Monday, September 26, 2016

Can a language be copyrighted?

Paramount Pictures is suing the makers of a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film, saying that the filmmakers are infringing Paramount’s copyright in the franchise. Axanar Productions apparently responded by asking Paramount to clarify exactly which elements it claimed were copyrighted, and it responded with a long list that included the Klingon language.”
I don't practice in the area of copyright law, but this is an interesting lawsuit that I will be following.  Can a made-up language be copyrighted to the extent that others can't use it in their own creative endeavors?

“As you would expect, the brief also includes various statements in Klingon (both in the Klingon alphabet and Latin transliteration), with explanatory footnotes in case the court doesn’t have a qualified translator. Although it’s in L.A., so it’s entirely possible it does.”

This quote jumped out at me.  I practice in Southern California, including Los Angeles.  According to the Los Angeles Superior Court website, the most common languages in Los Angeles county are American Sign Language, Armenian, Chinese [Mandarin and Cantonese], Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.  The
court provides interpreters for any language, not just these listed, at no charge for most cases.
I've personally been in court with interpreters for all of those languages [not all at the same time], and some that aren't listed.  Several months ago an eviction Defendant required interpretation in Eritrean, which I learned is the language of Ethiopia.

So yes, if you're in court in Los Angeles county, the court most likely has an interpreter for you, no matter what language you speak.  Possibly even Klingon, altho I suspect those who speak Klingon also speak another language well enough to use the services of the interpreter for that other language.


  1. That WILL be an interesting case to follow! A case precedent for made up language protection ...

    1. Yes, it's an interesting concept. I also think it's interesting that there are people on this earth that took the time to learn to speak Klingon!