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A response to Faleena Hopkins: “An Open Letter to My Past Self.” #cockygate

The internet has been a buzz with the prospect of finally getting a “true” response from Faleena Hopkins regarding her side of this story. The problem is, the response she gave was an open letter to her past self regarding her mistakes, but she still continues to paint herself as the victim in the narrative.

Before we move forward, I want to remind everyone of a few things:

  • Faleena Hopkins filed 3 trademarks applications. 2 were for the word “cocky” (plain script as well as stylized). 1 was for the phrase “Cocker Brothers”
  • Upon receipt of said trademarks, Faleena begins to send other authors using the word “cocky” in their book titles cease and desist letters that she penned herself.
  • The internet raises hell over her trademarking “cocky”, forgetting about the fact that she has also trademarked “Cocker Brothers.” She has now prevented all authors from creating characters using the last name “Cocker.” The focus is solely on fighting for “cocky.”
  • One of the trademarks Faleena filed for “cocky” used a stylized font that she had no right to. Set Sail Studios in the UK created and owns the font. United States based authors and supports start working on how to help him
  • There is a lot of back and forth about copyright vs. trademark and a lot of authors weighing in on the situation are confusing one for the other.
  • Author Kevin Kneupper, as well as a couple of other authors received a court summons in regards to fighting Faleena’s trademark. Mr. Kneupper also receives a restraining order regarding his fight.
  • Preliminary hearing is set for June 1st.

Alright, so let’s begin.

Right out of the gate, Faleena has painted this picture of her assuming a Cease and Desist “letter” that she sent to other authors without any kind of validation was meant to be kept private. That there was some violation because she sent “letters” without an attorney to approve them in anyway.

If you are unfamiliar with how a cease and desist works-

According to investopedial.com

“[A cease and desist] letter must comply with laws in the jurisdiction where it is sent. After notification is give, a hearing is usually called to determine whether any wrongdoing has occurred or if the action may continue.

[…] A cease and desist letter is not legally binding. It is an opinion of one individual, typically an attorney. In addition, the ABMA Model Rules of Professional Conduct dictates that a lawyer ‘shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present a criminal charge solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.’ Such a legal threat has no legal significance other than being a negotiation tactic.”

By threatening legal recourse, Faleena has created a situation for not only herself, but for the attorney representing her. But there is a flaw in that statement isn’t there? She openly admits to not having the money for an attorney to represent her during this grand adventure she’s on. Since there was no filing through the courts to notate these cease and desist “letters” it is very hard for them to hold sway, and most likely prevents them from being legally binding. And please understand, I’m using quotation makes for “letters” because they were short private messages to authors on Twitter and Facebook as opposed to printed, signed, and notarized documents delivered to each person dealing directly with this dumpster fire.

Cease and Desist email author Jamila Jasper  received from Faleena Hopkins threatening legal action.

I would like to know if she looked up New York State Laws regarding Cease and Desist before she submitted them? Did she actually speak to her attorney? This whole situation seems to be created by a woman with half the information she needed to navigate the world of trademark and copyright and assumed she knew everything because she’s never been told she’s wrong.

Seemingly admitting mistakes, she turned back towards her “attackers” by saying they ruined her name, and even a reader that she allegedly helped is throwing it back at her. She is a grown woman that created one of the most important fights in self-publishing history, and yet she cannot seem take the blame.

Cockygate: Faleena Hopkins Has Registered a Trademark on Cocky, and is Using it to Threaten Other Romance Authors DeBunking Lawsuit Self-Pub

She calls people fighting her bullies, and accuses them of being cruel. She’s not totally wrong in that sentiment. There are many being cruel, giving her books undeserved one star reviews, and harassing her. But she forgets that she and her readers have done just that. A lot of people in this industry like to make situations like these into eye for an eye revenge.

Faleena proceeds to call herself a bitch. That her actions with the Cease and Desists make her sound horrible. Honestly, to me, they sound like a woman who thinks she knows what she’s talking about. She tries to remain as professional as she thinks she needs to be. She doesn’t call anyone names, she just tries to state what she thinks the facts are.

But then she uses the old saying “You can’t argue with an alcoholic while they’re drunk.” She compares those standing up for their rights to addicts just in it for blood. People were willing to listen to her before she made her 90 minute video on Facebook. People were willing to listen before she posted baiting things on Twitter. Yes, there were a bunch of people that got her Instagram shut down, and the negative feedback caused her to delete her author page from Facebook. But the majority of level headed people were willing to listen from the get go. Hell, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for a brief minute.

A tweet from Faleena Hopkins that reads "It's a brand. And everyone who wants to can keep their books, rankings, reviews and their money by retitling which takes one day.

She claimed to approach 3 other authors in a more friendly, face to face manner, but accused them of ignoring her, or being unkind. Yet, she offered no proof of this. A big part of the issue is that she says things to victimize herself, but does not provide any evidence to help her case. She even went on to criticize one of the authors, claiming that the author in question faked her reaction when she tweeted about the situation. One can only assume she is talking about author Jamilia Jasper, but I could be wrong.

Faleena mentioned that news outlets are talking about cockygate, yet the only outlet she points out is the NY Daily News, which seems to be the only news outlet that wrote an incredibly one-sided piece making the authors defending their rights out to be simply jealous of Faleena’s success.

She continues to view herself as the one being bullied. While I cannot say that she is totally wrong, she is not totally right either. Her behavior has proven otherwise. She seems incredibly misguided about her place in the writing world. Now, don’t mistake me, I think that there are self-published authors that have the potential for great things. I think Faleena could have, too, before she hit the self destruct button.

She seemed surprised that when she called Carol Ritter and left a message, she was not greeted with warmth and understanding. After showing a lack of it herself, and the countless threats of legal recourse, for someone to contact Faleena directly would be legal suicide. And quite frankly, Faleena shouldn’t have contacted her directly either. I understand that she was trying to reach out and just be a human being, but it’s too late for that. All of her legal threats have stopped the clock on that one. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Basically, I could go on and on, pointing out inaccuracies, or mistakes that she thinks she’s right in. I could continue to talk about the fact that she has completely missed the point of what the author standing up to her are trying to do. I could also keep talking about the fact that not only is she playing victim, she’s victim blaming everyone else “You made me do this.”

The last thing I want to touch on is why you shouldn’t trademark your books unless you are truly creating a brand. And while you might assume that you have a brand, unless everything you write operates under a specific umbrella (i.e. Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero) you probably shouldn’t be trademarking anything.

If  you intend on remaining within the realm of novels (audio, digital, and paperback), then you do not need a trademark. Filing a copyright for your series protects your books, your characters, and all of your intellectual property regarding it. Now, if you were to take that series and turn it into a franchise that includes movies, and other merchandise that goes along with it, then you would file a trademark. Warner Brothers Entertainment owns the Harry Potter franchise which includes movies, audio soundtracks, merchandise and memorabilia. Harry Potter is one of their brands. J.K. Rowling owns copyright to the Harry Potter series of books because she wrote them. She extended the copyright to Warner Brothers when they decided to make the movies and turned a book series into a brand.

A further example would be if I were to trademark Night Touched. Right now, I own the copyright, but if I were to turn the Night Touched into a franchise, I would need to file a trademark because Night Touched has become a brand. I would be operating solely in the Night Touched universe, therefore it would extend beyond the main series.

Cocky and Cocker Brothers are not Faleena’s brand. Her brand would be “Cocky Brothers”, because it seems like that is the universe she operates in. Her main series, subsequent series, and other branding seems to point in that direction. It’s clear, concise branding.

In any case, I hope this makes sense. I hope I provided some decent information. Thanks for reading!

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Excuses, Whiskey, and Pending Cancellation Review: An Update on #cockygate

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of #cockygate. Even people outside the writing community are hearing about it thanks to coverage from the New York Daily News (even though it was biased, rude, and full on inaccuracies), Slate, Vox, and so many other outlets.

In case you did actually miss it, here is the basic summary: Self-published author, Faleena Hopkins, under her production company Hop Hop Productions filed 3 separate trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. 2 of those trademarked the word “cocky”, and the third trademarking “Cocker Brothers.” Many have theorized that this is in anticipation of an upcoming film that Ms. Hopkins is directing. What started as a slow build of tension and anger due to Ms. Hopkins deciding to contact other self-published authors using the word “cocky” in their book title saying they no longer had right to use the word. She even went as far as to contact Amazon, which resulted in tons of books and reviews using the word “cocky” in their title or review. The shit hit the fan after a 90 minute Facebook Live session Ms. Hopkins decided was a good idea chastising everyone that voiced their opposition to her actions. She claims that she had been drinking whiskey prior to the stream, which many people theorized was the case based on her circular speech and lack of reasoning.

For a more in depth review of the whole situation, I recommend checking out those articles and watching some of the Youtube responses from fellow authors, even a few that knew her and considered her a colleague before this whole situation. I don’t want to take up too much time rehashing all of it.

Thanks to amazing coverage from Euna Park on Twitter, there are now screen caps and updates to the situation, although I’m only going to share the one that I feel is the most prevalent to the situation:

Screen capture from @eunapark on Twitter

While Ms. Hopkins has deleted her author Facebook page, as well as her Instagram, and stated that she is getting off of social media to work on her latest book (which will hastily be released in a month), it’s fairly obvious that she is waiting and hoping for the whole situation to blow over. Of course, that’s pure speculation, but given the current situation and her propensity to pass the blame on to others and view herself as the innocent victim of the situation, it’s most likely not too far off from the truth.

I have to say that while this situation has been the most ridiculous and troubling that the self-publishing world has seen in quite some time, I am happy to see that this has not fallen to the wayside. Like so many horrible situations before, this is getting the focus it deserves.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add to the situation? Leave a comment below!

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