Star Trek Debate: Does Paramount own the Klingon language?


Does Paramount own the Klingon language, or has it taken the leap from fantasy into reality and become a real language?

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In the wake of the recent clampdown on Star Trek fan films, Paramount seem to have gone one step further than simply saying they own the rights to the show, as they now claim they own the Klingon language. Paramount’s attorney certainly thinks they own it, stating that it is ‘absurd’ to believe that it stands as an independent language.

A society of language creators told the judge presiding over the case between Axanar and Paramount, that a language belongs to no person or company; it belongs to everybody. Paramount and CBS have been taking the creators of Axanar to the courts over a long list of copyright infringements, including the use of the Klingon language. The attorney argued:

"“A language is only useful if it can be used to communicate with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate.”"

Another attorney has argued that whilst they might feel they have a claim to the language, given that it was invented for a Star Trek movie, the language has taken on a life of its own. They might own the script and dialogue from the movie, but certainly not the actual language.

Worf might disagree:

Attorney Marc Randazza said:

"“Given that Paramount Pictures commissioned the creation of some of the language, it is understandable that Paramount might feel some sense of ownership over the creation. But, feeling ownership and having ownership are not the same things. The language has taken on a life of its own.” “By their logic, ancient Greek is not ‘useful’ because the ancient Greeks are no longer with us, and the language has no native speakers, despite it being the original language of some of the seminal literary and philosophical works of the western world. Plaintiffs’ logic would seem to dictate that French is not ‘useful’ if spoken by a native German.”"

Star Trek fans will certainly be familiar with words in the Klingon language, but very few of us know more than a few phrases. If you are interested in learning Klingon, you can head over to the Klingon Language Institute who will be happy to help.

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