Hurray for the little guys!

First off there’s the background, located on John Scalzi’s blog referring to a bit of drama between a woman who wrote a space opera story and a miniature’s game company detailed here.

Well, the news progresses toward better with a later entry that the EFF was getting involved.

And according to this (and a quick search of the kindle store confirmed it) the title is back up!

It’s very relieving to see that.

It’s kind of sick, and a sign of something deeply wrong with the world that Games Workshop would feel inclined to try to bully an author out of her book over a term they do not own the trademark to (they do own it for games in the US, but her book is not a game.  Even if she were selling a Warhammer40k rip off book — which she isn’t — that would be a copyright issue, not a trademark issue barring her using the Warhammer40k logo and other such things).  The closest thing to a violation she could be guilty of is IF, and as far as I understand it she does not, she were to sell a print copy of the book in the UK.

Trademark is not like copyright.  It’s not international.  People just think it is.  There’s a reason anyone can sell champaign in the US, but only vineyards in Champaign can do so in the EU.  Cheddar?  Same.  The whole thing over the iPhone in Brazil (or was it Columbia?  Some fairly large S. American country, anyhow)?  It’s all because a trademark is held in the country it was granted in and nowhere else (or in the case of the EU by the trade organisation granting it).

Trademark also only applies to that which it was granted for.  If the South American iPhone had been a children’s toy with no electronic components there may not have been a trademark suit (or there might have but it could easily have been thrown out, or have been ruled in Apple’s favour).  If I trademark a pizza and call it the Lazy Susan, the makers of the Lazy Susan couldn’t say anything — their trademark is on an inanimate object, mine would be on a food product.

Sadly, this doesn’t stop companies.  McDonald’s restaurants  so harassed the clan MacDonald that they actually changed their name to Clan Donald to shut them up!   McDonald’s couldn’t do much, they held a trademark on foods and a restaurant chain, though that did cause problems for various clan members trying to start businesses who’d simply like to use their own bloody name, to the point that the clan has this.  Or a famous golf course in Florida, whose name escapes me and far too many exist to narrow it down, but it’s named for the city it’s in/near — so too were several small mom & pop businesses.  The golf course sued, and won to make them change the name!

No, the little guys don’t always win in these situations, no matter how utterly wrong, or perfectly idiotic the claim.  Sometimes, like with the MacDonalds, they win the legal argument, but then here comes another and another and another until they get too sick of it to argue any more.

Still, we should always fight — and from what I can see the SF community did just that and in spades.  It gets things done, certainly.  I hope that the reinstatement of Ms Hogarth’s book means that her fight with Games Workshop is over.  If it’s not I hope to see the SF community continuing to help her stand up to them.  Maybe by this example other such nonsense will be given pause by companies not willing to face the hellish PR battle that is making arses of themselves in these days of the internet, or by setting up the proper legal precedent that such things will fail, and so forth.

If you’re curious about her books, they can be found here.  She’s also on Smashwords, iBookstore, and Amazon, but I’ve a low opinion of the former, no idea how to do a link to author for iBooks (only link to ISBN), and the latter are the same people who took the book down in the first place (oh!  In case you missed that part reading the other posts and articles out there:  Games Workshop only had the Kindle edition of the book’s sales dropped — the print on Amazon was left be, as well as the eBook in all other distribution channels!).

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