Traveling at Worf Speed: Klingon Copyright Case

Traveling at Worf Speed: Klingon Copyright Case

A recently filed amicus brief takes the U.S. court where it hasn’t gone before: to explore the strange new world of whether a constructed spoken language — specifically, the Klingon language — is entitled to copyright protection. Bones! Buckle up!

At the end of 2015, Paramount and CBS filed a lawsuit against the production company of the crowd-funded “Star Trek” film “Axanar,” claiming copyright infringement. When the defendants asked for more specifics, the plaintiffs returned with a list, which included the Klingon language. Enter the amicus brief from the Language Creation Society.

Although linguistics professor Marc Okrand initially created the language for the 1984 film “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” the brief claims it “has taken on a life of its own.” Thousands in the “living Klingon community” have since studied it, built upon it and used it to communicate with each other. The brief cites the existence of the Klingon Language Institute, a Klingon dictionary that sold 250,000 copies and the example of a child who was raised as a native Klingon speaker. It also boasts that the fluency of Klingon language students easily surpasses that of its creator, Okrand.

Lieutenant Commander Worf

Paramount Pictures/CBS Studios

Notably, throughout the brief, the Language Creation Society, affectionately referred to in the media as “constructed language nerds,” employs the Klingon language. For example, when arguing that copyright law does not protect spoken languages, it states:

 “Nobody can use  Klingon screenshot(mind property law) to

limit others’ rights to freely use a language.”

Last week, Judge Gary Klausner, a federal judge in California, denied the movie production company’s motion to dismiss Paramount Pictures’ copyright suit. The Society’s founder was quoted as saying that the group will re-file its brief when the court is ready to consider the language matter. One looks forward to seeing if the judge considers the Society’s argument sound or highly illogical.

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