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Games Workshop Bullies Author Over Use of the Words 'Space Marine' 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-marine-space-marine-space-marine dept.
New submitter jzoetewey writes "An author I know (MCA Hogarth) recently had her book Spots the Space Marine taken off Amazon because Games Workshop claimed it violated their trademark. The interesting thing? Their trademark doesn't include ebooks or novels. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the money to fight them. Plus, the idea of a space marine was around long before they were: 'In their last email to me, Games Workshop stated that they believe that their recent entrée into the e-book market gives them the common law trademark for the term “space marine” in all formats. If they choose to proceed on that belief, science fiction will lose a term that’s been a part of its canon since its inception.' Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing also made this important point: 'Amazon didn't have to honor the takedown notice. Takedown notices are a copyright thing, a creature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They don't apply to trademark claims. This is Amazon taking voluntary steps that are in no way required in law.'"
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Games Workshop Bullies Author Over Use of the Words 'Space Marine'

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @01:57PM (#42811577)

    We must stop them from going back in time to the 1930's to sue E. E. Smith and Robert Heinlein!

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:01PM (#42811651) Homepage Journal

      Done. Also got.
      Portal, Hyperspace, Warp, Starship, space dock, lander, blaster, fusion torpedo, and bent time.
      Now all your belong to us.

      • by BryanL (93656) <lowtherbfNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:55PM (#42812413)

        It looks like you dropped the base.

      • This is ridiculous. If I were her, I'd call up the company and ask them if I could license their trademark for my existing book for $1 in perpetuity. This would resolve the issue of them being forced to defend their trademark.

        If that didn't work, I'd remove the book from Amazon UK, because I wouldn't want to be sued in the UK by this UK-based company, but then I'd file a counter-DMCA takedown on Amazon - US?

        I don't know if this is good legal advice. I'm not a lawyer. But this is what I would do if I had a e

        • by _KiTA_ (241027) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @04:28PM (#42813751) Homepage

          This is ridiculous. If I were her, I'd call up the company and ask them if I could license their trademark for my existing book for $1 in perpetuity. This would resolve the issue of them being forced to defend their trademark.

          If that didn't work, I'd remove the book from Amazon UK, because I wouldn't want to be sued in the UK by this UK-based company, but then I'd file a counter-DMCA takedown on Amazon - US?

          I don't know if this is good legal advice. I'm not a lawyer. But this is what I would do if I had a ebook under my name. Either that, or since it's a ebook, I would just rename the book and just do like Prince did and append at the end of its name (formerly known as "Spots the Space Marines")

          $1 in perpetuity? That sounds reasonable, which suggests to me you've never heard of Games Workshop before.

          This is the company that sues people who try to sell their products online, because they feel that they're the only ones with the right to use a shopping cart (You can check out The War Store [thewarstore.com] for a brief explanation of this)
           
          ... that requires gaming stores that want to stock them give them a percentage of their store in free shelf space and make huge orders just to order anything at all...
           
          ...that banned exports to Australia because due to exchange rate shenanigans, it is literally cheaper to buy their product in the UK and pay shipping to Aus/NZ than to buy it from Games Workshop.

          Games Workshop is not a company that is in any way reasonable. The only reason they're even still around is they have a very large amount of inertia and have some rather delightfully interesting storylines -- interesting enough that Blizzard ripped them off wholesale to make Warcraft (Warhammer Fantasy) and Starcraft (Warhammer 40k).
           
          ... Having said that, and descending completely into the frothy rant stage of the evening, the game itself is disgustingly overpriced, sub-par from a rule and balance standpoint, perpetually and intentionally traps their customers in a forced upgrade cycle... It's literally only a matter of time before Privateer Press or Wizards of the Coast buy them out.

          But yeah. GW is a bit butthurt because of Blizzard wholesale stealing, well, everything that Blizzard has been successful with in the past 20 years from Games Workshop. I'm not terribly surprised they're more vigilant nowadays.

          • It's even more ironic since GW ripped almost all of their material off from Aliens, D&D, Michael Moorcock, and of course daddy Tolkien. The only thing that makes them different from other clone stamps is the quality of their art, which is great stuff

    • Also relevant:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_marine#History [wikipedia.org]

      Read it quick before Games Workshop defaces the page!

      • by H0p313ss (811249) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:19PM (#42811921)

        Also relevant:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_marine#History [wikipedia.org]

        Read it quick before Games Workshop defaces the page!

        I was going to say exactly the same thing, so rather than being completely redundant, here's the first two paragraphs:

        The earliest known use of the term "space marine" was by Bob Olsen in his short story "Captain Brink of the Space Marines" (Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932), a light-hearted work whose title is a play on the song "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines", and in which the protagonists were marines of the "Earth Republic Space Navy" on mission to rescue celebrity twins from aliens on Titan. Olsen published a novella sequel four years later, "The Space Marines and the Slavers" (Amazing Stories, Volume 10, Number 13, December 1936), featuring the same characters against Martian space pirates, and using a spaceship with active camouflage.[2]

        A more widely known early example was E. E. Smith's Lensman series. While the first story, Triplanetary and most later sequels (Second Stage Lensmen, Children of the Lens and The Vortex Blaster) do not mention them, passing mentions of marines are made in Galactic Patrol[a] (Astounding Stories, September 1937–February 1938) and Gray Lensman[b][c] (Astounding Stories, October 1939–January 1940), and a more direct mention is made in First Lensman (1950): "Dronvire of Rigel Four in the lead, closely followed by Costigan, Northrop, Kinnison the Younger, and a platoon of armed and armored Space Marines!".

        1932, really... so 80 years later someone claims copyright on a science fiction concept almost as old as the phrase science fiction? Someone has balls.

        • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:28PM (#42812065)

          Noone is claiming copyright. Games Workshop are misusing their trademark and Amazon is complicit.

          • GW's ripped off Elisabeth Beresford's [bbc.co.uk] design.

            Refer them to Arkell v Pressdram.

        • by Gription (1006467)
          Someone needs to update the Wikipedia page with this most current bit of history relating to the firm "Space Marine".
          (In other words make Games Workshop have to live with the stupidity of their mistake.)
        • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:47PM (#42812303)

          1932, really... so 80 years later someone claims copyright on a science fiction concept almost as old as the phrase science fiction? Someone has balls.

          They're claiming trademark, not copyright, which is why it's so odd that they used the DMCA for this. It's also strange that they would assert it against an author.

          Hopefully these links work, I'll provide the serial numbers in case.

          The trademark for "SPACE MARINE", serial number 74186534 [uspto.gov], issued in 1993, covers: board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint, sold therewith. Another trademark for "SPACE MARINES", SN 75014487, filed in 1995 by someone else, but abandoned in 1997, did cover "series of science fiction books". It was abandoned in July 1997, then in Sept 1997 Games Workshop filed for "SPACE MARINE" again (SN 75010236 [uspto.gov]), which covered video computer games; computer software for playing games.

          So, they don't even own a trademark on the term for any books at all.

          • by tlambert (566799)

            [...]then in Sept 1997 Games Workshop filed for "SPACE MARINE" again (SN 75010236 [uspto.gov]), which covered video computer games; computer software for playing games.

            So, they don't even own a trademark on the term for any books at all.

            The problem here being that what was taken down was an eBook, which is considered to be software, which is why they are permitted to licene the things, rather than you being able to own them outright, since you have purchased a physical artifact. For the same reasons, first use law doesn't apply, and therefore you can be prohibited from resale of eBooks.

            This crap is out of hand, and in sore need of some reform; After 400 years, we are back to book licenses; we came up with copyright in the first place to s

            • by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @04:32PM (#42813789)

              Doesn't matter what the truth is or not, or whether a trademark is valid or not, or even what the law says. What matters is who has the lawyers and who doesn't. If you can't afford to fight a bully then the bully wins no matter what the law says.

              • More precisely, if you cannot afford to fight the bully, you always lose. You can choose to lose now or lose big in lawyer fees -- because even if you win in court and the bully loses, you can be 100% sure you shot yourself in your own bank account.

            • by H0p313ss (811249)

              So if I create a game based on Jules Verne's Captain Nemo and get a trademark for it I can go after all the free eBooks?
              Profit!!

              I wonder if captainnemo.com is available?

            • The problem here being that what was taken down was an eBook, which is considered to be software

              I don't see how that's relevant for a trademark that covers software for playing games.

          • by wytcld (179112)

            There is no trademark or copyright for book titles. Period. Ever. In the US. You'll find multiple books of the same title, often, sometimes published within a year or two of each other. If there were a way to use trademark or copyright to prevent that, you can be sure we wouldn't see this.

          • by GodInHell (258915)
            Trademarks don't have to be registered to be enforceable. They just need to be commonly associated with a particular brand, such that use by another in that same field is likely to cause confusion in the marketplace as to the origin of that product or service.
      • by kav2k (1545689)

        Read it quick before Games Workshop assumes ownership of the page!

        FTFY

      • by internic (453511)
        I realize you were probably just going for comic effect, but FYI for anyone who cares: you can link to a specific version of a page [wikipedia.org] so that you don't have to worry about how it might change later.
    • by antdude (79039)

      Doesn't Apple have this name for its backup software? :P

  • Starcraft (Score:5, Funny)

    by naroom (1560139) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:03PM (#42811687)
    Boy are they gonna be mad when they find out about Starcraft!
    • by 54mc (897170)
      It's common rumor, though I'm unable to find a source right now, that Starcraft was originally designed to be an RTS version of Space Hulk. You've got the Marines/Marines, Zerg/Tyaranids, Protoss/Tau. Someone who's not at work might be more enterprising than I and actually be able to find a source on this.
      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Protoss can't have been modelled on the Tau- Games Workshop launched the Tau in 2001, whereas StarCraft was 1998.

        I've heard the rumour slightly differently- that WarCraft was to be an RTS version of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but failed to get official licensing. It's plausible that StarCraft (which came later) was influenced by Warhammer 40k too, but seeing as Blizzard and Games Workshop had already fallen out at that point (in my version of the rumour), it's unlikely that it was ever intended to be a lice

        • The Protoss are derived from the Eldar. Look at some of the original artwork and then the Eldar designs at the time. The similarity is unmistakable....just as the Zerg are reimagined Tyranids.

          But it all started with Warcraft being pulled from Warhammer Fantasy Battles...and when it made a strong presence in the gaming world, Starcraft began development. Heck, if a formula of copying another company's lore with only a degree of different results in profit...why not do it again.

          • Well, it's not like Warhammer Fantasy was all that original, either. We had elves and orcs and trolls and dwarfs fighting eachother well before Games Workslop decided to overcharge for tiny pewter figures.

          • by VAElynx (2001046)
            Zerg are IMHO far more original and I like them more than tyrranids.
            However, Protoss and Eldar are scarily similar indeed.
            At least makes sense I liked the UED so much in Brood War. They were fighting for the Emperor. XD
      • by VAElynx (2001046)
        Close.
        Protoss = = Eldar, with a makeover. Complete with Dark Eldar / dark templars with warp blades
    • Nah, its easier to bully around people with shallower pockets.
    • by swilde23 (874551)

      I should make a hoodie about that.

    • by Talennor (612270)

      It's why they're "Terran Marines" not "Space Marines". They copied the style, but the trademark isn't touched.

    • by Golddess (1361003)
      And Halo. Isn't Master Chief a "Space Marine"?
  • by Internal Modem (1281796) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:06PM (#42811745)
    Spots the Space Marine: Defense of the Fiddler [amazon.com] is still listed on Amazon. What was the point of this, a free advertisement?
    • by Mastacheata87 (1759916) <mastacheata@gu[ ].com ['lli' in gap]> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:09PM (#42811787) Homepage

      This is about the eBook edition. The Paperback is obviously still available and it would seem to me that the trademark is not applicable there.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        This is about the eBook edition. The Paperback is obviously still available and it would seem to me that the trademark is not applicable there.

        Do you know where the trademark is applicable? People selling games called Space Marines.

        Since this is neither, someone's lawyer should refer them to Arkell v Pressdam -- they have absolutely no legal right to the phrase space marine in an ebook, a paper book or anything except the area in which they trademarked it.

      • by SpacePunk (17960)

        Just because an 'e' or an 'i' is thrown in front of something, it doesn't make it any different than the non 'e' or 'i' version.

  • Warhammer 40K, Starship Troopers, Aliens/Weyland, Starcraft, and lots of other science-fiction universes have used space marines in their stories. They've all borrowed from each other. I don't think there are huge outcries from the Event Horizon people when the video game Dead Space is essentially Event Horizon the game. Or when 2001: Space Odyssey had its cold interiors and robotic enemies copied over and over. The writer of Alien said that he was enormously influenced by 2001.

    Half of the Starcraft units w

  • GW can suck it (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:09PM (#42811791)

    The earliest known use of the term "space marine" was by Bob Olsen in his short story "Captain Brink of the Space Marines" (Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932).

    • by jsepeta (412566)
      the roleplaying game Traveller came out in 1977. They had space marines a full 10 years before Warhammer 40k was released to the games market.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:10PM (#42811797)

    Even companies are now acting out of fear of an overreaching ill-defined law. If companies with legal departments staffed to the gills are incapable of interpreting the law then what chance does the common-or-garden person have?

    "Ignorance is no excuse" is bullshit. I can produce any number of laws you can't physically process within the confines of reality, be it sheer information volume or time required to read and process. I can literally throw more shit at you than you could ever hope to digest as a human being. Does this make you "ignorant"? No...it makes you "I have more important shit to deal with than your stupid crap".

    Fucking idiots. Total fucking idiots.

    • It's not complicated. Trademark law is applicable here. Amazon gets letter about trademark. Amazon looks up the trademark in the database. It's here: http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=searchss&state=4008:7ndtqg.1.1 [uspto.gov]

      Play along!

      Amazon searches for "space marine".

      Amazon sees that the trademark applies to "board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint, sold therewith" Another mark

    • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:47PM (#42814641) Homepage Journal

      Your scenario may be true, but it doesn't describe what is going on here. Amazon is simply siding with the party that has the greatest power to drive their legal costs up.

      The problem is not with the law becoming *complex*, so much as it is becoming *cheap*. Lawyers are cheap enough for companies to use them to harass people, but not cheap enough that an ordinary person can afford to defend himself.

  • by Daemonik (171801) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:11PM (#42811813) Homepage

    Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing also made this important point: 'Amazon didn't have to honor the takedown notice. Takedown notices are a copyright thing, a creature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They don't apply to trademark claims. This is Amazon taking voluntary steps that are in no way required in law.'"

    Yet, either way Amazon will be the one getting sued by one or both of these people.

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:20PM (#42812757)

      Yet, either way Amazon will be the one getting sued by one or both of these people.

      Why? Amazon is just neutral territory.

      The author just needs to file a DMCA counter-notice, and that will be the end of the involvement of Amazon.

      Then, it will be up to the UK-based company to sue the book author directly, for trademark infringement instead of copyright infringement (assuming they're even willing to go that far, because if they sue, they will probably lose -- so it's really not in their interests to sue). The author should just ask them if she can license the trademark for $1 in perpetuity for her existing ebook and try to settle this matter quietly out of court.

  • While called Mobile Infantry, weren't they effectively 'space marines'?

    Well lets check wikipedia:

    The earliest known use of the term "space marine" was by Bob Olsen in his short story "Captain Brink of the Space Marines" (Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932), a light-hearted work whose title is a play on the song "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines", and in which the protagonists were marines of the "Earth Republic Space Navy" on mission to rescue celebrity twins from aliens on Titan.

    Ah yea, G

  • John Scalzi Blog (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:13PM (#42811843)

    John Scalzi (president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and author of Old Man's War) did a blog post on this also.
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/

  • It's the lawyers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:14PM (#42811845)

    This is what happens when you let a bunch of lawyers take over the country's judicial system. Every business is scared shitless of lawsuits. Every little complaint results in a massive overreaction.

  • by preaction (1526109) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:23PM (#42811973)

    GW has always been extremely protective of their IP, to the point of this insanity. There are people who write programs to help them play GW games, they get C+D letters (a couple army builder programs, because they included numbers from GW copyrighted books, which you still need to know the rules to play).

    It sucks because GW does make good games. They just want absolute control over how you're able to play them. I wonder what would happen if TSR had exercised the same control...

  • Series 2, with the Comet Empire, had Space Marines.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:25PM (#42812003)
    What's the motivation behind games workshop doing this? I'm guessing they're not trying to get money here. So which is more likely, that their legal department simply sends out takedown requests and threats to any hits on google that aren't theirs, their legal department is intentionally wasting billable hours, or they're actually trying to assert control over any e-books with space marines?
  • by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:27PM (#42812049) Journal

    As evidenced by its popular use dating back for nearly a century as seen in this 1936 comic book [wikipedia.org], by itself, the term "space marine" is a descriptive and generic term that is ineligible for trademark protection, in much the same way that you cannot trademark the term "laptop computer" or "space ship". Whereas this trademark should never have been granted in the first place, the petitioner requests summary judgment in invalidating the errantly issued trademark.

    See the USPTO's appeals process page [uspto.gov] for information about how you can proceed with or without an attorney.

    Once the trademark has been invalidated, inform Amazon. They will restore your book, and the entire publishing and software world will rejoice in your space marines' victory over the egregiously evil trademark abuser.

  • Shouldn't it read: "Games Workshop commits perjury filing false DMCA take down request."?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858)

      Shouldn't it read: "Games Workshop commits perjury filing false DMCA take down request."?

      perjury is lying under oath.

      No, this is just good old fashioned douchebaggery, masquerading under the guise of IP protection.

      • Re:Wrong headline (Score:5, Informative)

        by Umuri (897961) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:43PM (#42814601)

        Shouldn't it read: "Games Workshop commits perjury filing false DMCA take down request."?

        perjury is lying under oath.

        No, this is just good old fashioned douchebaggery, masquerading under the guise of IP protection.

        Actually, DMCA notices are sent under penalty of perjury. So in effect, they ARE under oath. Whoever marked the above as informative needs to read the laws they cower from.

  • I have a weird feeling this is going to lead to an invalidation of GW's trademark on the phrase Space Marine in the first place. There are so many examples of prior art it's not even funny, not to mention the fact there are actually real-life space marines these days. I don't think you can trademark a class of things.

    Their trademark is limited to protection for tabletop games, it does not enjoy a universal application. For them to assert they own trademark rights outside of that context is not actually vali

  • by rafial (4671) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:35PM (#42812155) Homepage

    While Games Workshop are the main villains here, this does highlight the problem with buying DRM encrusted books from an entity with unaccountable censorship powers. I note that this ebook is available from Smashwords in open, unencumbered formats: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/26359 - as is usual in situations like this, I immediately purchased a copy to give the finger to bullies, and support an author.

  • by gravis777 (123605) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @02:56PM (#42812427)

    I would be shocked if Amazon didn't have a little form or something that you couldn't fill out to appeal a copyright or trademark infringement. I had Copyright notices on YouTube, and I appealed a couple because they were music that was in the public domain, and the company in question didn't even own the copyright on the arrangement I used. It would shock me that Amazon wouldn't have something similar.

    In the event of a DMCA takedown notice, the person accused normally just has to say that there is no copyright infringement, then the company claiming it has to offer proof that infringement happened. Or at least, that is my understanding (I could be wrong - while I have had companies claim copyright on stuff on Youtube, no one has actually requested a takedown).

    The whole point - your friend doesn't have to pay to fight. Notify Amazon that the claim was in error, have them restore the material, and then force Games Workshop to prove their claim.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hogarth tried that route. Amazon referred her back to Games Workshop. :P so, until GW backs down officially, Amazon refuses to actually use any brainpower and read the trademark for themselves.

  • at the offending company.
  • I just checked and the book is listed on Amazon...

  • by s13g3 (110658) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:27PM (#42812863) Journal

    Nastygram sent to custserv@games-workshop.com telling them what I think of their parsimonious self-aggrandizement.

    It's one thing to know you're annoying, it's another thing when the people you count on to buy your products start flooding your inbox TELLING you you're being obnoxious.

    After all, the FCC says that a complaint from one person is the equivalent of 50,000 people (or somesuch ridiculous figure) who are just as upset but didn't or couldn't send a complaint, right? In any event, I'll not be buying their products until they can stop acting like greedy little children who think they own everything they can lay hands on or claim to, and I'll be encouraging others to do the same.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I tried this. Reply:
      "Thanks for writing in to us! Unfortunately I am unable to answer any IP or legal questions on behalf of Games Workshop. Those kinds of questions need to be fielded to our legal department at legal@gwplc.com. I’m not sure how long it may take them to answer your question, but this is the right place to send it to. "

  • Unfortunately, she doesn't have the money to fight them.

    And here lies the the problem with our so called "justice" system: it's cost.
    Even when you are 100% in the right, you still need to spend (a lot of) money to get justice, money you will never get back and sometimes, when the other side can throw vastly larger amount of money at the problem, you will still lose.

    There is no justice, only institutionalized extortion.

  • by vanyel (28049) *

    The book is still on Barnes & Noble, who also uses standard epub format instead of a proprietary format, and a lot of their books don't use DRM...

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spots-the-space-marine-mca-hogarth/1112308671?ean=9781470131050 [barnesandnoble.com]

    The point being: support businesses doing it right...

  • by Marful (861873) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @03:52PM (#42813263)
    Gamesworkshop also used the claim of "trademark infringement" to go after online retailers of their product. Making them the only online retailer allowed to have a shopping cart system with their product. All other venders require customers to fill out a form to order product.

    Gamesworkshop needs to have the shit sued out of them for their abuse of their claim to "trademark" to include everything under the sun.
  • CustServ@gwplc.com

    Send them a message. I know I did.

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