Do you have a license, sir?

"Hi there." I greet the tourists, "Welcome to the Word and Phrases patenting office."

I launched into the usual spiel, going through the tour giude script I'd learnt by heart - improvisation was strictly prohibited, the company didn't want to get sued by an angry wordsmith for accidentally using one of their registered phrases without the proper licensing.

"The Words and Phrases Patent Office, or WAPPO for short, was founded forty years ago with the introduction of the new intellectual property laws that brought about our golden age of creativity."

I walked the group down the hall to where hordes of writers were queuing up to register their latest prose.

"This is the registration area where our clerks work tirelessly to check phrases for similarity, originality and, if they meet the criteria, allow them to be registered for a small fee. If you want to learn more about the registration process, it is all outlined in this leaflet for the small cost of £1000. This is entirely non-profit and all proceeds go to cover licensing costs so please also consider making a donation at the end of the tour."

Someone spoke up with a question as I was about to move on to the next area. I cringed. Damn tourists.

"Excuse me, but don't you think the whole word-patenting thing is kind of ridiculous? All we've done is make creativity incredibly expensive and impossible to do unless you can afford a gaggle of lawyers and huge license fees."

Oh crap, one of those people.

"Excuse me (phrase used courtesy of Politeness, Inc), sir but would you come this way please?" I said, motioning that my backup guide should take over. "Sir, I understand your complaints, but do you have a license for it?"

"What?"

"Do you have a license for that complaint?"

"What, no, of course not! You can't fine me for complaining!"

"You've done it again sir. That's two offences. Security!"

"This is insane!"

"Three now sir." I said, shaking my head as security grabbed and gagged him. "FreeSpeech Corporation bought and registered nearly all possible for complaints for a substantial sum last year, without a license you've commited a class A literary offence. Security, take this man to a secure area and call the police."

I watched the security guard take him away and took over my group again.

"Terribly sorry about that everyone, shall we continue?"

"Eh-hem. I'm a representative of Apologies Corp," A man at the back piped up, pushing his way to the front "before we continue do you have a license?"

Crap.

It truly was a golden age.

The End

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