- Rep Power
Copyright permission questions
Hi all. I've been reading some blogs lately that have online stores associated with them where you can buy merchandise with the blog title and images on it. I'm hoping to maybe do that with mine someday, and I'm wondering about the copyrights to the word 'Klingon.' Am I already violating copyright with the way I'm using it now? Is the word so common now that I could use it on merchandise if the image was an original work? Whom would you contact to request permission to use a copyrighted thing like that?
Technically you could do it and you probably wouldn't get caught, unless you started to make a massive profit. Klingon is almost surely copyrighted as creative material by Gene Roddenberry. You'd have to contact whoever is running his company/estate for permission. It can be difficult and costly to license copyrighted materials.
Yeah, copyright for fan-related stuff can be tricky. But most of the time the companies don't care since it's free advertising. Well, they'd only care if yes, you were making a massive profit off of it, or if you were cutting into their own profits somehow.
I believe the copyright holder is actually Paramount Pictures.
Some companies are more forgiving of fan use of copyrighted materials than others. The Star Trek copyright holders tend to be fairly forgiving. So long as you aren't producing huge numbers of items and selling them, you should be okay. For example, if you're just producing a few t-shirts to be given away, or sold at cost, to your fans, that in the past has been acceptable.
Likewise, the use of the word "Klingon" in a personal blog title should be fine; but if you established a commercial enterprise (pun intended), it'd be a different story.
If you did want to get official permission from Paramount to use their property for a commercial enterprise, it would likely cost you some money and have to involve lawyers.
I think Klingon is a registered trademark, which is what you're really asking about. Copyright protects the work itself (the movie, photos, text of a book, etc.) It does NOT protect character names or titles. I can go name a book "Dragonflight" if I want, despite there being something like three books in print with the name already. I could NOT call it "The Dragonriders of Pern". That's a registered trademark. I would be willing to bet that Klingon is a registered trademark (just as Luke Skywalker, Wookiee, Millenium Falcon etc are of Lucasfilm.) If you tried to use it on merchandise you would be violating their trademark and they WOULD come down on you if you were making money off it.
However, Paramount themselves have tried to carry that a bit far. They honestly attempted to trademark the name USS Enterprise despite the existence and active service of USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and then they tried to enforce their trademark against the US Navy. Basically they wanted to prohibit the Navy producing and marketing items with "USS Enterprise" on it despite their having an active-duty aircraft carrier with the name PLUS their near-continuous use of the name since 1799 (if you don't count the two ships of the CONTINENTAL Navy, in which case it goes back two more to the armed sloop USS Enterprise in 1775.) It didn't work.
Suffice to say, if they'll try to sue the Navy over a name the Navy's used for two hundred years, I would not take any chances on them ignoring me.