to produce fanzines. This was beating a dead horse at the time it was written as the issue had been covered long before. Gina Martin and Linda Maclaren of THE DREADNOUGHT EXPLORATIONS have a letter from Paramount legal in New York which states "fanzines are a fair use of STAR TREK." So what was the fuss about? That letter is now several years old. [2]
From Fan Fiction and Copyright, an essay originally posted in 1999, Judith Gran wrote:
The only zine that Paramount ever threatened to sue for copyright infringement was the genzine Dreadnought Explorations, which Paramount went after because of its similarity to commercially- licensed professional fiction. When I was a law student, I interviewed Bruce Hosmer, the attorney handling Star Trek products for Gulf & Western, about this issue and he told me that DE was ordered to cease and desist because the photograph of the Enterprise on the cover suggested to the reader that this was an "official" Star Trek product. [3]

The Letter Printed in Scuttlebutt Regarding the Cease and Desist Order

This is the letter the editors of the zine sent in 1978 as a personal statement to Scuttlebutt #8. It is broken in to four parts for easier reading. Click to enlarge each piece.

The 1982 Article Printed in Enterprise Incidents Regarding the Cease and Desist Order

This is the article from Enterprise Incidents #10. It is broken into four parts for easier reading. Click to enlarge each piece.

References

  1. this detailed account is in Scuttlebutt #9
  2. from Interstat #37
  3. Fan Fiction and Copyright, accessed October 3, 2008.