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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

“[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!

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

“[…] 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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