A major legal battle is set to take place involving something most people have never used: the Klingon language. On top of this, it's tied to a legal fight that has been going on for years, regarding the use of computer code and copyrights.
The issue is complicated yet surprisingly straightforward, and the precedents that the case sets could influence laws that impact international businesses like Google.
The matter started when Star Trek fans decided to make their own movie, and they crowd-funded it. The movie uses Klingon, a language made up for the Star Trek universe. However, the makers saw the movie shut down by copyright complaints. Those who had actually made up Klingon said they couldn't use it.
The movie makers are now going to court to challenge this ruling, saying that a language itself can't be copyrighted because it's how people communicate. Some die hard Star Trek fans only talk to each other in Klingon and others have attempted to raise kids with Klingon as their first language. While it was made up for the show, the group contests that they should be allowed to use Klingon since it has a life of its own outside of Star Trek.
The jump to computer code isn't as big as you might think, as code is basically another type of language, though it's only written. For years, there have been legal debates about using someone else's code. For example, a company called Oracle sued Google, saying Google stole part of their coding. The first judge ruled that this was fine, as code couldn't be copyrighted, on the grounds that it was a “functional set of symbols.” However, another judge reversed course, saying it could be copyrighted.
Therefore, the ruling in the Klingon case could set a precedent for how language can be used and what rights the creators have, versus how others are able to use that language for their own purposes and profits. Additionally, the judge in the Klingon case could use the precedent already set in the computer code case to make the ruling.
No matter how this plays out, it's going to be a fairly significant legal event, considering the path it paves for the future. Copyright laws are often complex, so inventors and creative individuals must know the extent of their legal creative licensing.
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