Monday 2 May 2016

q bljeghbe'chugh vaj blHej (our first headline in Klingon)

The lawsuit between Paramount Pictures, CBS studios and the producers of the crowdfunded Star Trek spin-off "Prelude to Axanar" just keeps giving. And this week the not for profit Language Creation Society submitted an amicus brief in support of the filmmakers - arguing that the use of the Klingon language shouldn't be restricted in any way by the film company rights holders. The brief notes that “No court has squarely addressed the issue of whether a constructed spoken language is entitled to copyright protection,” and conclude that “Klingon gave Star Trek characters convincing dialogue. But, it broke its chains and took on a life of its own— a life that the [US] Copyright Act has no power to control.”  

The suit, filed by attorney Marc Randazza argues that while Paramount Pictures created Klingon, the language has "taken on a life of its own" as a real language - and a real language is incapable of being protected by copyright - so "Paramount Pictures lacks the 'yab bang chut' or 'mind property law' necessary to claim copyright over the Klingon language":

The language was created by Mark Okrand who was commissioned to develop the language by the two claimant film companies, and the language was adapted and extended in subsequent films and TV programmes.  But the language does seems to have taken on a life of its own: There is (after all) the Klingon Language Institute in Pennsylvania, which promotes the Klingon language and culture - and you can study the language at the Osric University, "a non-accredited degree granting institution" that conducts Klingon studies via the internet, Back in 1995, Anita Karr taught herself Klingon and submitted her degree dissertation on the Klingon Language when she studying at Portsmouth University for her BA in applied linguistics: There are Klingon dictionaries, phrase books, on line tutorials and poetry. You can attend conventions dressed up in your finest Klingon battle armour ... teach your child Klingon ..... and there are even Klingon weddings. 

Charles Duan from consumer group Public Knowledge said in a Blog post: "There would be great danger to allowing the copyright power to extend to prevent others from speaking a language" 

This brief might have legs!  Paramount and CBS take note - q bljeghbe'chugh vaj blHej - Surrender or die is a popular Klingon phrase. Is it time for CBS and Paramount to leave this particular battle at warp speed? 

But let's remember the claim includes some 57 instances of infringement - its not just about the Klingon language:  These similarities are divided into categories like characters (including Garth of Izar and Vulcan Ambassador Soval), races and species such as the Vulcans, Romulans and Tellarites, costumes, settings like the planet Axanar and the Klingon planet Qo’noS, as well as spacedocks and the Starship Enterprise, logos like the Federation logo, and plot point similarities including the concept of dilithium crystals, phasers, and the Klingon Empire.

Torrentfreak explains all.

Some useful phrases in Klingon here:


Lugrekh said...

Your headline should be:

bIjeghbe'chugh vaj bIHegh
If you do not surrender, then you will die (lit. Surrender or die!)

or maybe:

bIje'be'chugh vaj bIHegh
If you do not buy, then you will die (lit. Buy or die!)

Also {yab bang chut} means "mind beloved law" as {bang} means "one who is loved" not "property". Bing got this one really wrong.


Ben said...

This ranks as one of the best comments I have ever received for an article! Thank you!

Ben said...

Tristan Sherliker has posted a detailed update on this over on the IPKat in a very well researched and well written piece

Ben said...

UPDATE: The case WILL go to trial:

Unknown said...


I did indeed write my dissertation on the Klingon language - what many people don't know is that because it was a languages degree, I had to write it in Italian!

Thanks for remembering!

Anita Karr (now Anita Bradshaw)