EDIT: good to see you again, btw. Was wondering where you'd gotten to.
hey, nice to see you too man.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)).
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, 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.
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.
? 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?
 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.
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.
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.