Courts sometimes hear the most bizarre cases. Lawyers are
currently firing phasers across a California courtroom arguing in
legalese over whether Klingons are real, and whether they are
protected under copyright.
For those who don't know a Klingon from a Ferengi, they are
a fierce alien warrior species in the popular Star Trek
world created for a TV series and a string of blockbuster
It all began when a Star Trek fan made his own amateur
short movie called Axanar, including Klingons, and stuck
it on YouTube where it was viewed two million times.
It was just for fun, but Paramount Pictures and CBS Studio went
to war when the amateur filmmaker raised half a million dollars
through Crowdfunding to make a second, more lavish film. The
studios stepped in, arguing they have exclusive rights to Star
Trek and everything in it, and sued the amateur filmmaker for
breach of copyright.
Studio lawyers told the court the studios have exclusive rights
to Star Trek"props, character makeup, costumes, sets,
fictional language, events and fictional history".
Axanar's producer fired back, arguing the Klingon
language is an idea or a system, and therefore "not
The studios ducked that blast, firing back that a language is
only useful when it can be used to communicate with people
"and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate".
Trek fans around the world who dress as Klingons and speak the
guttural language - yes a Klingon dictionary does exist –
were mortified. After all, Shakespeare's Hamlet has
been translated into Klingon, A Christmas Carol has been
performed in Klingon on stage in Chicago, and the online Klingon
Language Institute offers lessons in how to speak Klingon.
Axanar's lawyers argued Star Trek's creators
had drawn on previous inventions in science fiction such as ray
guns, aliens with pointy ears, laser pistols, flying saucers and
Anneka Frayne, lawyer with Stacks Law Firm, said the case opens
an interesting legal conundrum.
"If some humans are speaking and communicating in Klingon,
is it therefore a real language, or just a copyrighted creature
creation for a science fiction franchise? Are fans who dress up in
Star Trek outfits breaching copyright?
"What about languages invented for other fictional stories
such as Elvish from Lord of the Rings, Dothraki from
Game of Thrones, and Na'vi from the film
Avatar. Can studios claim copyright on vampires,
werewolves, fairies, elves and goblins when they have existed in
folklore for hundreds of years?"
At the moment the case doesn't have any application to
copyright law in Australia, unless of course, the Klingons
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The Ugg boots case revolves around who holds the trade mark rights to the word 'Ugg' in relation to sheepskin boots.
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