Where no lawyer has gone before:
                      The Star Trek copyright battle


                      October 29, 1997
                      Web posted at: 4:20 p.m. EST (2120 GMT)

                      (CNN) -- There are countless Web sites devoted to the
                      science fiction phenomenon "Star Trek," but only one of
                      them is official. Therein lies the basis of a copyright battle
                      being fought in the final frontier.

                      The official site, Star Trek Continuum, is open to
                      everyone, but to see all of it, you have to join the Microsoft
                      Network, which requires a monthly fee. The MSN membership
                      requirement protects the "Star Trek" franchise, says Paramount, the
                      movie studio that owns film rights based on the original "Star Trek,"
                      a 1966-69 television series, and the subsequent series "Star Trek:
                      The Next Generation," which debuted in 1987.

                      "The 'Star Trek' world is full of rumor, and a lot of it is
                      unsubstantiated," says David Wertheimer, president of Paramount
                      Digital Entertainment. "So what we try and do is give people the
                      source to get live, up-to-the minute information on what's going on in
                      the 'Star Trek' universe and bring the fans closer to the show."

                      But thousands of those loyal fans have created their own
                      Internet sites devoted to Star Trek. Paramount and its
                      subsidiary Viacom say many of them illegally contain
                      copyrighted material. Star Trek: WWW is one of the
                      most comprehensive and popular fan sites. Its creator,
                      Italian Webmaster Luca Sambucci, discovered a
                      number of site developers were getting letters from a
                      Paramount/Viacom lawyer saying their sites were in violation
                      of copyright laws.

                      Sambucci responded by forming OFF, the Online Freedom
                      Federation. "If you have a 'Star Trek' Web site, and somebody asks
                      you to take off all the 'Star Trek' material you have, this means you
                      have to shut down your Web site," he told CNN.

                      "We're willing to do whatever it takes to protect the franchise," says
                      Wertheimer, who posted an open letter to fans on the official "Star
                      Trek" Web site.

                      Paramount and Viacom say their stand is something they
                      owe to "Star Trek" fans. But OFF volunteer legal counsel
                      John Pisa-Relli believes the studio risks losing fan loyalty
                      "by not permitting fans to make what we believe is a fair use
                      of certain copyrighted materials on their home page."

                      OFF has an online a petition with more than 10,000
                      signatures that will soon be submitted to Paramount/Viacom
                      asking for concessions.

                     Meanwhile, if you want to see more of what's out there,
                     visit Webring and do a "Star Trek" search. You'll find
                     rings of linked sites full of Trekker lore.

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
     All Rights Reserved.

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