Is Klingon A Living Language? That's For (Human) Courts To Decide Does Star Trek — and Klingon — belong to the fans or to the studios? The answer has big implications for more people than just Trekkies.
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Is Klingon A Living Language? That's For (Human) Courts To Decide

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Is Klingon A Living Language? That's For (Human) Courts To Decide

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Is Klingon A Living Language? That's For (Human) Courts To Decide

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(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STAR TREK")

WILLIAM SHATNER: (As Captain Kirk) Space, the final frontier.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Captain's log, star date 69816.5. That's today's date in "Star Trek" time, at least we think so. "Star Trek," of course, is the classic sci-fi TV show about intergalactic explorers traveling space in the Starship Enterprise, sometimes getting into scrapes and skirmishes along the way.

It first hit the airwaves in the 1960s with multiple reiterations. Well, right now in this galaxy, there's a big messy "Star Trek" battle. But it's not in space. It's in a courtroom. It all started last year when an indie movie production company made a movie called "Axanar," a sort of unsanctioned prequel to "Star Trek." Paramount and CBS, which together own the nearly $4 billion sci-fi franchise, sued the moviemakers for copyright infringement. They sued over the pointy Vulcan ears, the gold crew shirts and those little gold metal things and...

MARC OKRAND: The Klingon language.

MARTIN: That's Marc Okrand.

OKRAND: I devised the Klingon dialogue used in "Star Trek" starting with "Star Trek III" and for everything after that.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STAR TREK")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, speaking Klingon).

MARTIN: The Klingon language is featured heavily in the "Axanar" movie. So when Paramount sued...

OKRAND: The "Axanar" people wrote back, saying you can't claim copyright to a language because it's a system. And Paramount came back and said something along the lines of - it's not real. You can't really use this language because, you know, there's not really any Klingons to talk to.

MARTIN: The question of whether or not Klingon is a living language or intellectual property was presented in a legal brief filed by the Language Creation Society. That's a group that promotes new and fictional languages. And it was written in Klingon, translated by Okrand, who sums up the point this way.

OKRAND: Languages are something that you should use, and you should feel free to use them and be encouraged to use them and not worry about someone standing over your shoulder saying yes, you can say that. No, you can't. Yes, you can use that language. No, you can't. Of course you can, and you should.

MARTIN: Well, that remains to be seen. A court date has been set for May 2017. Until then, Okrand and his Klingon-speaking supporters hope for...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OKRAND: (Speaking Klingon) which means success.

(SOUNDBITE OF "STAR TREK" THEME)

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