First Published on the 14th of May 2018
Let me introduce you to Faleena Hopkins. She is a self-published romance author, who has published a ridiculous amount of books in an incredibly short amount of time, as a part of a series known as the ‘Cocker Brothers.’ Recently, Hopkins trademarked, not only the ‘The Cocker Brothers’ but also the word, ‘cocky’ she then went after romance authors on Amazon with the word cocky in their title. Even books that had been written a long time before hers. The outcry as you can imagine is incredible. The twitter storm is known as #cockygate, and if you want to spend an afternoon viewing some outrage porn, then spend a day looking into Faleena Hopkins. The woman’s gall, and narcissism are amusing if not disturbing in the least.
If this is not an interesting example of how copyright can go very wrong, let me follow this up with referencing. How do I reference this story? (Twitter, 2018?) (Not an actual reference, an example of how this is difficult to reference.) (My mum, telling me about this while we hung out the other day, 2018), (A bit of a google later so I could find an article to back up the common knowledge by osmosis, that let this tidbit into my consciousness?)
Here I will make it simple for you, here is an article I found after I wrote everything down, in order to look like I was referencing something.
Alison Flood has written an article for The Guardian. This was the most official looking article I could find, so I will attribute all of the above to (Flood, 2018) even though I will probably only skim the article after I finish typing. Nevertheless, you have a reference, and my copyright guilt is assuaged.
Of course, once I did read the article, (after referencing it) I was able to find out officially that The Romance Writers of America are working with an intellectual property lawyer, as well as that a petition has been signed by more than 17,000 people to cancel the trademark.
And one will hope this ridiculous decision will be overturned because it is common sense that one can’t own a word. It is becoming increasingly difficult to own our words sans the communication revolution created by the invention of the internet. As a member of the proverbial starving arts, I understand the importance of being paid for your words, after all, no matter how nice the idea of sharing our creations in common with others might seem, we can’t eat our own words. However, with the invention of crowdfunding resources, like Pozible, Kick Starter, Patreon and Ko-fi* options to give your art away for free and be paid by those who appreciate it are increasingly available. I have no answers, copyright is complicated, and I know I would never want my words to be stolen, I also would rather lots of people read my work, than only a very few who paid me a very little.
*(again, how do I reference these these sites, do I add hyperlinks, or just let people google on their own? Is referencing becoming an increasingly redundant practice?)
Flood A, 2008, ‘Romantic novelist’s trademarking of the word ‘cocky’ sparks an outrcry’, The Guardian, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/08/romantic-novelist-trademarking-of-word-cocky-fameela-hopkins