‘Star Trek’ Lawsuit: Copyright of Klingon Language in Question

Language Creation Society submits brief detailing why ficticious language has outgrown its original creation

CBS and Paramount’s lawsuit against the makers of a fan-made “Star Trek” film took a cheeky turn Thursday when a brief was filed on behalf of the defendants arguing the merits of whether the Klingon language could be copyrighted.

The bulk of the argument, as laid out in a brief authored by Language Creation Society’s Marc Randazza, is that a language cannot be copyrighted.

“It would not take a Vulcan to explain their logic — even the Pakleds would know that nobody can ‘own’ a language,” read the brief, in part.

Among the examples used by the authors of the brief are the fact that MSN’s search engine, Bing, has a built-in Klingon translator and that the language often is used on shows unrelated to “Star Trek,” including “The Big Bang Theory” and “Frasier.”

“Copyright law protects the means of expressing ideas or concepts, but it does not give the copyright holder the right to exclude others from making use of the ideas or concepts themselves,” the brief continued. “Neither is one permitted to register copyright in a word.”

To its point, the brief itself is littered throughout with actual Klingon phrases where appropriate.

Paramount and CBS are going after producer Alec Peters of Axanar Productions for copyright infringement with a suit filed in December in California district court. The suit concerns “Axanar” and the prequel film “Prelude to Axanar,” collectively referred to as “the ‘Axanar’ Works.”

“Axanar” raised $1.13 million in crowdfunding, making it possibly the biggest-budget fan film ever made. CBS said they never “authorized, sanctioned or licensed this project in any way, and this has been communicated to those involved.” However, Peters told TheWrap that he and his team met with CBS prior to production, and the network didn’t offer any specific guidelines concerning what his crew could and could not do, simply that he couldn’t make money off the project.

“CBS has a long history of accepting fan films,” Peters said back in August. “I think ‘Axanar’ has become so popular that CBS realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.