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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Battle Storm Over The Rights To The Klingon Language

A Legal Battle about the Klingon Language Could Affect the Future of Computer Programming

Corinne Purtill | May 11, 2016

The most ardent Star Trek fans go so far as to make their own versions of the classic movies—but not without legal risks. Last year Paramount Pictures and CBS hit the makers of a Kickstarter-funded film with a lawsuit. They claimed that Prelude to Axanar, a 2014 short, and its planned full-length sequel Axanar infringe on copyrighted Star Trek characters and themes.
So far, so mundane. But one of the copyrights allegedly infringed is that of Klingon, the language spoken by fictional humanoids of the same name. And this has elevated the suit from a routine intellectual-property dispute to a case with potentially big consequences for the future of programming and creativity.

tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh’a’?
Do you speak Klingon?
I don’t understand.
Dochvetlh vISoplaHbe’.
I can’t eat that thing.
You are wrong.
bortaS bIr jablu’DI’ reH QaQqu’ nay’.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. (lit: When cold revenge is served, the dish is always very good)

Klingon Scrabble. Source:

… are languages protected by copyright?  That’s never been squarely resolved in any of the cases. My instincts tell me the answer is “no,” relying on the same provision of the act that knocks out Stardating; a language, after all, is nothing more (or less!) than a “procedure, process, system, or method” used by human beings to communicate with one another, and therefore outside the realm of copyright protection.
But there’s considerable uncertainty on this score, and it’s a question of some importance in copyright law. When Oracle sued Google for infringing its copyright in Oracle’s API — its “application programming interface,” the interface specifications that allow computer programs to communicate with one another, Google raised a similar argument (that APIs are basically “languages” that can’t be copyrighted because they are just “systems or methods” used by computers to communicate with one another).
Made sense to me — but not to the Federal Circuit, which ruled in Oracle’s favor back in 2014. 

<more at; related articles and links: (Invented Klingon language at center of legal battle. May 2, 2016) and ('Star Trek' Lawsuit: The Debate Over Klingon Language Heats Up. April 28, 2016) (Paramount Claims Crowdfunded 'Star Trek' Film Infringes Copyright to Klingon Language. March 13, 2016)>

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