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In the episode The Offspring Data creates another android named Lal. Starfleet catches wind of this and they dispatch Admiral Haftel to move Lal to a research station.

However, in the earlier episode The Measure of a Man Starfleet's Judge Advocate General ruled that Data had the "freedom to choose" whether or not to under go invasive, exploratory surgery of his brain, while simultaneously ruling that Data was not the property of Starfleet:

"It sits there looking at me, and I don't know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I am neither competent, nor qualified, to answer those. I've got to make a ruling - to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We've all been dancing around the basic issue: does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have! But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose."

Why didn't this earlier ruling apply to Lal? Through Admiral Haftel Starfleet took a much more possessive position on Lal, basically declaring Data unfit to raise her and essentially forcing a writ of ownership on her. Was this simply Admiral Haftel acting outside of his authority or did Starfleet renege on it's earlier position?

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    Because they had to come up with 26 episodes a season. That's why. – John O Jun 9 '13 at 20:44
  • 'cause you'd be repeating an episode? That ruling does specifically apply to Data, not androids in general... – Izkata Jun 9 '13 at 22:16
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    @JohnO: That is nothing like what goes on behind the scenes in a show like ST:TNG and, if anything, it's an unfair slam against some very talented people. – Tango Jun 10 '13 at 0:23
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    Lal's programming wasn't nearly as advanced as Data's. They were not identical, as as Izkata pointed out, the judge's ruling was a specific case, so the mere fact that she was an android was insufficient for the ruling to apply to her. – ApproachingDarknessFish Jun 10 '13 at 7:48
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    "Do not underestimate the sneakiness." - Starfleet. – Omegacron Jan 13 '15 at 21:08
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Even with this full story, we do not know if Data's freedom applies to Lal. While there could be different motives as to why Starfleet wanted Lal, the case they were making was if Data was a fit guardian.

Technically Lal is a child, a minor, and we see enough of the situation to learn that in the 24th century, in the United Federation of Planets, that the government still reserves the right to remove children from those they consider an unfit guardian. Note that the Admiral's objections and the case he's building for taking Lal revolve around guardianship and raising children.

We've found out about Data's rights as an adult, but the process never is allowed to complete, so we don't know what the ruling would have been about Lal's rights as a child, or Data's rights as a parent. It's also quite possible Starfleet could have taken Lal, using their reasoning, and court proceedings might later have forced them to return her to Data.

Either way, a minor's rights would not be the same as an adults. We never get to find out if Lal would have the same rights as other minors in the Federation, or the same rights as an adult, or if Data would be viewed as a parent or merely a mechanic.

  • and we see enough of the situation to learn that in the 24th century, in the United Federation of Planets, that the government still reserves the right to remove children from those they consider an unfit guardian. Is there other evidence to support this, where they took other children away? – Xantec Jun 12 '13 at 11:26
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    None, other than that it was the basis of this argument, indicating there was a precedent. – Tango Jun 12 '13 at 15:45
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The ruling applied not only to Data, but to all sentient artificial life forms who came after him. That was the whole point of the judgement and ruling made by the JAG, Phillipa Louvois, who stated that she was making a ruling that spoke to the future about their rights as sentient beings.

Was Admiral Haftel acting outside of his authority? The answer is yes he most certainly was. Did Starfleet renege on it's earlier position? If they knew what Haftel was up to it's possible they were trying to create some loophole in order to take advantage of the situation, but that would go against everything that Starfleet stood for.

Here's the pertinent sections of script during the trial from 'Measure of a Man' that directly addresses the rights of all who come after Data:

PICARD: And now you propose to dismantle him.

MADDOX: So that I can learn from it and construct more.

PICARD: How many more?

MADDOX: As many as are needed. Hundreds, thousands if necessary. There is no limit.

PICARD: A single Data, and forgive me, Commander, is a curiosity. A wonder, even. But thousands of Datas. Isn't that becoming a race? And won't we be judged by how we treat that race? Now, tell me, Commander, what is Data?

MADDOX: I don't understand.

PICARD: What is he?

MADDOX: A machine!

PICARD: Is he? Are you sure?

MADDOX: Yes!

PICARD: You see, he's met two of your three criteria for sentience, so what if he meets the third. Consciousness in even the smallest degree. What is he then? I don't know. Do you? (to Riker) Do you? (to Phillipa) Do you? Well, that's the question you have to answer. Your Honour, the courtroom is a crucible. In it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product, the truth for all time. Now, sooner or later, this man or others like him will succeed in replicating Commander Data. And the decision you reach here today will determine how we will regard this creation of our genius. It will reveal the kind of a people we are, what he is destined to be. It will reach far beyond this courtroom and this one android. It could significantly redefine the boundaries of personal liberty and freedom, expanding them for some, savagely curtailing them for others. Are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him to servitude and slavery? Your Honour, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits. Waiting. You wanted a chance to make law. Well, here it is. Make a good one.

PHILLIPA: It sits there looking at me, and I don't know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I'm neither competent nor qualified to answer those. I've got to make a ruling, to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We have all been dancing around the basic issue. Does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have. But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose.

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    Phillipa's wording is what makes me question whether it applied to Lal or not: It is the ruling of this court that **Lieutenant Commander Data** has the freedom to choose. – Xantec May 18 '14 at 0:46
  • @Xantec -"And won't we be judged by how we treat that race?" "Now, sooner or later, this man or others like him will succeed in replicating Commander Data. And the decision you reach here today will determine how we will regard this creation of our genius. It will reach far beyond this courtroom and this one android. Are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him to servitude and slavery? PHILLIPA: "I've got to make a ruling, to try to speak to the future." – Morgan May 18 '14 at 1:02
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    Courts are usually extremely careful in how reaching they make decisions. Picard, being effectively a lawyer here, will say whatever it takes to make his case, but only Phillipa's words hold any weight. Read some rulings made by a federal court to see how they carefully they mince words to make their rulings usually only apply to the case at hand so as to not limit themselves in the future (or step on toes). – Xantec May 18 '14 at 1:09
  • @Xantec -My understanding of the Star Trek universe legal system is.. limited.. but I was under the impression that clever word parsing and slippery legal shenanigans were a thing of the past along with wealth and poverty. They even find any 'adversarial' proceedings distasteful and avoid them to a large extent. – Morgan May 18 '14 at 1:56
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    Establishing legal precedent is important, but it's also dangerous. Her ruling explicitly has the primary effect of giving Data the right to choose. It has the secondary effect of establishing precedent. Precedent does not automatically establish the result of future rulings, but it does open the question "If Data has the right, why doesn't this other artificial life form?" Had she not died, I suspect there would have been a similar trial relating to Lal. If it went the same way, it would be a second instance of prescedence, furthering the cause for the third time the question is asked. – T.J.L. Sep 16 '15 at 20:30
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Admiral Haftel made the point that now there were two sentient androids known to Starfleet, having them both on the same actively-serving starship seemed unnecessarily risky.

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I think that they did not treat Lal like Data,because although being sentient herself, it was like she had not the experience nor the information enough to decide for herself (in other words, as if she were a minor). The admiral states that she will be able to decide for herself when she is prepared (something like that). And it is the premise of the episode whether Data is able to give her all the guidance and information enough (in other words, if he is a good father although he had no experience on the matter). The plot is to decide if Data is or is not able to be a father and responsable for another being's actions. Data claimed his right to reproduce and form a kind of his own (a family).

I think this episode serves as a complement of The Measure of a Man, not as a re-hash, whether it is a necessary or unnecessary complement is another question. I myself like the episode very much.

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In-universe, I would say that what was decided for Data went down the memory hole because people who think their wifty goals entitle them to act in a high-handed way are very resistant to being denied. (Real-world examples of this include just about every politician and government official you will ever meet.)

The excuses offered for seizing Lal are transparently flimsy:

  • Data's fitness as a parent is in doubt? He won't forget necessary care and he won't have fits of anger. Lal's stint serving drinks on Ten Forward notwithstanding, Data is still more qualified to be a parent than half the people in some counties I could name. It sounds more like pretending that there are grounds for doubt than there actually being any. And when have we seen anyone else's fitness as a parent called into question?

  • It's too much risk to have both of the Federation's androids on one ship? Uh, there is no more risk than when Data was the only android. Nothing important to the Federation depends on Lal's existence. If she had never been built the Federation would be just as well off.

Seriously, Maddox and Haftel are lucky Lal didn't get the idea that if she's not human, then it's not a crime for her to pop their heads off.

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