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CONLANG  March 2003, Week 3

CONLANG March 2003, Week 3

Subject:

Re: this is what I got in the mail.

From:

Sally Caves <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 16 Mar 2003 17:51:42 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (75 lines)

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Cowan" <[log in to unmask]>


> Sally Caves scripsit:
>
> > But it ISN'T a whole, John.  As such, Teonaht exists only in published
> > on-line documents: a grammar book, a dictionary, a chrestomathy by Sally
> > Caves, and a handful of on-line musical productions, and all have my
> > copyright mark on them.  All the rest is in my head, in a battered
notebook
> > over thirty years old, and what I say to Chris or my cat.  Strictly
> > speaking, and putting aside dream and philosophy, Teonaht  is NOT a real
> > language.  It's an invention.  And so is every documented word of it.
>
> Sure.  But if I or someone else puts together those words in that
documented
> way and produce a unique new Teonaht text, it belongs to me, me, me, and
you
> have no rights at all.  At law.

It would belong to you you you in what legal way, John?  You you you would
have no rights to it, either, under the conditions you just described.  I
could blithely ignore your text in my Teonaht and go on to publish my novels
and short stories about the Teonaht and their language, and their peoples.
You (or whoever) might object, but I would say: look at the CONLANG
archives.  You could no better sue me than I you.  And I've been interviewed
about Teonaht by NPR.  And I consider on-line copyrighted material
"publications."  I'm documented.

SidheMaiden's post with the argument about Tolkien and fair use was very
interesting, and coheres with what little I learned about copyright when I
was writing for Star Trek: TNG twelve years ago.  You can register your
script with the Writer's Guild, but you can't register your idea.  So long
as somebody doesn't use a sentence of yours, they can steal steal steal your
idea, and there's very little you can do about it.  Copyright laws for
screenwriters, at least, cover their sentences, not their ideas.  The same
goes, I suppose for one's language and its structure.  Someone could write
anything they wanted in my Teonaht, but they would have a hard time claiming
that they INVENTED it.  Or that they have a right to it.  George and his
Game raises an interesting question, though, about the extent to which we
own a CONLANG.  People can imitate the style of a Renoir or a Van Gogh, or
even a well-known contemporary artist, but if the picture they paint using
that style is an original composition, I think they can sell it.  It's
forgeries that are forbidden. <G>

It's an interesting question.  To what extent has Giger put a "copyright" on
his STYLE of painting?  I wondered about that; if some science fiction film
producer were to hire someone who was NOT Giger to design a space ship or a
monster--the metallic and the organic meshing, the long-headed aliens, the
sexual/mechanical imagery, the joints that look like backbones, the same
coloring and painterly techniques--could Giger sue?  Perhaps it's a matter
of how well-known you are, and how much opprobrium accrues to the obvious
plagiarist.  As I said, in THIS world I'm well-known.

I thought of doing this, though.  He wants a language for his Dwarves:  why
not sell one to him?  He wants a language with some kind of rudimentary
structure, but mostly with vocabulary for spell casting and onomastics.  I
thought, somewhat frivolously, of designing one for him and selling it to
him at ten dollars a word.  <G>  Or, more reasonably, twenty-five dollars an
hour.  I'm a pretty decent linguist.  I think an earthy, rich-sounding
ergative language would suit the ergonic Dwarves pretty well (if they are
anything like Tolkien's Dwarves).  Why give my labor away free?  Why give
away for free the labor I took in designing Teonaht, virtually a book or a
set of books that have taken me five years to mount on the Internet?  If he
wants a language inventor, he should pay for her.   What is arrogant (more
likely ignorant) about his request is that we're all dying to get our
languages used by some Roll Playing Game Master who thinks our conlang would
fit, say, their Trolls.  Or their Orcs.  Prro:ka!!

Sally Caves
[log in to unmask]
Eskkoat ol ai sendran,