This one time at Writer's Camp…
Tag Archives: GW
An update, of sorts.
Amazon has gone ahead and put M.C.A. Hogarth’s Spots the Space Marine back up in their ebook section. Judging from what I’ve heard, this is a pretty good book that others should pick up to help support the author. Plus, she donates a percentage of book sales to the Wounded Warrior project, which is pretty cool in itself. I’m broke, which is why I haven’t bought a copy yet. However, as soon as I have funds, I’ll be buying it and eventually reviewing it over at SBR.
However, I have not been able to confirm that Games Workshop has (or will) back down from their trademark claim. Spurious it may be (and it is, it really is), somebody in their legal department believed that it was a viable claim, meaning that unless an some sort of injunction or ruling spelling out the exact terminology of what a “trademark” may cover for GW, I doubt that they’re backing off. What’s probably going to happen is they’ll wait a few months, until the internet forgets, then hit someone else over another term.
One potential course of action that Hogarth could take would be to claim protection under the First Amendment, since Amazon is a US company and she is in the US. The trademark fair use law (under US copyright law) actually allows for this, despite what GW claims. While not as easy to work within like the copyright fair use law is, it still allows some wiggle room, since she is not using the Space Marine as GW uses it. Otherwise Lucas (and now Disney) would have shut down Darths & Droids years ago. GW may think they’re the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but they’re nothing but an ant if the mouse stepped into the fight. And if the mouse is leaving Darths & Droids alone, well…
That’s one thing authors need to remember. Despite what fancy legal departments wish for you to think (on behalf of their clients, of course. No self-respecting law firm wants to screw over anybody… wow, I typed that with a straight face even), you have just as many rights (if not more) as corporations.
Somebody asked me via email if I was worried about burning my bridge with Black Library. A little bit, sure. Everybody is worried about burning bridges in their lives. But I can’t stand by and watch while an author gets trampled into the ground by an overbearing company armed with lawyers. If that means I cannot write for the Black Library, then so be it.
I’ll just work harder to get published by Baen. Toni knows how to treat her authors.
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.