copyright question

Dear Doc:


NuqneH! (Hello!) HIQaH! QaH! (Help!) Paramount Pictures Corporation thinks that it owns the copyright to the Klingon language. They’re trying to use that copyright to stop production of a fan film, “Prelude to Axanar” that is being developed with funding from Kickstarter. How is it possible for someone to own an entire language? jIyajbe’ (I don’t understand!)



Kahless the Unforgettable

Dear Kahless:

That’s right. Here on Earth, in a law suit being heard in Federal Court in Los Angeles (where else?) lawyers are arguing about ownership of your language. The plaintiffs, Paramount Pictures, say that they created Klingon, and own all of it. The defendants say that copyright protects only expression, and not useful things like languages. Both sides may have some of it right. After all, computer languages are not copyrightable, but computer programs, which select and arrange elements of the language are protected. Musical notes are not copyrightable, but once they are arranged into a sequence, rhythm, etc. the song is protected.

Paramount also says that Klingon is not useful, because it’s a made-up language and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate! (I guess that they don’t know about you, and about the many other nerds…uh, fine aliens… who regularly speak and write Klingon.) May be the lawyers haven’t read  ghIlghameS (the Epic of Gilgamesh), Hamlet (Hamlet), paghmo’ tIn mIS (Much Ado About Nothing) and pIn’a’ qan paQDI’norgh (Tao Te Ching). According to the Klingon Language Institute (, “The people who do speak Klingon well are not necessarily hard core Star Trek fans. When they get together they use Klingon to recount adventures, reveal plans, write fiction, play games, and get in and out of arguments. Klingon speakers have spoken the language to meet as strangers, bond as friends and even continue into romance.” Even your Google searches can be set to Klingon!

Because this case is only in the preliminary stages, and nowhere near a trial, the Doc can’t predict the outcome. If I were you, however, I’d think about taking a class in Esperanto.

Have a legal problem that’s all Greek to you? Consult the lawyers at LW&H. They speak both geek and legalese.

Until next month! qaStaHvIS yIn ‘ej chep! (Live long, and prosper!)

The Doc

— Lawrence A. Husick, Esq.