The (Klingon) Empire Strikes Back

Mark E. Shoulson mark at
Tue Nov 15 19:04:09 CST 2016

On 11/15/2016 01:21 PM, Asmus Freytag wrote:
> On 11/15/2016 9:22 AM, Peter Constable wrote:
>> Klingon _/should not/_ be encoded so long as there are open IP 
>> issues. For that reason, I think it would be premature to place it in 
>> the roadmap.
> Peter,
> I certainly sympathize with the fact that the Consortium wants to 
> avoid being drawn into litigation, and that even litigation based on 
> unsustained IP claims could be costly.
> However, it appears relatively settled that one cannot claim copyright 
> in an alphabet; one of the roles of the Unicode Consortium in this 
> regard would be to reach a formal decision whether this is, in fact, 
> an alphabet/script (and one that, based on the usual criteria of 
> usage) is acceptable for encoding.
> Ducking this particular determination serves no-one.

Thanks, Asmus.

I can understand the UTC's caution: you don't want to open yourself up 
to litigation—even if you eventually win.  But this also is likely not 
going to be the first time that there is this kind of legal hold on 
something encodable.  I note that Blissymbolics, according to Wikipedia, 
*does* have a copyright (as opposed to "maybe they might think they do") 
and yet it, too, is roadmapped. If I didn't know better (and I don't), I 
might think there was some sort of bias against Klingon.

> Finally, I really can't understand the reluctance to place anything in 
> the roadmap. An entry in the roadmap is not a commitment to anything - 
> many scripts listed there face enormous obstacles before they could 
> even reach the stage of a well-founded proposal. And, until such a 
> proposal exists, there's no formal determination that a script has a 
> truly separate identity and meets the bar for encoding.

NOT being called out for being unencodable would be a step up for 
Klingon, at least, let alone the roadmap.

> PS: the "real" reason that Klingon was never put in the roadmap (as I 
> recall discussions in the early years) was not so much the question 
> whether IP issues existed/could be resolved, but the fear that adding 
> such an "invented" and "frivolous" script would undermine the 
> acceptance of Unicode. Given the way Unicode is invested in 
> "frivolous" communication systems of very recent origin (emoji), that 
> original argument surely doesn't apply :)

Yes, of course, though it's nice to have someone say it out loud. You do 
of course realize that that sentiment is *precisely* as offensive as 
"Unicode shouldn't encode African scripts, because only darkies use them 
anyway, and we wouldn't want to be seen as supporting *those* people."  
Bigotry is bigotry, even when applied to fans.  Essentially, the claim 
is "we shouldn't encode those, not because nobody uses them, but because 
nobody *important* uses them."

I was talking to someone once about Unicode, and explained that they 
were responsible for encoding emoji, etc.  And he scoffed at that, "why 
encode those?  who uses those anyway?"  I said, "Millions of people 
around the world use them every day in tweets and instant messages..." 
"Yeah, but I mean, aside from that!"  The question is, who out there who 
is *important* is using them for *important* things.  And if the UTC has 
to get in the business of judging what qualifies as "important" 
communication, you're going to need a lot more members, just to go 
through everything being printed. (Why encode chess pieces?  Only chess 
nerds use them, and I don't care about chess.  Go piece signs?  Nobody 
*I* talk to uses those.  And don't even get me started on pictures of 
baseballs.  And only goyim would need a picture of a breaded shrimp...)

It's refreshing to hear it finally admitted in full.  I always felt that 
if people are going to act unfairly, they should at least say "yes, 
we're acting unfairly, because you don't deserve fairness." Then they 
can explain why fairness is undeserved.


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