Games Workshop hit a new corporate low when it leveled its sights on author M.C.A. Hogarth. Rumored to favor bully tactics, the gaming company chose to enter the e-book arena in order to expand its profits, deciding that none of us could use the term “Space Marines” anymore. Their claim, based upon a trademark for their Warhammer 40000 line of figurine strategy games, is that Ms. Hogarth violated said trademark when she used the generic term in both title and prose of her book Spots the Space Marine. The author and full time mother found her book removed from Amazon in response to the complaint lodged by Games Workshop before any chance to defend herself arose. Against a large corporate force, she’s finds herself unable to mount a legal defense of equivalent scale, leaving her just a mouse toyed with by a feline bully.
So why should you care?
Let me tell you why I care, or should I say CARE. I’m not an attorney, and I am not closely versed enough to speak absolutely on trademark law. What I am is a writer. I work each and every day to earn an escape from the quaint little TV tray in the corner set up at family gatherings for the bandy-legged third cousin that stutters. I work and work, like most authors, to join the big table with the rest of the writers who fill our lives with wondrous adventure. It terrifies me to think I might be offered a seat, but find what I can write censored.
The word censored probably summons images of Pisa style towers of books, burning beneath militant flags and assembled troops – okay, yeah that gives me shivers too. But it isn’t generally the big assaults of this kind, but the quiet insidious nibbles that sneak up and prove the direst threats. Games Workshop believes it can lay claim to the generic term “space marines” – a term they might not have ever used had it not been for Robert Hienlin’s 1959 Starship Troopers or Bob Olsen’s short story “Captain Brink of the Space Marines” published in Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932 or who knows how many others from the 20th century – as part of their move into the book market.
What if Wizard of the Coast, already a gaming power with its own publishing house, decided the trademark on Dungeons and Dragons should forbid both to readers and authors from now on? What if Disney decided no science fiction story could ever again contain a Black Hole? Would writers soon find their imaginations boxed in by a Mongolian horde of companies laying siege to generic terms used for decades before their incorporation until writers feared to even pen, “See Dick draw his blaster pistol. See Jane raise her sword.”
What would be left to Science Fiction and Fantasy then for you as a reader, let alone a writer?
One of the things that keeps me warm on rainy days at my keyboard and occasionally offers fuel for a quiet giggle – not the monomaniacal giggle, I only use that one on special occasions – is how much a family I’ve found within the writing community. Sure some of the family are a bit tilted one way or another – please no one mention egos – but they support one another. They lend us their talents, filling our days with entertainment – written, I’m not mentioning convention antics. They give aspiring writers a hand up. They share their knowledge. They stick together. It’s the perfect (Addams?) family.
Whether you are part of the big table, aspiring to leave the TV tray behind, or one of the many readers, you ARE family. Most of us might feel more like ants in this huge game of legal cat and mouse, but enough ants can bring down a really bad day on Mr. Pussycat. I urge you to reach out and support M.C.A. Hogarth in any way you can. I’ve contacted her via her website, asking for a donation point which we might use to help bolster her fight. When I hear back, I’ll post a link here. Until then, go over to her website. Lend her morale support. Remind her that readers and writers are family, that we stick together, and when danger comes we will MUSTER UP to defend one another.
While you’re at it, Spacebar Marines, get to your keyboards (sure, you can use phones too) and go remind Games Workshop who pays their bills.
#spacemarine #spacemarines #MCAHogarth #Writers #Readers
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