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Copyright vs. Trademark- Why this sh** matters

The internet and beyond is still in a flurry over #cockygate and the chaos that has come from it. Authors are scrambling to protect themselves in case their series titles get stolen out from under them. Faleena Hopkins has argued that she is doing this to pave the way for new authors to stand up for their work.

Image may contain: text– From a Facebook post by Faleena Hopkins to her fan group “Cocky Readers- Cocker Bros. of ATL.”

Authors are confused about how to protect themselves in the best way and for good reason. The words “copyright” and “trademark” are being thrown around and are being swapped for one another in the midst of this discussion. I want to be clear that copyright and trademark are two separate things.

According to legalzoom.com:

“[…] Copyrights protect creative or intellectual works, and trademarks apply to commercial names, phrases, and logos. Copyrights primarily protect the rights of people who create literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works (like history tests, and software code.) Trademarks protect the use of a company name and its product names, its brand identity {like logos) and its slogan.

So basically, Faleena would be in the right to copyright her series because it is her intellectual property. Whatever series name she’s using now, that would be completely legally protected by filing and enforcing the trademark. If she were truly to trademark anything it would be her production company “Hop Hop Productions” as that is her company name. She has every right to protect her company. But by filing trademark on her series rather than just a copyright, she’s creating a huge mess, as we’ve all seen.

When you file a copyright or trademark, they both must be enforced to hold any legal sway, which is why Faleena sent out the cease and desist letters. She was trying to enforce her trademark, which I’m certain her lawyer told her to do, but there is still so much wrong with the situation

I saw a post recently about the author of the “Shifter World” series, Nancy Corrigan, trademarking the phrase “Shifter World” because that’s the universe she writes in. However, she went on to say that she wouldn’t be enforcing use of the words “shifter” or “world” because she just wanted to protect “Shifter World” as a whole. The problem here is, she should’ve just filed a copyright. She creates an issue for herself that won’t exactly stand up in court because she said:

“Keyword: Shifter World

As this has been brought up in a couple of posts, I just wanted people to know that i filed a trademark application for Shifter World as it’s the identifying phrase of my brand of inter-related spinoff series, namely Shifter World: Royal-Kagan, Shifter World: Shifter Affairs, and Shifter World: Generations (coming soon). I never intended and still have no intentions of limiting Shifter or World in anyone’s books, titles, series, etc. My intention is that I don’t want anyone to name a series Shifter World: xxx. Please continue to write your own shifter stories. Readers love them. I would never think to limit them.

As I said in my profile post, I am in touch with my attorney to see the best way to proceed with this application to reflect my intention and I will implement her recommendations”- Nancy Corrigan, as posted in the Author Support Network group on Facebook

She is stating that she isn’t going to enforce the trademark in that sense. By copyrighting “Shifter World” and each subsequent series under her name and wording, she would be able to protect her series and not own those words. She would be able to protect her series and prevent others from using the series name “Shifter World” without creating a situation where she is not enforcing a trademark because she doesn’t want to force people to follow it.

Please let me be clear, in case I haven’t been: You have every right to copyright your book series. There is a reason why the websites are different. By trademarking a word or phrase, you are removing the ability for others to use it in whole or in part, for the specific purposes that you are stating in your trademark application. By stating that you’re not going to enforce part of your trademark, you are essentially voiding it. If you copyright your series, you protect yourself from exactly what Faleena, Nancy, and every other author that’s a part of this thing is afraid of.

There is a big gap in education for authors. And I understand how that sounds, but hear me out. While there are big trad publishing festivals and events with workshops and assistance for trad authors, there isn’t much in the way of assistance for self-publishing authors. Of course, traditionally published authors have an entire publishing house behind them to help with all of the really detailed work. There are few events for self-publish authors, or would be authors, that help educate and guide them through the industry. I mean, we have to do all of this ourselves and it can get overwhelming AF. Starting with editing, and working through publishing and copyright, something like this geared toward self-published authors would be incredibly beneficial. Because I can guarantee that a lot of authors that self-publish went into this blind. Hell, I was one of them. I didn’t know a lot about how the industry worked. It wasn’t until I worked for an attorney and he explained to me the differences between copyright, trademark, and what the importance was for me to copyright my books, that I even knew about this! (By the way if there is someone out there willing to organize something like this, please let me know.)

People are continuing to run into the fair-use issue, as well as parody laws. Changing covers is a ton of work on its own, let alone all the work it takes for branding, merchandise, and everything else that goes into publishing a book. There has to be a streamlined solution for these issues, but people are running all over each other to get ahead of the game.

Anyway, I hope these ramblings helped, even a little. Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment down below telling me what you think. 🙂

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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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