Language Society Brief Delves Into Real-World Klingon Culture


How to make the case that a movie studio shouldn’t control use of a language created for a film? 

If you’re the Language Creation Society trying to stop Paramount Pictures from restricting the use of Klingon, one way is to pepper your court brief with examples of how the mother tongue of the notorious “Star Trek” alien race is used in everyday life. 

For instance:

  • Microsoft’s Bing search engine translator renders phrases into Klingon. Or will translate from Klingon into any of its other 52 languages.
  • Klingon dialogue has been featured in sitcoms such as “Frasier” and “The Big Bang Theory.”
  • Historical works such as the epic poem Gilgamesh and plays by William Shakespeare have been translated into Klingon.
  • A Swedish couple was married in Klingon at a Star Trek convention in London.
  • The Klingon Language Institute studies Klingon and sponsors recreational activities conducted in the language.
  • The Welsh government responded in Klingon to questions about UFOs from a National Assembly member. 

The nonprofit society that promotes language creation asked the court’s permission last week to file its friend-of-the-court brief in a lawsuit brought by Paramount and CBS against Axanar Productions over the promotional film, “Prelude to Axanar.” The short film features sci-fi actors and is intended as a preview to “Axanar,” a full-length movie set in the “Star Trek” universe for which the production company is seeking online crowdfunding. 

Paramount sued to halt the production, claiming copyright infringement. Essentially, it’s trying to defend its right to control all works set in the fictional “Star Trek” world. But the society says a language—even an artificial one like Klingon created by a linguist expressly for one of the “Star Trek” films— is a system or process of communication and not a creative work of expression protected by copyright. 

Or, as the brief quoted from the “The Big Lebowski” movie, “not Qam ghu’vam, IoD!”

That’s Klingon for “This will not stand, man!”