I know Star Trek is set in a post-scarcity economy based partly on replicator technology, which makes the expensive items of today (e.g., fashionable clothes, fast cars, beautiful furniture) accessible to anyone who wants them.

But reputation is often built on being able to claim authorship whether of a book, song, or invention or other creation. (Note I am not talking about royalties or licensing fees, but reputation.) People who despise material goods will still value reputation.

Is there any mention or even indication of how the Federation protects or attributes intellectual property, not necessarily as a source of income, but of reputation?

This question is related to, but not a duplicate of, In Star Trek (TNG), does "original art" even mean anything?. This question asks about the benefits, even if intangible, that accrue to the creator of something popular or useful; the earlier question refers to art exclusively, and is framed from the point of view of the possessor of an art object.

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    I'm guessing since they don't have money, there's no source of income to protect? Just an off-the-cuff thought.
    – user87732
    Aug 22, 2017 at 19:47
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    Reputation/glory would be worth plenty. Value isn't just money.
    – ench
    Aug 22, 2017 at 19:48
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    There's a Voyager episode Author, Author wherein " The Doctor is more than just a hologram and declares that the legal definition of "artist" can be extended to include him. As a result, The Doctor has full rights concerning the distribution of his holonovel and orders that all copies of Photons Be Free be recalled immediately,..." Exactly what those rights are isn't clear, but appears to extend to distribution.
    – user22484
    Aug 22, 2017 at 20:04
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    @user22484 A little fleshing out of this comment would be nice, but I'd upvote it as an answer even as is.
    – user48960
    Aug 22, 2017 at 20:09
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    @user22484: How much were you paid for writing that comment? Aug 24, 2017 at 5:36

3 Answers 3


As User22484 notes in his comment, the issue of authorial rights is dealt with in the Voyager episode Author, Author.

In short;

  • Authors have a right to determine how truly original works of art or authorship are attributed, distributed and treated.

  • They specifically have the right not to have their works altered without their explicit permission.

  • Failure to comply can result in recall, even if it results in a loss of reputation or financial harm (outside the Federation) to the organisation doing the distributing.

TUVOK: Your honour, Section seven gamma of the Twelfth Guarantee defines an artist as a person who creates an original artistic work. Mister Broht admits that the Doctor created this programme and that it is original. I therefore submit that the Doctor should be entitled to all rights and privileges accorded an artist under the law.


ARBITRATOR: We're exploring new territory today, so it is fitting that this hearing is being held at Pathfinder. The Doctor exhibits many of the traits we associate with a person. Intelligence, creativity, ambition, even fallibility. But are these traits real, or is the Doctor merely programmed to simulate them? To be honest, I don't know. Eventually we will have to decide, because the issue of holographic rights isn't going to go away. But at this time, I am not prepared to rule that the Doctor is a person under the law. However, it is obvious he is no ordinary hologram and while I can't say with certainty that he is a person, I am willing to extend the legal definition of artist to include the Doctor. I therefore rule that he has the right to control his work. I'm ordering all copies of his holo-novels to be recalled immediately.

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    It should be noted that the kind of protection that episode contemplates more closely resembles moral rights than traditional copyright, though it does have elements of both. Moral rights are intellectual property, of course, but they are usually classified as sui generis, or exceptional. I imagine that copyright as we know it does not exist in Star Trek because there is no need for economic incentives to creativity.
    – Kevin
    Aug 23, 2017 at 7:03

Jake Sisko was a writer. In DS9's "The Visitor" there's a person named Melanie who specifically seeks him out, many years after he had finished writing. She tries to find him because of the writing he had done. Most of that episode isn't really in the "main timeline", but I think it counts as evidence that there's some level of recognition and protection of authorship in the Star Trek world, as she clearly knew who she was looking for.

Also, in "You Are Cordially Invited," we have this exchange:

Jake Sisko: I sold my first book today.

Quark: Really? How much did you get for it?

Jake Sisko: It's just a figure of speech. The Federation News Service is going to publish a book of my stories about life on the station under Dominion rule.

So, selling a book is just an expression. But it seems to me that as he was working toward a career as a writer, and he's pretty excited about his first "sale", he would have been gaining some sort of "reputation" from it if selling one book would help him along that career path.

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    +1 I had forgotten about Jake Sisko. DS9 definitely counts.
    – user48960
    Aug 23, 2017 at 1:38
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    @ab2, it's outside the main timeline because of the events of that particular episode, not simply because it's DS9.
    – Joe
    Aug 23, 2017 at 1:55
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    It makes sense that "selling" a book or story means having it distributed by a reputable publisher. Very Star Trek. Very utopian.
    – Valorum
    Aug 23, 2017 at 7:07

While not so much about authorship, the prime directive and derivative rules tend to "play out" a lot like copyright and IP.

In TNG: "The Pegasus" we learn that the Federation can create cloaking tech. We learn in DS9 that they do use it but with a kind of license from the Romulans (I know it's a treaty but so is a lot of copyright law). That seems a lot like the general "lay mans" EULA style stuff.

In many Episodes, specially in TNG and Voyager, we see that the Federation is not willing to share tech or goods that come from that tech. (More closely related to the prime directive).

While that's not exactly tied to authorship like the other answers, it shows the concept of "We have knowledge you can't have, for no other reason then out laws say so." (Not trying to argue the merits of the prime directive.) Which is essentially the Basis of IP and part of the basis of Copyright.

There are also some examples in TNG (can't remember the episode names) of Federation tech being "licenced" out to other external parties.

And in Insurrection, we see two interesting examples. The Federation (perhaps unknowingly) licenced tech from the ?Sona? that they themselves could not or would not create because of questionable interactions. And we see a piece of knowledge (Data's "remote control off switch") being with-held. Not really the same as IP, but shows that all knowledge isn't shared freely throughout the entire federation.

While these examples don't touch on Authorship they do paint a picture of some of the same things that Copyright and especially IP do for us in the real world.

  • 1
    Technology licenses seem more in the realm of treaty obligations than intellectual property rights.
    – Valorum
    Aug 23, 2017 at 11:58
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    With reference to Data's off-switch, a patient's medical history is, presumably, still kept secret unless there's an overriding need to share it.
    – Valorum
    Aug 23, 2017 at 11:59
  • If you figure out how a key technology of an enemy, copyright is not your main concern.
    – Christian
    Aug 23, 2017 at 14:40
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    Again it's not a 1 to 1 with copyright law, but it is a concept of keeping knowledge and information restricted. Keep in mind that federation is just a treaty. Copyright and IP are just laws. The reason behind them doesn't matter much. and Not sharing tech was never about enemies it was about non-interference.
    – coteyr
    Aug 23, 2017 at 15:05

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