[tlhIngan Hol] Unicode, pIqaD, and Paramount

Mark E. Shoulson mark at kli.org
Tue Oct 12 16:27:58 PDT 2021

(This is probably going to be long, even for me.)

So.  Some weeks back, I submitted a request to Unicode 
(https://www.unicode.org/L2/L2021/21155-klingon-req.pdf) that they 
rescind their decision saying Klingon would *not* be encoded, thus 
getting off the "Not the Roadmap" list 
(https://www.unicode.org/alloc/nonapprovals.html), so it wouldn't be 
singled out as a script not to be encoded.  I did this on the advice of 
one of the Unicode folks some years back 
(https://unicode.org/mail-arch/unicode-ml/y2016-m11/0091.html), who said 
that this would have to be done before anything else. However, Unicode 
declined to do so (recommendation of the Script Ad-Hoc near the bottom 
of https://www.unicode.org/L2/L2021/21174-script-adhoc-rept.pdf.) (In 
response, I kicked off the mailing-list discussion at 
which you may read for your own amusement.)  Basically, they are not 
going to *touch* this until that pesky problem of Paramount IP is 
resolved.  So we're going to have to put some effort into that.

For those new to the story, this is about getting pIqaD encoded in the 
Unicode Standard, the standard used by modern computer platforms to 
exchange characters in all kinds of languages.  The problem is that 
Paramount/CBS is a big scary company with lots and lots of lawyers and a 
huge bankroll, and Unicode is afraid of doing anything that might maybe 
perhaps lead someone there to consider thinking about the tiniest 
possibility of perhaps suing someone (Unicode or a user of the Standard) 
for IP violations, on the grounds that We Own All Things Star-Trek.

I know, I know.  There's no way Paramount could legally sue, you can't 
copyright typefaces and Unicode isn't encoding the typeface anyway; you 
can't copyright a language; "Klingon" is a trademark, but we could call 
them "PIQAD LETTER AY" instead; a million other reasons why this concern 
is invalid.  It *doesn't matter*.  The fact is that Unicode is not going 
to do anything until they're satisfied that Paramount isn't a danger, 
and all the legal and logical arguments in the world aren't going to 
change that.  This seems to be an issue when people first hear about 
this.  Disabuse yourself of the idea that we can somehow do without 
getting Paramount's buy-in.  Whatever clever argument or loophole you 
think you've found, it doesn't matter.  Unicode won't be happy until 
they're happy, and arguing with them will only get you more annoyed.

Now, I *have* in fact attempted to get Paramount to agree to this.  Qov 
and ghunchu'wI' were able to give me emails of some people at Paramount 
from their Discovery work, and I wrote to them.  And they said I should 
write to someone else, who told me to ask someone else... and so on, 
climbing the ladder of authority at Paramount, until I reached someone 
who may actually have been able to do it—and they never wrote back to 
me, despite repeated attempts to engage.  Couldn't get anything.

This could be a very difficult situation.  Paramount has *no* incentive 
whatsoever to do anything of the kind, and the very idea of even hinting 
at abdicating rights over any IP that could maybe under some weird frame 
of mind might possibly be theirs surely goes against every grain they 
have.  Paramount doesn't care about people using or not using pIqaD, it 
has no reason to make it easier.  (You know whose job it is to make sure 
people can communicate in their own orthographies?  Unicode's.  And 
they're not doing it.)  Just the idea of running this past their legal 
department... it's hard to imagine them seriously considering it.

As I see it, the only path forward we have at this point is to try to 
put a little pressure on Paramount.  We can't put much. But I was 
thinking of getting a petition on change.org or something and somehow 
collecting a lot of signatures.  It's going to take more than just one 
or two hundred, I think.  But if somehow we can raise consciousness 
about this, get a strongly-supported petition, maybe they'll listen.

I'm looking for help with this, as I'm really awful at completing things 
on my own.

Now, as I see it, there are three documents that need to be prepared for 

1. The petition cover letter.  This is what people see on change.org, 
what they are signing their names to.  It needs to make our case, but 
hopefully to a potentially friendly audience. If we can convince people 
who start out unfriendly, so much the better.  This document *must* 
contain a FAQ section which repeats, over and over and in small words, 
that we don't need to hear about why this is not necessary, or about 
ways of somehow presenting it in such a way that Unicode won't insist on 
hearing from Paramount.  People can't resist trying to offer such 
solutions.  I won't say that *all* these arguments have been tried 
already, but a lot have, and the bottom line is legal and rational 
arguments won't help.  (See, I already repeated it again for readers 
here just in the description!)

2. The letter to Paramount.  Signers should see this, too (and for that 
matter they should also see the third document); it's relevant to what 
they're asking.  Somehow this needs to make our case to a much less 
friendly audience, presumably talking about the importance of good 
relationships with their fan-base, their reputation, blah blah blah.  In 
some fashion make the point to them.

3. A draft of the statement we want them to sign.  There's no point 
going in with "we need something that sorta says this" and Unicode says 
"not good enough."  We might as well spell out exactly what we're asking 
them to say, and somehow hope they'll say it. 
https://www.unicode.org/L2/L2020/20169-script-adhoc-rept.pdf (near the 
bottom) says that what they want is "clear proof that Paramount would 
not pursue legal action against the Unicode Consortium, or anyone who 
implements the script."  So presumably that's what it would have to 
say.  Considering the time it'll take to collect signatures, I would 
assume I could show the putative statement to the Unicode folks and get 
confirmation that it's at least satisfactory on their side.

I guess email me, or something; we need a smallish mailing list for a 
group of people working on this.  I guess I'll create some Google Docs 
we can share and comment on and polish, etc.

(If this really is impossible, as it may be, I imagine we'd have to 
write a petition to Unicode, and get a lot of people to sign it, and 
also get some press coverage somehow that will generate public support 
for us instead of sneers.  Maybe if we present it as "a community of 
people" and only reveal it's Klingon at the end?  Ooh, that could make a 
nice advertising letter.)

Anyway, that's where we stand.  We have to get some assurance from 
Paramount, somehow.  If you can help, well, help.



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