zompist bboard

a congress of convoluted conworldery
It is currently Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:26 pm

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 18 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Conlangs and copyright
PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 6:46 am 
Sumerul
Sumerul
User avatar

Joined: Wed Dec 29, 2004 11:57 am
Posts: 3352
Location: Elsewhere
(I'm not sure quite where this should go - it is in some senses fit for Ephemera or NOTA, being about "current affairs"/the real world, but it is also about conlangs!)

There is a court case going on at the moment that partly revolves around the copyright status of Klingon - with potential implications for the status of other constructed languages. See https://twitter.com/FiatLingua for a lot of links.

What do people think about this issue? Can or should constructed languages be copyrighted or not?

_________________
@jsbaker750
seven-fifty.net


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 8:34 am 
Avisaru
Avisaru
User avatar

Joined: Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:35 pm
Posts: 565
Location: Michigan, USA
Conventional wisdom (among conlangers, anyway) is that conlangs can't be copyrighted, but works about them can be. (so a grammar of your conlang can be copyrighted, but the language itself isn't copyrightable) There's been a number of discussions about this on the CONLANG list; here's four of them. There has never yet been a court case that clearly determined whether or not they're covered, though.

The LCS filed an amicus brief on the Paramount vs. Axanar case, btw, arguing conlangs aren't copyrightable. You can read more about that (and read the brief) here.

_________________
I generally forget to say, so if it's relevant and I don't mention it--I'm from Southern Michigan and speak Inland North American English. Yes, I have the Northern Cities Vowel Shift; no, I don't have the cot-caught merger; and it is called pop.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 10:18 am 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Sat Sep 20, 2008 2:37 pm
Posts: 1234
There has been A LOT of arguments about this over the years related to Tolkien's languages, specifically whether Ardalambion (or similar sites) constituted copyright infringment because it had (relatively complete) lists of vocabulary.

I'm not a lawyer, but the sensible position seems like writing about or using someone else's conlang shouldn't be much of an issue unless you claim the creation of the grammar & vocabulary as your own work.

_________________
Tibetan Dwarvish - My own ergative "dwarf-lang"

Quasi-Khuzdul - An expansion of J.R.R. Tolkien's Dwarvish language from The Lord of the Rings


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2016 1:17 pm 
Visanom
Visanom
User avatar

Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2003 10:42 am
Posts: 5312
Location: Reykjavík, Iceland
A language in and of itself probably is not copyrightable. I could see how word lists, however, were copyrightable. That it would be difficult for a third party to create, say, a dictionary based on that word list, since the original lexicon by the creator is the only source. Unless the author engages in original research of the corpus, and finds new meanings not described in the original lexicon. But it could get hairy. KLI has avoided duplicating the vocabulary lists in the Klingon Dictionary, keeping only lists of vocabulary not covered in the original lexicon, but they should be free to describe the grammar in their own words. There's a hundred ways to describe the grammar of a language.

_________________
vec


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 8:40 am 
Avisaru
Avisaru
User avatar

Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 11:21 am
Posts: 599
Location: Cymru
A language may not be copyrightable, but a conlang is a documented, written work. A conlang cannot exist, complete, in someone's or a collective's mind(s), as natlangs do. There are very few conlangs which are actually well known around the world and spoken by a good number of people. Klingon, for example, is spoken by many people and does not necessarily require a written document (anymore) to be used, whereas Quebric, my current conlang project, is unknown to anyone other than myself. My point is that if someone stole my conlang they'd need to steal a physical work, Word documents, written notes, a word list etc, for someone to use Klingon in their work they need only to consult a Klingon speaker. So my argument is that if something nearing ubiquity and is a part of popular culture like Klingon then it can't be copyrighted, just like Sony couldn't copyright "blue-ray" (but can "blu-ray"); but something like Quebric which is unknown to anyone other than myself and the few members here who've seen snippets can be copyrighted, as it can only exist in a written, documented form.

But copyright laws differ from country to country and one countries laws have no jurisdiction in other territories...

_________________
My conlangery Twitter: @Jonlang_
Me? I'm just a lawn-mower; you can tell me by the way I walk.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2016 7:42 pm 
Sanno
Sanno
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 5:00 pm
Posts: 16318
Location: One of the dark places of the world
Conceptually it seems clear that conlangs aren't copyrightable. But of course, whether the US courts will agree, when a major corporation is telling them not to, is another matter.

[Regarding dictionaries based on word lists: I think even there you've got good odds, as "comment", "scholarship" and "research" are fair use, and the dictionary maker may be using only small sections of actual copied text. Importantly, the principle is that facts cannot be copyrighted, which presumably includes facts about what an author has previously written. So I can say "In Tolkien's books, Gandalf is a wizard" - that's a fact, it's not copyrightable. Likewise I can surely say "In Quenya, the word for a tongue is "lamba"" - that's just a shorthand for "In Tolkien's works, it is said that in Quenya...", which is a historical/literary fact, and not copyrightable. So surely I can write a dictionary saying: "lamba: n., tongue (physical)"?]

_________________
Blog: http://vacuouswastrel.wordpress.com/

But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2016 3:44 am 
Avisaru
Avisaru
User avatar

Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 11:21 am
Posts: 599
Location: Cymru
Salmoneus wrote:
I can surely say "In Quenya, the word for a tongue is "lamba"" - that's just a shorthand for "In Tolkien's works, it is said that in Quenya...", which is a historical/literary fact, and not copyrightable. So surely I can write a dictionary saying: "lamba: n., tongue (physical)"?]


Which is basically what David Salo's A Gateway to Sindarin is, except that it's his own expanded version of Sindarin developed for the films, it does use all of the extant examples published in Tolkien's works. Although, annoyingly he got the phoneme for <lh> completely wrong.

_________________
My conlangery Twitter: @Jonlang_
Me? I'm just a lawn-mower; you can tell me by the way I walk.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2016 9:04 pm 
Osän
Osän
User avatar

Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2003 12:35 pm
Posts: 15760
Location: Tokyo
Having looked into this case a little, it seems that the other company have made a film in the Star Trek universe, which is a pretty stupid thing to do and would break a million copyrights anyway. It seems that paramount's position is that they've used a bunch of copyrighted materials, and regardless of whether the Klingon language itself can be copyrighted, using it is a pretty clear red flag that they have genuinely used Klingons and not some superficially similar alien race. I think the LCS is just worried about potential implications.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 10:09 am 
Visanom
Visanom
User avatar

Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2003 10:42 am
Posts: 5312
Location: Reykjavík, Iceland
The thing is, Paramount has always allowed fan-made movies to exist without trouble. Axanar is the first one they've sued and I think the reason is, it's looking to actually be really really good. It has a shitton of Star Trek veterans, actors and crew on board, all working on a voluntary basis. They've followed the no-profit model of previous fan productions, but amped up the quality. This has Paramount nervous.

_________________
vec


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 11:24 pm 
Osän
Osän
User avatar

Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:45 pm
Posts: 11760
Location: Santiago de Chile
Even though I dislike copyright in general, I gotta say there are some arguments for conlangs themselves to be copyrightable works, or at least IP: natural languages aren't, of course, but there's a difference between natural things and artificial things vis a vis their ownership which is well established. After all, glucose isn't copyrightable because it's a naturally occurring molecule, but certain other molecules are, if not copyrightable outright, definitely subject to intellectual property protections and whatnot: a relevant difference is that while natural things that are good are not good because of someone's labour or even because of anyones actions and so there is no one that has earned the property (i.e. there's no one who deserves it) that molecule which the good people at pfizer discovered exists only because the workers of pfizer did labour, so of course the owners of pfizer own it [I mean, this is all within capitalist law, presumably]. And a conlang, just like a drug or a song, is a certain intangible thing which has the capacity of giving people pleasure and well being in the form of appreciating it and whatever, and since it's a good that someone has made, it's no different than a song.

another way fictional versions of things are legally different from real versions of things can be seen by analogy to characters: it can be argued that conlangs are, in fact, not languages but works of fiction in the sense that conworlds are not reals world but rather fictional accounts of fictional worlds and therefore the law should treat them not as languages or worlds, but as fictional products: just like what a novel is is a work of literature, even though its content tells of the actions of bob and phillip. while with languages or worlds the argument might not be quite clear, it's obvious when applied to people: bob and phillip are, legally speaking, not people, but fictional characters, and fictional characters are, something like trademarks: whatever they are, they're more like intangible products, and less like proper people like you and me: harry potter is not in fact an english boy able to do magic but, rather, he's a trademark of <i think> Joanne Rowling: regardless of the fact that someone can write a story that contains dicta about harry potter, harry potter isn't a person but a trademark, an intangible good, a piece of intellectual property. Similarly, it could be argued that klingon or dothraki are trademarks of CBS and HBO: even if in-fiction they are languages, in actuality they are works of art. I mean, if harry potter is not a person, why should the law treat dothraki as a language?

tldr: fictional characters conlangs and conworlds are depictions of things which do not exist and, qua depictions, they're themselves works and not respectively people nor languages nor worlds but rather pieces of IP which the law should treat as such, regardless of what it is the work depicts; whether the work is about a fictional english boy wizard, a fictional language spoken by aliens, or a fictional world inhabited by elves and dwarves, they all are works and as such IP.

damn, now that i think about it the case seems solid.

_________________
Articles on Suenu - Amphitrite


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 9:15 am 
Sanno
Sanno
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 5:00 pm
Posts: 16318
Location: One of the dark places of the world
Torco wrote:
Even though I dislike copyright in general, I gotta say there are some arguments for conlangs themselves to be copyrightable works, or at least IP: natural languages aren't, of course, but there's a difference between natural things and artificial things vis a vis their ownership which is well established. After all, glucose isn't copyrightable because it's a naturally occurring molecule, but certain other molecules are, if not copyrightable outright, definitely subject to intellectual property protections and whatnot: a relevant difference is that while natural things that are good are not good because of someone's labour or even because of anyones actions and so there is no one that has earned the property (i.e. there's no one who deserves it) that molecule which the good people at pfizer discovered exists only because the workers of pfizer did labour, so of course the owners of pfizer own it [I mean, this is all within capitalist law, presumably]. And a conlang, just like a drug or a song, is a certain intangible thing which has the capacity of giving people pleasure and well being in the form of appreciating it and whatever, and since it's a good that someone has made, it's no different than a song.
Quote:
The legal test isn't "does it give people pleasure"?
The difference is that chemicals and strings of sound ARE tangible things. They're specific tangible things. Whereas a conlang is not specific or tangible. It is a practice, a set of conventions and ideas. You cannot copyright those things.

The analogy here is "a song" vs "a musical system". A system like the scales and chords of western music. If you use a particular scale in your music, you can't copyright that, even if you've invented it. Wagner today could copyright <i>Tristan and Isolda</i>, but he could not copyright the concept of the Tristan Chord per se. A chemist can copyright a particular chemical, but he cannot copyright, say, the idea of an antibacterial chemical, or the idea of a superconducting chemical. He can only copyright the specific chemicals, just as the musician can only copyright specific songs.

Similarly, if you write, say, a poem in a conlang, analogous to a song in a system of music, you can certainly copyright that. But you cannot copyright the idea of the language. You can't copyright the idea of inverting subject and object to indicate the inquisitive mood - and you couldn't even if no natlang did it before you.
Quote:
another way fictional versions of things are legally different from real versions of things can be seen by analogy to characters: it can be argued that conlangs are, in fact, not languages but works of fiction in the sense that conworlds are not reals world but rather fictional accounts

No, because then there would be no difference between a conworld and an account of a conworld. Nobody disagrees that you cannot copy a specific account of a conworld. The question is how much freedom you have to create you own accounts of something that looks like the same conworld.
Quote:
of fictional worlds and therefore the law should treat them not as languages or worlds, but as fictional products: just like what a novel is is a work of literature, even though its content tells of the actions of bob and phillip.

And again the analogy applies. You can copyright a specific novel, a specific string of words. You cannot copyright a plot.
Quote:
while with languages or worlds the argument might not be quite clear, it's obvious when applied to people: bob and phillip are, legally speaking, not people, but fictional characters, and fictional characters are, something like trademarks: whatever they are, they're more like intangible products, and less like proper people like you and me: harry potter is not in fact an english boy able to do magic but, rather, he's a trademark of <i think> Joanne Rowling: regardless of the fact that someone can write a story that contains dicta about harry potter, harry potter isn't a person but a trademark, an intangible good, a piece of intellectual property. Similarly, it could be argued that klingon or dothraki are trademarks of CBS and HBO: even if in-fiction they are languages, in actuality they are works of art. I mean, if harry potter is not a person, why should the law treat dothraki as a language?

Because... a) this is a really weird metaphysical theory you've got going on there (so what, fictional characters didn't exist before trademark law was developed? or trademark law is somehow inherent in the universe just waiting to be discovered?); b) you can, for example, write a summary of a Harry Potter novel; c) you can even use the name of Harry Potter (names and short phrases cannot be copyright); d) while theoretically it's possible to sue over copyright infringement of literary characters that are too close in description, it's seriously difficult as I understand it (it's much easier with visual depictions), which is good because otherwise most novels would be illegal; e) what the hell? How is that even a serious question? It's like "if coffee is not a fish, how can you treat sweetness as a flavour?" - the two things literally have nothing to do with one another.
Quote:
tldr: fictional characters conlangs and conworlds are depictions of things which do not exist

No, descriptions of characters, etc, are depictions of things which do not exist; fictional characters themselves are things that do not exist (or, more specifically, are not extant). That's why they're called "fictional". You cannot copyright things that don't exist, only descriptions of them. (you could, for example have a character called 'Harry Potter' who looked and acted entirely differently from the famous one, even if you yourself insisted that they were the same character (eg in a "Harry Potter: the real story" way)).
Quote:
they all are works and as such IP.

That may or may not be the case, but is irrelevent to the question of copyright. There's a lot of IP that cannot be copyright. Indeed, pretty much by definition IP can't be copyright - genuinely intellectual property comprises ideas and concepts, which cannot be copyright. That's why we also have patents (though even those are quite restrictive, at least in theory). What you can copyright are, in a loose sense of the word, specific texts (remember, copyright is essentially a method of regulating the publication of books, and only covers other forms of texts, like films, by later extension).

Quote:
damn, now that i think about it the case seems solid.

Sure, if you assume that everybody will adopt your peculiar religion metaphysical ideologies, and if you don't give any consideration to either the letter or the spirit of the law.

You cannot copyright an idea, practice, custom, set of behaviours, etc. You can copyright a description of them, but that doesn't prevent rival descriptions. You can't copyright individual words, because names, words and short phrases are exempt from copyright. You can trademark words you actually use commercially, so words like 'Klingon' itself might be trademarked, but that's not going to apply to the whole of the language (and you have to actually actively trademark them first). [this is why you might have difficulty writing that 'Harry Potter: the real story' story, because his name is probably trademarked.]

There is a grey area, which is around the idea of unique expressions. The reason why in theory you can have a copyright character is that although the basic idea of a character can't be copyrighted, unique expressions of the idea can be, which don't have to be specific words. So you can have a boy wizard, but as the description gets closer and closer to looking not like your idea of a boy wizard but specificlly Rowling's own unique expression of that idea, eventually you can be judged to be copying her. So you could argue Klingon was a unique expression of the idea of a particular sort of language. But the bar for interfering on those grounds seems to be very high, and I'm not sure it's ever actually been applied to things as vague as a language (or a conworld, etc), rather than a specific, clearly and specifically described individual character - but INAL.

And then of course there's the addition defence of fair use to get through - transformative works and all that.


EDIT: good to see you again, btw. Was wondering where you'd gotten to.

_________________
Blog: http://vacuouswastrel.wordpress.com/

But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 1:43 pm 
Sumerul
Sumerul
User avatar

Joined: Wed Dec 29, 2004 11:57 am
Posts: 3352
Location: Elsewhere
It does seem to me rather unfair that I could (hypothetically) go away and write a novel that makes extensive use of Verdurian, sell millions of copies, sell the film rights, publish a grammar of the Verdurian language, make quite a bit of money off that, etc. etc., and zompist wouldn't be entitled to a penny ...

_________________
@jsbaker750
seven-fifty.net


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 7:08 pm 
Sanno
Sanno
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 5:00 pm
Posts: 16318
Location: One of the dark places of the world
Curlyjimsam wrote:
It does seem to me rather unfair that I could (hypothetically) go away and write a novel that makes extensive use of Verdurian, sell millions of copies, sell the film rights, publish a grammar of the Verdurian language, make quite a bit of money off that, etc. etc., and zompist wouldn't be entitled to a penny ...


But then Tolkien doesn't earn a penny from any of the novelists since who have written epic fantasy novels about ordinary rural folk defeating dark lords (in volcanos, preferably) in worlds filled with elves, orcs and dwarves... not everything that you think up can be monetised.

Note also that even if conlangs can't be copyright, it would probably be very hard to write a grammar of Verdurian that didn't infringe copyright - given that you're describing the same facts, it would be hard not to have a lot of your text be very similar to Zomp's original text. But I think that if you were able to analyse Verdurian in an entirely different way from Zomp's grammar - say, if you wrote a full Chomskyan analysis of it - that would be considered a creative work of your own and not mere copying.

_________________
Blog: http://vacuouswastrel.wordpress.com/

But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2016 3:29 pm 
Sanci
Sanci
User avatar

Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2016 5:42 am
Posts: 36
Location: Finland
Languages are tools, not works. Applying restrictions on a constructed language for a work of fiction is like applying restrictions on the making of a saw, a hammer and nails for the purpose of making a chair. If nobody made the saw, the hammer or the nails, nobody would make the chair and all the people in the world would have to sit on the floor. I mean, it's a shitty analogue, but you get the point. You can write a book in English, Finnish, Turkish, Japanese, Mongolian, Hungarian, Basque, Burushaski, Lithuanian and Bulgarian, but the structure of the writing will change with every language and thus it will not be the same work of literature even if it has the same content if it's taken out of that context.

Nobody in Finland would understand a book written in Vietnamese even if it was the Finnish national epic (except for people who know Vietnamese, but that's a tiny minority), and anyone could claim that its content is entirely different from what its actual content is without anyone knowing that the content isn't what that person claims the content is. Language barriers have always been used for propaganda, ciphers have been used to obscure the content of written or spoken messages, etc. and a constructed language is no different. You could come up with a conlang and translate the Bible and Koran into it, then sell them as original works of literature and no one would ever know the truth except for those who know your conlang.

Personally, I think copyrights on literature in general shouldn't exist and people should simply appreciate each other's writing and if they wanted to copy concepts and content from one another, they shouldn't have to fear prosecution. It's all just text. Plagiarism is annoying, but when it comes to writing, it makes no sense to turn it into a legal shitstorm. Languages shouldn't be able to be copyrighted, not even constructed languages or works about constructed languages (or natural languages), as that would easily be a slippery slope leading to more legal restrictions on linguistic minorities.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2016 10:17 pm 
Smeric
Smeric
User avatar

Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2015 6:44 am
Posts: 2430
Location: suburbs of Mrin
Even with copyright laws, a lot of people read/download illegal online versions of book that give no profit to the author. Without copyright laws, how will the author get money?

_________________
ìtsanso, God In The Mountain, may our names inspire the deepest feelings of fear in urkos and all his ilk, for we have saved another man from his lies! I welcome back to the feast hall kal, who will never gamble again! May the eleven gods bless him!
kårroť


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2016 12:55 am 
Šriftom
Šriftom

Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2005 12:47 pm
Posts: 7860
Location: Milwaukee, US
mèþru wrote:
Even with copyright laws, a lot of people read/download illegal online versions of book that give no profit to the author. Without copyright laws, how will the author get money?

The idea that one is taking money from the author by reading books without paying for them presupposes that one would have paid for them at all in the first place. If one would have never paid for said books in the first place, how is the author losing money by one's reading them without paying for them?

_________________
Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2016 2:39 am 
Osän
Osän
User avatar

Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2003 12:35 pm
Posts: 15760
Location: Tokyo
But that's not what's at stake – it's people making money of something that you've done. I mean I sure as hell don't want someone making money with my conlang. In that sense I'd rather it was indeed copyrighted.

(On the other hand I agree that copyright is a bit of a shit thing in its current form, that's a different issue though)


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2016 3:18 pm 
Osän
Osän
User avatar

Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:45 pm
Posts: 11760
Location: Santiago de Chile
Sal wrote:
EDIT: good to see you again, btw. Was wondering where you'd gotten to.

hey, nice to see you too man.

Quote:
because then there would be no difference between a conworld and an account of a conworld

that's kind of the point, isn't it?

Quote:
You can copyright a specific novel, a specific string of words. You cannot copyright a plot.

but, quite crucially, you can copyright [or trademark, or in whatever way protect] the characters in a specific novel, can't you? and besides, you surely can copyright a plot, or, if not straight up copyright, that plot can be subject to IP protections, like... if I were to publish word-by-word a copy of fifty shades of grey except the names of the main characters are Muslim Pink and Annette Cadmium, and the action takes place in Ulan Bator instead of wherever the original book is set in, and a few more cosmetic differences like that, I'm pretty sure E.L. James' lawyers would quite like to have a word with me, and quite probably the judge would agree with them. And that might well extend to, say, a novel in which every event described is exactly the same event featured in Avengers or in Winter Soldier.

Quote:
a) this is a really weird metaphysical theory you've got going on there (so what, fictional characters didn't exist before trademark law was developed? or trademark law is somehow inherent in the universe just waiting to be discovered?)

no, of course not: I'm saying that whatever fictional characters are (a particular sort of idea, i suppose), they are the kind of thing that ip laws are about. All intellectual property is weird in this way that it's about treating ideas as stuff owned by folks, and if you want to make a case against ip in general I'm quite sympathetic.
Quote:
b) you can, for example, write a summary of a Harry Potter novel

sure, but that's irrelevant, that's another kind of thing entirely, derivative works are clearly halal: just like you can write a review of a harry potter novel or an opinion piece about them or whatever, works about works are fine, this is universally understood: but you can't write an additional harry potter novel, can you? because the characters and [quite arguably] the universe are trademarked.
Quote:
e) what the hell? How is that even a serious question? It's like "if coffee is not a fish, how can you treat sweetness as a flavour?" - the two things literally have nothing to do with one another.

I think they do: harry potter isn't a real person, harry potter is a fictional person and fictional instances of a class are subject to different properties and different treatment vis a vis real instances of a class and, if we accept fictional people are different from real people, why not accept then that fictional languages are different from real languages. If we accept this argument, then the very much universally agreed upon idea that natural languages can't be IP has no bearing on whether fictional languages can be IP.

Quote:
No, descriptions of characters, etc, are depictions of things which do not exist; fictional characters themselves are things that do not exist (or, more specifically, are not extant[1]). That's why they're called "fictional". You cannot copyright things that don't exist, only descriptions of them. (you could, for example have a character called 'Harry Potter' who looked and acted entirely differently from the famous one, even if you yourself insisted that they were the same character (eg in a "Harry Potter: the real story" way)).

Emphasis mine cause I think this is the crux of the question: you can, it seems to me, copyright, or at least certainly trademark, things that don't exist. I don't dispute that accounts of non-existent things can be copyrighted: for example, harry potter book one or whatever. My point is that in addition to owning the copyrights to harry potter and the philosopher's stone, miss rowling owns the trademark to harry potter the fictional character qua such: I can't write further harry potter books the way she can, because she own harry potter the fictional character: I suppose it's not quite right to say harry potter doesn't exist, but he certainly doesn't exist qua person, even if we accept that he does exist in some other ways, such as as an idea or a trademark or, I dunno, something.

Also, I'm pretty sure you would get sued if you published "harry potter, the real story"

Now, I'm no expert in IP and the distinctions between copyright and trademarks, I'm quite inclined to concede that conlangs and conworlds can't be copyrighted because they're the subject a particular work is about, not a work themselves. But it seems quite plausible that whatever the regime is with fictional characters (trademarked but not copyrighted, I guess), that same regime might operate vis a vis other such fictive things fictional works are about. The same way I can't publish a superman comic because DC owns superman[2], it seems to me that I can't publish a short story set in the blue monkey planet from avatar because james cameron (?) owns blue monkey planet, and if people can own <through trademark if not proper copyright> fictional worlds, certainly they in the same fashion can own features of a fictional world, such as fictional towns, or fictional cows, or fictional religions, or fictional languages.

Quote:
So you can have a boy wizard, but as the description gets closer and closer to looking not like your idea of a boy wizard but specificlly Rowling's own unique expression of that idea, eventually you can be judged to be copying her. So you could argue Klingon was a unique expression of the idea of a particular sort of language.

Yeah, that's what I figure as well.

Now, trademark law is less liberal in giving creators rights than copyright laws is: you can't just trademark whatever you come up with, you need to establish that it has something called secondary meaning, namely that people [how many? who knows] recognize it and associate it with you: in this sense Verdurian, say, has secondary meaning: everyone who knows of it goes "oh, yeah, that's zomp's lang" and so it would be elegible for trademarking in a way, say, a phonological inventory posted once that three people saw and forgot about wouldn't be. And also, it appears trademark may not protect the specific fictional character <which makes sense, since they don't exist> but their likeness and other identifying features: so you can't trademark harry potter the fictional person, but you can trademark a boy wizard with a particular name and backstory with the scar on his forehead and whatever whatever whatever. In that way, you maybe can't trademark verdurian the language, but if it's close enough < a language called verdurian with a certain script and a certain grammar and a certain lexicon and whatever whatever> then it's just a case of poteito potato.

[1] extant? what do you mean by this? in general extant means not yet disappeared or still in existence, which seems to suggest you're saying fictional characters used to exist <in the time of myth or something?> but now don't which... doesn't make any sense to me so you probably mean something different but I can't grok it... maybe there's like a specialized philosophy if fictional things sense of extant I can't find through googling?
[2] okay, it seems like instead of owning superman what DC owns is the rights to superman, which they can for example sell piecemeal, like selling or renting the movie rights while at the same time keeping to themselves the comic rights and maybe giving away or renouncing the radionovella rights.

Quote:
It does seem to me rather unfair that I could (hypothetically) go away and write a novel that makes extensive use of Verdurian, sell millions of copies, sell the film rights, publish a grammar of the Verdurian language, make quite a bit of money off that, etc. etc., and zompist wouldn't be entitled to a penny ...

that too
Quote:
But then Tolkien doesn't earn a penny from any of the novelists since who have written epic fantasy novels about ordinary rural folk defeating dark lords (in volcanos, preferably) in worlds filled with elves, orcs and dwarves... not everything that you think up can be monetised.

Well, yeah, just like people can write -and have, as I understand it- books about boy wizards: this case could be understood as meaning just the notion of "elves, orcs and dwarves" in general, even combined with rural folk defeating dark lords, wasn't trademarked at the relevant time, or simply that it's too broad an idea to trademark just like boy magician is. and besides, hasn't the copyright on tolkien's stuff like expired by now ?

Vlürch, fictional languages and real languages are not the same kinds of things, so while real languages can be tools and not works, that doesn't mean fictional ones are too: furthermore, tools can be protected under IP law: techniques and methods, for example, can be patented. Also, no reason why any law regarding fictional things needs apply to real things: that we can own harry potter doesn't provide precedent for owning real people, so I don't see this slippery slope. Alternatively, IP *could* be a tool for protecting spearers of minority languages: if linguists that go for a few years to some tribe and then publish a book about it and rake in the dough, saying that said minority language is owned by the bibunga tribe or whatever could be a powerful legal argument to force this guy to like build them a well and a clinic or whatever.

_________________
Articles on Suenu - Amphitrite


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 18 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group