QI’yaH!: Paramount and CBS Studio Sue To Claim Ownership Of Klingon Language

KlingonInsignia.svgWe have another example of copyright and trademark laws have boldly going with no logic has gone before. The latest lawsuit is by two movie studios which contend that a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film has violated copyright law by using the Klingon language, among other alleged violations. To use the Klingon profanity (which cannot be translated on a family-oriented blog): QI’yaH!

The legal action have been taken by those ghuy’cha executives at Paramount Pictures Corp. and CBS Studios Inc. against Axanar Productions Inc. lead producer Alec Peters. They also allege violations for depicting characters with the “Vulcan appearance,” including pointed ears, and wearing gold uniform shirts. However, it is the claim to own a language that is most interesting and chilling.

We have been discussing a disturbing trend in copyright and trademark claims over things occurring in public or common phrases or terms. (For a prior column, click here). We have often discussed the abusive expansion of copyright and trademark laws. This includes common phrases, symbols, and images being claimed as private property. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). This included a New York artist claiming that he holds the trademark to symbol π and efforts to claim the rights to yoga poses.

The plaintiffs insist that “Klingonese or Klingon, the native language of Qo’NoS, was first spoken in Star Trek—The Motion Picture in 1979. It was used in several works moving forward, including Star Trek III The Search for Spock.” Frankly it is the type of dishonorable and cowardly lawsuit that would fill a true Klingon with rage. Indeed, I suspect that Paramount and CBS Studios is a front from a nest of Ferengi.

Indeed, this video appears to be a litigation making of studio counsel:

10 thoughts on “QI’yaH!: Paramount and CBS Studio Sue To Claim Ownership Of Klingon Language

  1. The copyright stuff is getting silly. I am waiting for someone to make the old free-floating “public policy” argument in one of these cases, that the copyright owners are going overboard and infringing on the public’s right to speak, share information, and talk about things.

    Wait for the day when we all have computer implants, and ASCAP charges us for humming one of their songs while in the car with a passenger.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. I am fairly certain that individual words cannot be copyrighted. A work as a whole has copyright protection as well as identifiable portions thereof.

  3. I remember the FRAZIER episode where, Neil?, the coworker with a crush on Roz, offered to teach Frazier Hewbrew in exchange for a “shot at” Roz.
    Frazier wanted to learn for his son’s Bar Mitzfa.
    Disappointed that Frazier could not deliver with Roz, Neil taught Frazier Klingon instead of Hebrew.
    So Frazier deliver his speech in Klingon instead of Hebrew.
    On the copyright issue…it was interesting to discover that the MLK children have copyright ownership of his speeches.
    If I understand it correctly, MLJ’S “I HAVE A DREAM” speech is “owned”by the King family, and they must be paid for that speech or its contents to be used.

  4. Where da white women at? Is that statement copyright protected? Blazing Saddles.

    How about: “Four score and seven years ago…”?
    How about: “Archie!” Just one word.
    How about: “Elmer Fudd is a pud. Whose eyes are glazed over. When he talks, people gawk. But preachers send him clover.”
    Copyright? I said it here. You better not repeat it.

    Now, repeat after me…

  5. The only thing that kept this show alive was the fan boys and fan girls. Klingon has been in common usage since they started sci fi conventions. And I think there is a course in Klingon at some university. Until they resolve this in the favor of the fans I will not watch another Star Trek movie.

  6. These fans make the SciFi money roll in for Star Trek, Star Wars, and the other franchises. Super fans dress up in costume, learn fictional languages so well they can have legal debates or discuss blue prints without missing a beat, and run a whole economy based on conventions and memorabilia. There are a surprising number of people who are fluent in J R R Tolkien’s Elvish.

    They shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds them. It was clearly a fan movie, which is an homage rather than copyright infringement. Most big authors encourage fan books, as well.

    Copyright laws and litigation are getting out of hand.

    Really, Klingon could be very useful in diplomatic relations, as in, “lupDujHomwIj luteb gharghmey” (My hovercraft is full of eels,” or the ever popular drinking toast “‘IwlIj jachjaj” (“May your blood scream!”)

    • Karen S – Paramount paid to have the language created, so does the creator own it or does Paramount. And since it has been used so often in scifi conventions and tv shows has it reached the public domain. The problem is the fan boys who made the movie do not have the money or creative accounting that Paramount has, so they will have to cave in. Or they might go start a kickstarter to fund their lawsuit against Paramount. Just about every fan would kick in.

  7. I think when a franchise reaches super fandom, it has become the public domain. You bring up a point that has long troubled me in civil law: if you don’t have unlimited resources, you cannot get justice or vigorously defend yourself.

    Can you invent a phrase or idiom, for example, put it in a movie, and then sue anyone who uses it?

    Here is the Klingon Institute where you can learn the fastest growing language in the galaxy:
    http://www.kli.org

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