Thursday, 10 May 2018

Cockygate

I don't normally weigh in on controversial topics but the news unfolding on Facebook over the last few days has been disturbing, to say the least.

If you've missed the drama, a certain author (I don't want to give her name or offer her any more publicity than she has already generated) has put a trademark on the word "cocky" so others can't use it in their book titles. She's demanding that anyone who has used it in a title change it immediately - even if it was published before her own book - or face a courtly cost battle. Apparently it's all in the name of "protecting her brand" or some rubbish. I think she's already laid waste to her own brand with the negative backlash that has inevitably arisen.

It's hard to know where to start with this. I think it's the arbitrary nature of it that scares me. It's not like this is a special word she's made up that's unique to her story - in which case I could see where she's coming from. This is a normal, common word that's in the Oxford English Dictionary. Anyone could have been affected by this, it just happened to be this word, this nutjob.

But as one of my friends on Facebook has pointed out, it's the response to it all that's been heartening. People have been rallying round to support each other, share each others' books (check out the hashtag #thisishowyouindie), and generally showing the way an author is actually supposed to behave. Humour has also been used in the face of an entirely baffling situation, with mocked-up book covers appearing using the word "cocky" in bizarre contexts.

I just hope this doesn't set a dangerous precedent. One of the most frightening aspects is that she seems to have Amazon on her side. Is it too much to ask that common sense and decency will prevail? What do you think of Cockygate?

23 comments:

Sally said...

It's just ridiculous.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Why I'm glad I'm not on Facebook.
How can you copyright the word cocky? Book titles, like movie titles, are free range.

JeffO said...

Hey, Nick and all--there's a great piece on this by Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware yesterday. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend doing so. She's consulted with lawyers about it to figure out how it works, and apparently RWA has gotten involved. I'm not sure if I can embed the link here, so here's the full thing to copy/paste: https://accrispin.blogspot.com/2018/05/trademark-shenanigans-weighing-in-on.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+AtLastWriterBewareBlogsAcCrispinAndVictoriaStraussRevealAll+(Writer+Beware%C2%AE:+The+Blog)

Darla M Sands said...

This shocked me. Talk about cocky. Good grief. I had never heard of this author before and certainly would never buy a book now. That's even more horrifying if Amazon is really on her side. Wow. Best wishes to all published authors. What a ridiculous thing.

Thank you for the kind word on my blog. It's funny how much I trimmed my stories in past. Now I'm adding conversation and we'll see what else occurs to me so that my selfishly withheld little love child of a series gets another little overhaul. At least it keeps me off the streets and out of the bars! Heh... Be well!

L.G. Keltner said...

I've been following this on Twitter. It definitely concerns me to see an author doing this and inflicting harm on fellow authors in the process. You're right that this would set a dangerous precedent. Fortunately, I don't think it will stand up to the legal challenges that are being brought against it. I read up on the laws involved, and there appear to be a couple ways of striking this down. I'm happy to see writers banding together and fighting this. Life is better when writers support one another instead of trying to tear each other down.

Loni Townsend said...

I've been watching what's going on with this and it's both ridiculous that she thinks it's okay to try to monopolize a word, and sad that she's willing to lash out at others and try to make them pay. It's bad behavior and disrespectful. I hope something positive comes out of this.

betty said...

I haven't heard of this, but after reading just this little bit, I think it is ridiculous on her part and what is Amazon thinking by supporting her side? Makes me want to copyright the word "the." Imagine how much money I could make (just kidding with that)

betty

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick - I'd sort of spotted it and let it be as far as I was concerned ... now I'm slightly more aware - it is ridiculous ... how far will people go - cheers Hilary

Liz A. said...

From what I've seen on Twitter, the RWA has gotten Amazon to not pull books until the legal issues have been resolved. And according to former lawyers (or lawyer adjacent people) who are in the writing community, she's more than likely going to lose her TM with all the challenges. Fascinating what people try to pull, but hopefully it'll all work out in the end.

Nick Wilford said...

Sally - Agreed.

Alex - I've been using Facebook more to keep up with stuff despite its evils. I know, and it's the same with songs, how many have got the same titles?

Jeff - Thanks! Will check it out.

Darla - They say there's no such thing as bad publicity but I don't think that's the case here. I haven't seen her get a single message of support.

L. G. - I'm glad that there are some means of challenging it. Common sense will prevail in the end, we have to hope.

Loni - It's very aggressive and bullying behaviour. Who knows what she thought the reaction would be. I think it has made those authors who support each other band together even more, though.

Betty - I know! I wonder where it will end, but hopefully it ends soon. I read up a bit too and apparently you can't copyright words, but you can put a trademark on some things, like companies do for an advertising slogan. That's a totally different thing though.

Hilary - I noticed it and started googling. Just seemed so bizarre to me. It could have been any word and any author affected.

Liz - I'm glad there are challenges being mounted. It's just a question of making Amazon see sense. I'm sure that isn't entirely straightforward!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That has to get overturned. I'm sure it will. And the aftermath will be that she destroyed her career. I'm sure she's listed on Authors Behaving Badly already.

Diane Burton said...

What craziness! The author has deep-sixed her career as well as her books. She's become a laughingstock. But what she did to several authors with her C&D letters is just wrong. And mean-spirited.

I just read RWA got Amazon to agree to reinstate the books they dropped and to hold off until the matter is resolved.

Sandra Cox said...

I thought I read today that Amazon reversed itself on this.
Isn't this unbelievable? I've always been proud of our profession and feel 99 percent of authors hold themselves to high standards. I'm REALLY disappointed about this.

Sandra Cox said...

PS I could say a whole lot more on this subject, but I'm roping in the rant;)

Patsy said...

I'm wondering if it's all a big publicity stunt. I hadn't heard of her before, but now every writing group, forum etc is discussing the issue and very often including links to her books!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

How in the world do you copyright a word? That's just insane!!

Or is it genius. Could I claim to own every other word in the dictionary and then charge people to "borrow" them? Isn't that crazy?

DRC said...

What? Seriously, WHAT!!!!! How are these people able to survive from day to day...

Patricia Lynne said...

I followed this fiasco and wrote my own post about it too. A crazy story indeed, but everyone's reaction has been great. I see even one of the authors who she got to change her cover had her book hit best seller from all the people buying it in support.

diedre Knight said...

And to think it was the title of this post that caught my attention ;-) Attempting to rein-in creativity is absurd. As is word confiscation. They say you should never argue with an idiot as it confuses passers by. Perhaps disregard would best serve this endeavor. Great post, Nick!

Lynda Dietz said...

I've followed this pretty closely through a variety of social media posts, and if I didn't already think she was unhinged (and obnoxious), her video convinced everyone that she's not stable. Of course it's been removed, but . . . also of course, anything that has been on the internet will always be on the internet, and it's still available.

Whoever she thinks she is, most people have never heard of her, and what they're hearing now isn't going to gain her any readers.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

People are sooo stupid sometimes, aren't they? I guess I have to stop saying that people are cocky. I can't afford to be sued. :)

Wow.

Teresa

cleemckenzie said...

I'm always so glad when I'm ignorant of business like this because I like to keep my blood pressure down. Well, now it's shot up again. It was always my understanding that titles can't be copyrighted, but she's evidently found a way around that with Trademark rules. Hey, Nick. You should copyright Black or White.

Samantha Dunaway Bryant said...

(rolling eyes) People.