Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Solidarity: Space Marine

Along with others who have remarked upon this sort of thing, the above is an expression of my annoyance, anger and disgust at Fat Cattist types who attempt to claim copyright for that which is already in the public domain.   Hence my use of the expression 'Space Marine' in my drawing above, in defiance of Games workshop's bogus claim to have the expression under copyright.  By law, they do not.  By US law, (I checked) no one can legally claim copyright for that which is in the public domain.

 Just wait and see if anyone will claim copyright for the English Language.


  1. I thought I'd do a quick check to see whether anyone else has thought of Cal Amity. Seems not. He's mine. But Kate Astrophe has been.

    But the whole gig does lead one into inventing all sorts of martial characters;
    Ty Phune
    Sue Nami
    Lai Tin Ng
    Tor Naydoe
    Harry Caine (or Horatio 'Horry' Caine - now where have I heard that name before this??)

    1. My western gunfight figures abound with such names as: May Hem, Cess Poole, Richard (two Dicks) Richards, Count De Money, Indian medicine man Many Tokes, etc.

    2. Excellent! I did literally LOL. I don't know whether you do (Richard for Dick suggest you might) but sometimes it's fun to disguise them a little and watch the reactions... Maybelle Hem and Cecil Poole sort of thing...

      It's silly, but... ain't it a hoot though?

  2. Technically the Evil Empire (common industry nickname for Games Workshop) is claiming a "trademark", not a "copyright" . . . but since the term has been in common usage in science fiction at least since the mid 1930s, I suspect that anyone with enough money could successfully fight it.

    For many years I lived on the Monterey Peninsula in California. An artist's image of "The Lone Cypress" (long known as "the most photographed tree in the world) was the image of the Pebble Beach Corporation.

    When some Japanese interests purchased the company a while back, they claimed that ALL images of the Lone Cypress were theirs and began suing everyone who used ANY image of the tree . . . even those almost a century old.

    The courts shut them down and the Japanese sold the company back to a group of American golfers who dropped that ridiculous claim . . . but a lot of lawyers made a lot of money in the meantime.

    So, while I also agree with you that GW's claim is ridiculous, I certainly couldn't afford to fight it.

    -- Jeff

    1. My attitude there would be that they would have to fight me for it. The name 'Games Workshop', or GW even, is a trademark; I do no believe that 'Space Marine' can be as such - not unless they presented it in a unique font, in which case the image would be a trademark.

      It's bit like McDonalds. In my view their claim to the name qua trademark has to be bogus, as there are a hell of a lot of McDonalds around, may of whom run businesses. It's the stylised 'M', the arches specifically, that they can legitimately claim as their uniquely identifying trademark. I have to admit that would be a hard one to fight, but my attitude would again be they would have to fight me, not the other way around. In the law courts no doubt I'd be outmatched (though not as much as you'd think), but in the court of public opinion - h'mmm, they might have to think again.

      Still and all, if GW and similar types are going to be dog in the mangerish about it, they can figure out for themselves how and why they alienated so much of their potential market.

      I seem to recall TSR Games made the same mistake 30 years ago.

  3. I'm with you on that one Ion..

    1. Thanks Robin. I should mention somewhere that the whole area of copyright and 'intellectual' property ought to be revisited thoroughly - with the view to a radical liberalisation. At that the worst pirates are the big names, who use their big names to get away with fraudulent copyright and royalty claims; who withhold royalties they owe; who bill even copyright owners for royalties when of course the copyright owners owe them not a cent (unbelievable, eh?); who claim ownership of artifacts they have sold and services no longer being rendered; who shut down internet content without any such right to do so; who even claim ownership of whatever is in their employees' heads.

      It is time we took the law into our own hands. Precisely where it should belong.

  4. Ion,

    Your wish is my command!

    Please stop using English! I have a copyright and trademark registered for all the words in the English language, and a letter is on its way to you from my solicitors (Sue, Grabbit, and Runne) calling upon you desist.

    Must now stop this comment as my solicitors have pointed out that I have breached my own copyright and they are suing me on my own behalf.

    All the best,

    Bob (c)(tm) :^)

    1. Strapple kark ngathf na'sser zeep squiggle pop snort Scraj narkle wnagfester zoot. Garpwogglesn'apfurthle ak' bugblotsnortpuffxargle clog. Zit.

  5. This kind of stuff is not new - Don Featherstone copywrighted Wargames and Wargaming in the 60s- Hence Terry Wises "Battlegaming" book
    Space Marines have been around since at least the time of Robert Hioelien if not befiore but GW are as has been said claiming product Trademark

    1. 'Trademark' Interesting. Don Featherstone was probably wrong in claiming 'Wargames' and 'Wargaming', but that one I'd be very reluctant to test, because I see before me red lines beneath both words whereas I don't beneath 'war games' and 'war gaming'. So Mr Featherstone could plausibly claim that his conjoined words are his own coinage and therefore subject to copyright.

      Mind you, I don't see too many writers (notably GW and others) acknowledging 'orc' as a Tolkien coinage for 'Goblin'. Look it up in a dictionary. Orc is a whale - killer whale, so called (orca the female). The Tolkien Estate certainly took TSR to task for failing to acknowledge its theft of Tolkien's Balrog.

      GW can not legally claim trademark on simply any rendering of 'Space Marine'. Suppose I developed a product called 'White'. I'd be perfectly within my rights to do so. But I could not claim 'White' as a trademark. If I rendered the word in a particular and distinctive way, then I could claim that image as a trademark. But that leaves all other renditions of 'White' still in the public domain.

      In other words, GW is trying it on. That company should all go and stick their heads up a dead bear's bum. I'll bet, by the way, that they have acknowledged nowhere that they have legitimately acquired any such rights from Robert Heinlein's Estate.

      Who was it created a Starship Trooper game? That's another of Heinlein's.

  6. I remember just before the Los Angles Olympics, the US Olympic Committee was going around suing every Mom & Pop Greek restaurant with the word "Olympic" or "Olympics" in the name of the restaurant.

    1. ... and every mother's son of them had to buckle under. Which shows that there is one law for the rich and powerful, and another for the rest of us poor schmucks. Actually, there is no law for the rich. At the risk of getting myself droned, I reckon that has to change. Yesterday.

      Two things. The Olympic Committee under US law (OK I'm not a US Citizen and don't live there, but I have done some research) had no right to claim copyright or trade mark over the word Olympic (so obviously public domain, it's not worth discussing), LET ALONE retro-actively to bring law suits (or even threats of law suits) against prior and continuing use of the word in the identity of an enterprise.

      Good heavens, suppose one of your Mom & Pop Greek restauranteurs had been canny enough in 1980 to register the word as a trademark? There's your answer right there. It would have been ignored or thrown out. But it is well known that the US system of jurisprudence is broken. It isn't too flash in this country, neither.

      Use of the 5 Olympic rings symbol is a different matter if the Olympic Committee has registered it as a trademark.

  7. These kinds of claims by GW and others like them would be laughable if they weren't so obviously unjust. They're forgetting might does not make right. Hopefully they will get enough bad press that they might start to see the errors of their ways (unlikely as that seems, based on past experiences).

  8. I do believe (from what I've been hearing over the years) that GW has already by its marketing practices and attitude alienated a large proportion of its potential market. Too many business people take the attitude: 'We're not here to make friends; we're here to make a profit.' I've actually heard business types say exactly that. I wonder how long it takes before they discover that to make profits you need friends - that is, people well enough disposed to the company to buy its product or service. Not until it's too damned late...

  9. To put it bluntly my knowledge of law is about as good as my knowledge of atoms, I know the basics some of the interesting bits (where laws came from) but apart from that I know very little.

    Copy-write, Trademark, whatever its all the same to me, All I know it means that someone is stopping me from using a phrase or image. Great some times I agree thats its right others I think should be shot for trying! which is strange as I am against the death penalty, thought my case is less contradictory than Games Workshops... at least I can say I am mad and that's why I believe these mad ideas in my head, what can they say; that they went back in time and created the term first... not likely.

    my conclusion is that it should be up to the public that such matters should be given a month to a year to resolve where a vote by the public would determine the outcome, no campaigns no persuasion except by third parties.
    How does that sound? to complicated? still less so than the current system... and cheaper.

    I also have many problems with how people can just sue each other for things (USA again) but that's another matter. Poor friend of mine went to run a summer camp in the USA for a while poor girl got told by some spoilt brat that if she prevented him from joining the archery (I think it was that) he would get his father to sue her! She was not letting him join in because he had broken the rules! WHO MADE THIS SYSTEM???

  10. There is a case to be made for copyrights, trademarks and (to be inclusive) patents, of course there is. But it all has to be done with reason and reasonableness. They are there to protect the interests of people who create something new, be it music, literature, art, design ... what have you.

    There is no place in the system for Big Names heavying the little guy for their legitimate use of their own property, their own names, their own labels, designs, etc and so on. Yet it happens, just like that 'Olympic' scam mentioned in an earlier comment.. For all the piracy Hollywood bleats about, the biggest pirate of all is Hollywood. But of course, they want it all for themselves.

    Too often copyright, patent and trademarks are extended way beyond what ought to apply. The situation is not helped as the scanty US law in this area tends to benefit the Big Names, who, with Big Money, can hire Big Lawyers. And also have the clout to withhold moneys owed according to Court rulings on cases they lose, just quietly (read the 52 ways how Warner Bros screwed James Taylor out of millions).

  11. where's that quote... ah yes (from a writer who has yet to release his book?) Justice may be blind but she knows the rattle of a coin purse when she hears one... not exact but we all know the meaning behind the quote.

    thanks for that... Copy-write and Trademarks are good things for many people its sad that some people should abuse the law in such a way as to require law changes.

    great post and discussion. always a pleasure to use your blog as some sort of forum like platform.

  12. I'm not a lawyer and I don't even play one on television, but I do see a case to be made for protecting intellectual property, and I could see a GW lawyer arguing that they have spent enough money developing the "Space Marine" as a brand that they do in fact own it. Te marketer in me (I did professional marketing for a decade) however realizes that defending a brand can be a tricky business, and not always good for the reputation. GW has so much hostility and alienated customers out there that I think the whole "Space Marine" thing was a bit of a disaster for them, and I wonder if it is a coincidence that they have suspended their social media campaigns since this story hit the blogosphere.

    1. Money talks, I'm afraid. That is why the likes of Monsanto can get away with patent claims that in any sensible system of jurisprudence ought to be thrown out with extreme prejudice. GW the same. Look, I'm not pretending to be a lawyer, merely looking to what used yo be called common sense and natural justice. In most countries, I believe, the notion of 'natural justice' still exists as a basis for judgement where there is no clear legal pointer.

      The term 'Space Marine' was not GW's coinage. It was someone else's, but GW is treating the expression as it were their property. It is not, nor can it be, for all sorts of reasons I can think of. GW would (by rights) have to make an ironclad case that it is, by the way.

      My attitude is that we should all do one of two things: 1. Ignore GW and use the expression and we choose; or
      2. Defy them outright.

      I have already mentioned, I think, my own view that the whole system of copyright, intellectual 'property', trademark and patents has to be reviewed thoroughly, with a view to wholesale liberalisation.

      Here are the two critical questions:
      If I buy an artifact, who owns it?
      If I buy a service when does that service cease so that I can stop paying for it?

      I have yet to pay royalties on my Black % Decker drill each time I drill a hole; nor am I likely to be charged royalties for the use of the name 'Black & Decker' in this sentence. And I doubt any time soon that anyone will be interrupting my work to place an advertising sticker on it, or 'borrowing' my drill to bore extra holes in my place at my expense ... I could go on but you get the picture I think.

      So called pirating in my view needs closer scrutiny and clearer definition bearing in mind that purchasers of artifacts rightly consider themselves exclusive owners of those artifacts, and buyers of a service have generally a pretty good idea of the nature and duration of the service. A good deal of what is called piracy I see as nothing more than a legitimate use of one's own private possessions.

      Am I being unfair upon creative people - artists, inventors, manufacturers, designers, writers, etc and so on? I don't know, for sure, but I don't think so. I can understand their wanting to get a return from their creations. But what's a fair return? What is a reasonable demand? I tend to get a bit snarky over the dog-in-the-manger attitude of corporates (themselves not above piracy, and that on a scale far beyond the scope of your ordinary Joe or Jo).

      If GW has had to suck its scone in, good: chalk one up for the little guy/guyette.

  13. I agree that money talks. Money also buys things. In GW's case, the Space Marine has come to be iconic in SF/gaming because GW's marketing and product development over the years made it iconic. Now I agree that an indie SF writer who puts her own e-book about a space marine onto Amazon does not appear much of a threat to GW, but if I am a GW product manager or lawyer, I might legitimately see this as a threat, in principle, to the money we have invested in all the W40K licensed fiction I hire people like Dan Abnett to write for us. I am invested in GW (it is a publically traded company) and I want a return on my investment, I want GW to protect its brand.
    But, as I said in my last post, when you are a big fish in a small industry, whenever you try to protect your brand, you alienate people and the Robin Hood effect begins to work against you. So I don't see a winning scenario for GW, other than apologizing and publically stating that they will tolerate self-published fiction that references their brand and/or draws on their intellectual property. At least, that's what I would advise if I worked for them. :)

  14. Sorry, I should have said "If I am invested" - it was hypothetical argument. For the record, I have no money invested in GW. I just gave them lots of money in return for reams of paper, paint, and small bits of plastic and metal. :)

    1. I took your argument as hypothetical. I still think 'Space Marine' is too generic for GW legimately to demand exclusive rights over its use (actually, I think I might do some research into this). However, consider the GW Space Marines's 'Chapters', the 'Blood Angels' or 'Ultramarines', say. Now, I would have no quarrel at all with GW's claim over these - in context, of course ('Ultramarine' being a pun that would lose its impact if I were no longer allowed to call the colour ultramarine. If you think this aside is silly, by the way, I'm here to tell you I've seen claims based on even sillier premises). I seem to recall that there are logos associated with them, the Ultramarines being, as I recall, an upside down Omega.

      Wargamers will no doubt want their own figures to represent this or that chapter, and paint them up and use the terminology and jargon, and naturally GW would be fine with that. If I were to write a novel about Imperial Space Marines and their Chapters, Blood Angels and Ultramarines and what not, yep: I imagine GW would be aggrieved, and I would not blame them. I really would be plagiarising something that outfit has produced.

      But those terms - even 'chapter' in the context of GWs creation - are pretty specific. They could have nothing to say about 'chapters' as applied, say, to the Hell's Angels.

      This whole issue, and several others besides, have led me to some ideas concerning corporations and their role in the world. They are become like Black Holes, drawing the surrounding smaller bodies into themselves, and becoming so bloated they will eventually collapse under their own mass. It's getting so the little guy becomes more and more restricted by what he can own and what he can do with his own. If he works for a wage or a salary, he doesn't even own what's in his head!(Check out someone's employment contract sometime. I run a little paper round that takes me 2 hours per week. Even in that contract any ideas I might have that my employer might want, my employer owns it. That's what the contract says, explicitly. In my view, if there were any real justice in the world, such a clause would be worthless).

      This last paragraph might seem irrelevant to what has been discussed, here, but in my view it is all of a piece.

      Well, I guess the vultures are coming home to roost at that. I've heard that Walmart (Walmart!!) is becoming concerned about the drop off in custom. People are too poor even to 'buy Walmart'. If you gotta grow to survive, then Walmart is doomed. I reckon GW is headed for the same fate.