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This one time at Writer's Camp…

At A Severe Cost

intellectual property

noun: Law. property that results from original creative thought, as patents, copyright material, and trademarks.

For those of you who haven’t heard, M.C.A. Hogarth has run afoul of the behemoth gaming giant Games Workshop over her use of the term “Space Marine” for her novel, Spots the Space Marine. Games Workshop has demanded that Amazon pull down the ebook copy of Hogarth’s book due to their claim of intellectual property rights violation. Amazon, following their odd pattern of listening to big publishers while simultaneously claiming to help the little guys (which confuses me to no end), left the print version of the book up while removing the ebook from sales. Hogarth, who cannot afford the the cost of a lawyer, has taken to the internet for help.

I hope the internet responds. Here’s my effort to help, and I encourage others to do the same.

Games Workshop is wrong here, people, plain and simple. They are claiming that because they used the term “Space Marine” in an ebook last year, they can claim intellectual property ownership over the term “Space Marine” for all books. Their high-priced lawyers say they are correct. Their high-priced lawyers obviously haven’t read any E.E. “Doc” Smith or Robert A. Heinlein. You know, guys who were writing and publishing books in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s talking about Space Marines?

A tiny bit of research shows that Ace Books has been offering the Kindle version of Starship Troopers for a few years now. Obviously, the Heinlein estate would have a better claim to the IP rights of “Space Marine”, no? Or, for that matter, wouldn’t John Ringo and Travis. S. Taylor be able to have litigation for Games Workshop pilfering their term of “Space Marine” from their ebook of Vorpal Blade, which actually coins the Space Marine anthem in 2007? Because Baen Books offered eARCs (electronic Advance Reader Copies) to their readers, that would mean that Games Workshop is behind in the times and owes Baen Books a ton of money, right?

That slippery slope of IP law is a dangerous one when one doesn’t do their homework…

Look, I’m a fan of Games Workshop. I play multiple armies of their tabletop strategy games (Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000) and have generally been supportive of their product. Hey, I even plotted out a trilogy a few months back because I really wanted to write about Bretonians for their publishing arm. I was at the opening of the local GW store back in December! But now… now I’m not so sure I want to be as supportive of them any longer.

I know I’m not going to be buying their product until they stop harassing Hogarth, that’s for certain. I’m going to be encouraging friends to buy stuff from Privateer Press instead (who, coincidentally, have some gorgeous gaming models of their own). I’m also going to stop buying the Horus Heresy books (which sucks, because I love those books) and encourage people to pick up a copy of Hogarth’s Spots the Space Marine.

We teach our kids to not be a bully. I think it’s time we also remind companies that bullying comes at a severe cost.

*If you would like to read Hogarth’s POV on this, please go here. Hopefully it hasn’t crashed yet.

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One response to “At A Severe Cost

  1. Barb Caffrey February 8, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Excellent take, Jason. Between you and Kate Paulk, you’ve said everything I had wanted to say . . . all I know is, Games Workshop is clearly in the wrong and Ms. Hogarth is clearly in the right. I have seen that the Popehat Signal has put out a call for a _pro bono_ lawyer to help Ms. Hogarth, which may do some good — and all of the fans and writers and editors blogging about this and Twittering and going to FB and posting (I at least did *that* much) have got to help, too.

    Look. I have thought long and hard about trademarking. I’ve figured out what probably can be trademarked and what can’t. (Calling someone an “elfy” can’t. Term has been in existence for fifty years, if not more.)

    GW thinking under any circumstances that they could trademark such a generic term as “space marine” goes well beyond asinine, in my opinion. Just do not get it at all.

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