Axanar title logo (screenshot)
In December 2015
and Paramount Pictures
sued the makers of the fan movie Axanar
for infringing their rights by making a Star Trek
like fan movie. After Paramount claimed that also the Klingon Language
is part of their property, the event created a huge wave of discussions on the web.
This list is not complete and only shows the major steps relating the Klingon language.
December 2015 - Complaint
On December 29, CBS and Paramount Pictures collectively filed for an injunction and damages in California federal court, stating Axanar works infringe their rights by making use of "innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes."
February 2016 - First Motion to Dismiss
Winston & Strawn, the defendant atorney of Axanar, requested a list of infringements asking what these "innumerable copyrighted elements" would be.
March 2016 - Amended Complaint, List of infringements
As a response, the plaintiff presented a 48-page list of infringements on 11 March 2016, which - among over sixty Star Trek related terms like names, races, places, planets, and other props - also included the Klingon language.
April 2016 - Second Motion to Dismiss
The defendant claims that most of the mentioned items, being common words, for instance "beaming" would have been invented long before Star Trek. They also explained that the Klingon language is "not copyrightable because it is a useful system."
Copyright Does Not Protect the Klingon Language
The Klingon language (FAC [first amended complaint] § 46, at page 31) itself is an idea or a system, and is not copyrightable. As the Supreme Court held in the context of a system of bookkeeping, although copyright protects the author’s expression of the system, it does not prevent others from using the system. Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99, 101 (1879). The mere allegation that Defendants used the Klingon language, without any allegation that Defendants copied Plaintiffs’ particular expression of that language, is therefore insufficient to state a claim for copyright infringement as to any protected element.
April 2016 - Opposition
As a response to that, the plaintiff explained the following:
This argument is absurd, since a language is only useful if it can be used to communicate with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate. The Klingon language is wholly fictitious, original, and copyrightable, and Defendants’ incorporation of that language in their works will be part of the Court’s eventual substantial similarity analysis. Defendants’ use of the Klingon language in their works is simply further evidence of their infringement of Plaintiffs’ characters, since speaking this fictitious language is an aspect of their characters.
| This topic has been added to the todo-list. Reason: add missing steps between April 2016 and 2017.|
January 2017 - Second letter of LCS
On January 8th 2017, the Language Creation Society wrote a second letter. See main article Language Creation Society
The plaintiffs are defined as
PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation; and CBS STUDIOS INC., a Delaware corporation
Their attorneys are:
Loeb & Loeb LLP
Los Angeles, California
represented by David Grossmann, Jennifer Jason and Jonathan Zavin
The defendants are defined as
AXANAR PRODUCTIONS, INC., a California corporation; ALEC PETERS, an individual, and DOES 1-20
Their attorneys are:
Winston & Strawn LLP
Los Angeles, California
represented by Erin R. Ranahan, Andrew S. Jick, Kelly N. Oki
CBS and Paramount traditionally permit fan movies to be created, "as long as they agree not to sell anything—including tickets, merchandise, or copies of the finished film or series."
- Paramount Lawsuit Becomes Studio’s Own Kobayashi Maru?, by Reece Watkins, on kryptonradio.com, 5 April 2016
- Matthew Dessem, 15 March 2016 Paramount Files a Really Long List of Star Trek Trivia in Their Fan Film Lawsuit, on slate.com
- Alex Peters, 16 March 2016, MYTHBUSTERS: Debunking Three Misconceptions About Axanar Productions. on axanarproductions.com
- Jon Fingas, 14 March 2016, Paramount says 'Star Trek' fan film's Klingon violates copyright, on engadget.
(de) Paramount & CBS verklagen Star Trek-Fans wegen Fan-Film, von Sven Pfizenmaier, 31.12.2015
(de) Spiegel Online, Hollywood-Studios beanspruchen Klingonisch für sich, 15.03.2016
(de) Paramount verklagt Star Trek-Fan-Film wegen Verwendung der klingonischen Sprache, by Sven Pfizenmaier, 15.03.2016
(de) Paramount legt 48-seitiges Doument vor, on Robotss & Dragons, by Sebastian Lorenz, 15.03.2016