The movie studio argues in the U.S. District Court for Central California that a federal judge does not need to declare that Klingon is a living language because there is no legal reason for the issue to come up in court.
Paramount is engaged in a copyright dispute over plans to make a fan-funded Star Trek film. The studio alleges Axanar Productions Inc., Alec Peters and 20 unnamed individuals do not have permission or the rights to make the film.
Paramount says the Axanar film contains many of the characters associated with the popular science fiction series, among them a warrior people from the extraterrestrial Klingon empire. In the 1980s, Paramount hired a linguist named Marc Okrand to create the Klingon language for some films. Enthusiasts have since embraced the language, expanding its vocabulary and grammar.
A California-based group called the Language Creation Society has intervened in the U.S. case, as we reported Thursday. The group claims Paramount is asserting copyright over the Klingon language. It wants a judge to declare that Klingon is a “living language” that is therefore beyond the reach of U.S. copyright laws.
In a document filed Tuesday, Paramount asks the judge to ignore the Language Creation Society’s intervention. The studio says the society’s submission is technically out of bounds because it was filed too late and because it is based on too much hearsay evidence.
The studio also argues that the society misstates the role Klingon plays in the copyright dispute. Paramount denies that it wants a U.S. judge to declare that the studio holds copyright to the language. Rather, it says the dispute centres on the defendants’ allegedly improper use of Star Trek characters.
Paramount alleges the defendants infringed copyright by making authorized works that used the studio’s Klingon characters. Asserting rights to the Klingon characters is a different thing than asserting rights over the fictional language, the studio argues. Language enters the mix only because it’s a trait that helps identify those copyrighted characters as Klingons, much the same as make-up or wardrobe.
“Klingon is a fictional language that is part of the depiction of those characters,” the studio states in its court document. “It is the use of the Klingon language in this context that will be before the court in performing a substantial similarity analysis, not the copyrightability of languages in general.”
The Language Creation Society insists in a court filing that its intervention is properly made. “The brief submitted by [the society] is relevant to an issue before the court, which has received scant briefing from the parties, that it may dispose of on a motion to dismiss,” the group says in a filing with the court made on Wednesday.
[Ed. note – This story has been updated to include comment from the Language Creation Society. Also, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the location of the Language Creation Society.]
Paramount Opposition to Language Creation Society