Difference between Klingon and Tengwar

Hans Åberg haberg-1 at telia.com
Sun Sep 19 03:14:02 CDT 2021

> On 19 Sep 2021, at 09:57, Daphne Preston-Kendal <dpk at nonceword.org> wrote:
> On 16 Sep 2021, at 21:42, Hans Åberg via Unicode <unicode at corp.unicode.org> wrote:
>> Languages, including orthography, are not copyrightable. Movie and TV production companies regularly make copyright claims of no legal basis.
> Firstly, I am not a lawyer.
> However, you may be ignoring that Unicode is an international standard. It may be true in some jurisdictions that an alphabet is not copyrightable. Those jurisdictions may include the US where the Unicode Consortium is incorporated. But we have to consider all jurisdictions worldwide.

Each country has its own copyright law, so I focused on the US where the Unicode standard is published. An appendix might be published in the UK, where lawsuit threats are not effective.

> The Klingon alphabet is a collection of original graphic designs, each individual one of which could be considered a creative copyrightable work in some countries. (Countries in the European copyright regime come to mind, since here the barrier to copyrightability (e.g. the sweat of the brow doctrine) and to a copyright claim (e.g. the French system where architects have copyright claims in photos of their completed buildings) is generally lower than in the US.)

These designs are copyrightable, but not the orthography that they represent.

> Now, you could argue by the nature of Unicode that we’re not really incorporating the designs *themselves* into the standard, just assigning each of them a unique number. But the PDF and papers copies of the standard do include sample images of the character, which could present a copyright problem on the standard documents, even if not causing a problem for *users* of the standard, which is the main issue people in this thread seem to be concerned about so far.

Those designs are copyrighted, and those examples would have be from a copyright holder that gives the permission.

> There is also a slightly more nebulous question around whether an alphabet as a set of sounds to which characters are assigned, divorced from the actual graphic representation of those characters, might be copyrightable. (That is: assume momentarily that e.g. the Greek alphabet is a conscript. Would its owner have a copyright in the collection of the names of the letters and the sounds they represent, distinct from a potential copyright in the designs of each of the characters?) I doubt even in Europe that would be the case, but again — we have to think worldwide here.

In the US, it is a Common Law interpretation, and the judge of the Beastie Boys case made the judgement that the composed snipped was not enough creatively unique to be copyrightable, contrary to the flute performance of the same snippet.

> Unicode would need to take serious legal advice before making a move towards encoding any script of this nature.

Lawyers might help, but in the US, it is decided in court of law.

More information about the Unicode mailing list