Tengwar on a general purpose translation site

Doug Ewell doug at ewellic.org
Thu Mar 10 12:49:17 CST 2022

James Tauber wrote:

> The intellectual property rights (to the extent they may be
> enforceable or at least claimed) would be in the glyph and in the
> name, right?

Maybe, or maybe not. Only an attorney, or perhaps only a court ruling, can answer that question.

> But the Tengwar has a canonical enumeration. So TENGWAR LETTER 1 is
> meaningful in the context of LOTR Appendix E without reference to the
> glyph or name 'tinco' so it's not quite the same as just saying

The first Unicode proposals for emoji (cf. normal symbols) included a mechanism to do something like this:

“Special, rarely used, carrier-specific symbols are proposed for encoding in the Emoji compatibility symbols block. They are needed to complete the set for interoperability but are only identified by their source mappings (N3585), not specific glyphs and names.” (L2/09-025R2)

These included symbols of national interest such as MOUNT FUJI, TOKYO TOWER, and STATUE OF LIBERTY, as well as ten selected national flags. They were given cryptic names like EMOJI COMPATIBILITY SYMBOL-1 and intentionally opaque “dotted-box” reference glyphs. There were originally 66 of these; the number varied in later proposals.

This approach was rightly rejected as pseudo-encoding. Various solutions were devised instead: some of the symbols were encoded under their original names, and the Regional Indicator Symbols were created to allow all national flags (not just the ten) to be represented.

Encoding Tengwar as “letter 1,” “letter 2,” and so forth, implicitly directing users to LOTR Appendix E to find the true identity of the characters, won't fool anyone, least of all an attorney for an estate that “doesn't want tengwar in Unicode” and is prepared to fight over it.

Doug Ewell, CC, ALB | Lakewood, CO, US | ewellic.org

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