Thursday, May 12, 2016

New Frontiers in Copyright

I confess I never thought of it before, but here goes: Who owns the Klingon language?

Well, it turns out, CBS and Paramount do, officially.

The language, created under contract by linguist Marc Okrand for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in the 1980s, is spoken by a good number of people. It's even used in versions of Shakespeare and Dickens.

But now CBS and Paramount are suing a group of independent film-makers who are working on a fanfic Star Trek film of their own. Turns out the language is copyrighted.

Hmm. I wonder why CBS and Paramount looked the other way at all the YouTube instruction videos and books about learning the language? Why they didn't mind the plays performed in it? What about those heinous cosplayers at conventions?

Most likely, it's because this project is a Star Trek film, and they don't want the competition and "dilution" of their brand, so it's really more of a case of trademark than copyright. Lots of other authors and creators have let fanfic have at it, realizing it only strengthens the brand in the long run.

It seems to me when a real language is created, it exceeds the bounds of copyright. Just as with the alphabet, it can only be in the public domain.

Talk about diluting the brand... CBS and Paramount should sue anyone who wears eyeglasses with their Klingon outfit.

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