The Copyrightability of Constructed Languages

When: December 16, 2016 at 12:00pm - 2:00pm EST - This event has passed

Communicating through language is a part of our daily lives, and most of us use and work with languages that have been around for centuries. But what if the language you wanted to use was relatively new and had a known inventor? Could that inventor use copyright law to prevent you from using that language at all?

Courts are currently considering just that issue as it applies to computer-language APIs in the Oracle v. Google case, and to the fictional but fully functional language Klingon, made popular by the Star Trek franchise, in Paramount v. Axanar. Join us for an informative and entertaining discussion about the creative process of inventing a constructed language, as well as whether – and to what extent – copyright law can or should apply to constructed languages.

The Copyright Society of the USA is a New York State and Pennsylvania State CLE Approved Provider. 
This course will provide 1 CLE credit.


Jeanne Fromer

Professor Jeanne Fromer is a Professor of Law at New York Universtity School of Law. She specializes in intellectual property and information law, with particular emphasis on unified theories of copyright and patent law.  She is a faculty co-director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy.  In 2011, Fromer was awarded the American Law Institute’s inaugural Young Scholars Medal for her scholarship in intellectual property.  Before coming to NYU, Fromer served as a law clerk to Justice David H. Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court and to Judge Robert D. Sack of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  She also worked at Hale and Dorr (now WilmerHale) in the area of intellectual property.  Fromer received her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, serving as articles and commentaries editor of the Harvard Law Review and as editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology.  Fromer earned her B.A. summa cum laude in computer science from Barnard College, Columbia University.  She received her S.M. in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for research work in artificial intelligence and computational linguistics and worked at AT&T (Bell) Laboratories in those same areas.


Nathan Sanders is a visiting assistant professor of linguistics at Haverford College, a private liberal arts college in the Philadelphia suburbs. He studied mathematics at MIT and earned his doctorate in linguistics in 2003 from the University of California at Santa Cruz. His primary research focus is on the physics of language, both spoken and signed, looking at how the physical reality of the human body determines what kinds of linguistic patterns are possible and probable. He is also interested in the use of constructed languages as a pedagogical tool for enhancing linguistics education.





Marc Okrand devised the Klingon language heard in Star Trek movies and television series beginning with Star Trek III: The Search For Spock in 1984 as well as Vulcan and Romulan dialogue heard in various Star Trek films and TV series. He also created the Atlantean language for the animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire. He is the author of The Klingon Dictionary and other books about the language and did the translation for the Klingon opera ’u’ that premiered in The Netherlands in 2010. He has conducted linguistic research as a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and is an associate producer of the forthcoming documentary Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues



Joshua Simmons

Joshua Simmons (moderator) is a partner in the New York Offices of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. His practice includes litigation, counseling, and regulatory and legislative policy. Mr. Simmons routinely represents clients in appellate and trial courts around the country-particularly in complex cases and those of first impression. These high-profile matters involve a range of industries, including computer software and services, consumer and leisure products, financial services, health care and pharmaceuticals, media and entertainment-such as electronic games, film, news, publishing, television and theatre-and telecommunications. They have been featured in the mainstream media, legal periodicals, and trade press. In addition to maintaining a full-time litigation practice, Mr. Simmons is a frequent speaker-including guest lectures at Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, and Northwestern University-and has authored numerous articles on emerging trends in intellectual property. He is an active member of the American Bar Association Intellectual Property Law Section, chairing its Copyright Division and Copyright Law Reform Task Force, as well as being the immediate past chair of the Copyright & Social Media committee. Each year from 2014 to 2016, Super Lawyers named Mr. Simmons a “Rising Star” for his intellectual property litigation practice.  In addition, he was part of the Kirkland team that was honored by Managing Intellectual Property magazine for its work on “Milestone Case of the Year” Oracle America v. Google. 


Members: Early-bird $70, after deadline $80

Non-Members: Early-bird $85, after deadline $95

Student Members: Early-bird $55, after deadline $65  |  Use promo code NYstudent2016 when registering. Must be a current full-time student member of the Society and able to present a valid student ID at check-in. 


Early-Bird: December 2, Midnight EDT
Final Registration Deadline: December 14, Midnight EDT


Refunds must be requested in writing at least three business days before the event. Refunds will not be issued after that point. Unfortunately, we will not be able to credit your registration payment toward a future event, but you may allow another person attend in your place. If possible, let us know that person’s name, affiliation and the city and state in which s/he works or lives so that we can make her/his name badge.

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CLE Credit Details

The Copyright Society of the USA is a New York State and Pennsylvania State CLE Approved Provider. This course will provide 1 CLE credit.

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