Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

This is a list of unofficial Star Trek publications.

The terms unofficial, unauthorized, unlicensed and, on rarer occasions, illegal are frequently used interchangeably by the general populace at large. While they often perceive the first three expressions in particular as being synonyms, there are subtle meaning differences between the three of them, and in some cases it is wise to keep these differences in mind, when it comes to works pertaining to Star Trek.

  • Unlicensed or unsanctioned are those works for which the official Star Trek franchise as the formal and legal copyright holder has not issued an official and legal publication license. All fan publications for example falls under this heading, such as Bjo Trimble's Star Trek Concordance, but also professional publications like These Are the Voyages: TOS, To Boldly Go: Rare Photos from the TOS Soundstage or Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, or academic treatises like Star Trek and American Television. In these cases the franchise refrains from raising objections, provided no use is made of copyrighted Star Trek material, imagery in particular, and that disclaimers are included. In the case of fan publications, a further requisite is that there are no profit motives involved. Works of these kind are condoned by the franchise as they further the overall Star Trek phenomenon – free publicity so to speak – without formally endorsing them. In very rare cases such as the Concordance and the Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual, the franchise itself picks them up for later reissues as fully licensed official publications.
  • Unauthorized is in one sense essentially almost the same as unlicensed, but with a stronger perceived negative connotation. These concern works the franchise itself prefers not to see in print, mainly for more critically voiced opinions and treatises, deeming them too "non-puffery" and therefore undesirable for publicity reasons. [1] Publications from Schuster & Schuster and cast/crew (auto)biographies for example, fall under this heading, that is, as far as the franchise is concerned.
  • In a different sense, an authorized work can also be a publication initiative – as in commissioned – by the franchise itself (the various movie Making of... books from Pocket Books being the prime examples), which is not necessarily true for other licensed works, like the later ones from GE Fabbri and Eaglemoss Collections. As a matter of fact, ever since Pocket Books was removed from the franchise mix in the mid-2000s, for reference works in particular, most licensed/sanctioned works are nowadays unauthorized in this sense as most outsider prospect authors and projectmanagers submit their proposals to the franchise in its current guise as CBS Consumer Products for their approval and endorsement. When endorsed, authors and projectmanagers need to be in compliance with franchise guidelines, but can also apply for franchise support in the form of publicity and/or editing chores. A work therefore can be licensed but unauthorized – as in not being a franchise initiative – , whereas an unlicensed work is always unauthorized. During the Pocket Books era people like Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Jeanne M. Dillard, Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann became authors most frequently commissioned/assigned by the Star Trek franchise itself to write on their behalf.
  • Authors of unlicensed works have on more than one occassion used the expression "unauthorized" as a commercial gimmick in the titles of their works in order to not only taunt the franchise, but also to induce uninitiated readers to believe that said franchise views these works as forbidden or illegal. However, very few of these works are actually "forbidden" in the formal and legal sense, due to the the "works of journalistic/academic nature" exemption clauses in copyright laws, protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, though again provided that no use is made of copyrighted Star Trek material. Since the name "Star Trek" itself is an officially registered and legally protected trademark ("Star Trek®"), most such authors even choose to err on the side of caution by only utilizing the abbreviation "Trek" in the titles of their works, despite the worldwide and widespread use of the full expression in colloquial parlance. When these conditions are met, the franchise, even if they would have liked some works to be illegal, is impotent to initiate formal proceedings against these publications. Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman are two of the more prolific authors of "unauthorized Trek" titles. Some rare examples of truly illegal publications include The 24th Century Technical Manual for the reproduction of stolen studio production materials, and The Making of the Trek Films, which featured copyrighted imagery.
  • By definition all three categories are unofficial, but there is a later, additional twist involved for Star Trek works written from an in-universe POV. Works of these kind, typically novels and comics, can be fully authorized, licensed and endorsed by the franchise, yet still be deemed "unofficial" at the same time, as they fall outside what is currently seen as established canon. All such works are considered as "apocrypha". The franchise reserves the right to assign the status "official" and "unofficial" at will. For example, Star Trek: The Animated Series was once considered unofficial/apocryphal, but has been elevated to official/canon status since then, whereas then fully licensed/authorized reference books such as – besides the already mentioned Star Fleet Medical Reference ManualStar Fleet Technical Manual, Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise and Worlds of the Federation were once considered official, but have as of 2002 been demoted to the status of apocrypha. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 11, p. 71) It is in this light that the meaning of the expression "official" in a work's title has shifted/expanded over the decades. When the franchise started to take a keen interest in Star Trek publications during the 1980s, the use of "official" in the title originally indicated that a work was licensed and endorsed, whereas the present usage when employed, additionally indicates a work that is in compliance with established canon.

Superfluously perhaps, unlicensed works do not constitute a source of income for the Star Trek franchise. Because of the perceived connotation with "illegal" and the initiative origins, the expression "unlicensed" should be the preferred one over "unauthorized", when labeling a work that is initiated and published outside the franchise's official framework.