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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 07:21 GMT 08:21 UK
Trekkies venture into story-telling
BBC Go Digital's Jon Wurtzel casts a wry eye over the developments in the world of technology

Trekkies, as fans of the Star Trek are known, are notorious for their devotion to this television and movie series.

And on the internet, hundreds of thousands of Trekkies constructed whole online worlds around this series about probing outer space,

As the new Star Trek series premieres on US television, the TV company behind programme has decided to channel some of this creative enthusiasm.

Paramount, which produces and owns the rights to the Star Trek series, has solicited responses and story ideas from fans.

This not only gives fans a voice in the development of the show, but also provides Paramount with a rich seam of story ideas and viewer opinions.

This is a very different approach to how Paramount has handled the devotion of Trekkies in the past, with the company accused of using its corporate might to crush internet creativity.

Click here to tell us how internet freedom can survive in a corporate world?

At some Trekkie sites, fans took the video and audio footage from several Star Trek episodes and made it freely available over the web.

Fellow Trekkies could then take this material and, with digital editing, make their own new Star Trek episodes.

Weird storylines

Star Trek Enterprise crew
Enterprise crew: Where do you want them to go?
New and weird storylines began to emerge, as the fans used the net to create a parallel and anarchic Trekkie universe.

Paramount observed these online developments with mixed sentiments.

It wanted to keep its fans engaged online with the series. But, it also wanted to protect its copyright, as well as secure any moneymaking potential for Star Trek on the net.

So, Paramount took the unpopular legal action of forcing the sites to remove their unauthorised video, audio and images.

Now, with Star Trek: Enterprise, the net is humming anew with opinions and ideas.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Click here to return

The corporate world can never eliminate internet freedom. They could never stop all the millions of hosts across the world. When the internet first grew in popularity, it was thought that it was a new world where freedom of speech was taken for granted, and where you could do anything. Recent years, however, have shown us that the corporate world does have at least some power over the internet. The end of the peer-to-peer network Napster was one such example. If you have a secure host, on the other hand, somewhere where it could not be found, no-one could stop people on the internet from accessing it. So, though the corporate world has power in the internet, it is far from absolute. A hopeful thought - and something to cling on to for all those out there still hoping for a free world.
Tom Norris, United Kingdom

The first reaction of any company using the internet is to try and stamp on anything they don't approve of, or hadn't thought of themselves. Until they realise that the very creativity they are objecting to is the foundation of the new ideas that will give them the opportunities they need they will stagnate. The best way for the forward for the internet is to convince the powerful companies that it is their interest to encourage freedom and innovation. Increasing use of patents and copyright as a method of suppression will condemn the internet to a slow death.
Sam Bond, UK

These fans are what keeps Star Trek alive, they should be allowed to do what they want.
MJ, The Netherlands

I think it can if fans "go underground" and post their stories and creations on low-profile sites, and spread them through word of mouth. If the site gets threatened with closure, the fans can be e-mailed of its new location. Many sites do this already.
Chris, USA

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You can hear Jon every week on Go Digital, which is webcast on the BBC World Service site and BBC News Online every Monday at 1500 GMT.

It is broadcast on BBC World Service radio on:

  • Tuesday at 1905 GMT
  • Wednesday at 0105 and 1405 GMT
  • Thursday at 0905 GMT
See also:

27 Sep 01 | Reviews
New Star Trek blasts off
26 Sep 01 | TV and Radio
Star Trek: One man's passion
28 Sep 01 | Reviews
Your views: Star Trek
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