Posts Tagged ‘Legal issues’

I’ll admit I’m a few days late to this, so perhaps the news has already gotten around and this post is unnecessary. But for those of you who haven’t heard, it seems that the saga that has been called Cockygate has reached its resolution. And you know what? It’s really good news.

Now if you haven’t heard, Cockygate got started around late April/early May in response to the actions of Faleena Hopkins (or as I prefer to call her, Lady Voldemort). Hopkins, a romance writer who wrote the “Cocker Brothers” series, tried to get a trademark on the word “cocky” when used in book or series titles. Now this word has, not surprisingly, been used in book titles well before Hopkins applied for her trademark, but that didn’t stop her from applying for it, and then going after independent authors that can’t afford lawsuits to either take the word “cocky” out of their book titles or take them off Amazon (seriously difficult either way you look at it) or they could face legal action.

And you wonder why I call her Lady Voldemort.

Two things happened after news of this broke: several authors and companies tried to copy Hopkins, and the majority of the author community rose up against her, with the hashtags #cockygate and #ByeFaleena (get it?) going viral within days. The Romance Writers Association started looking into legal action. Kevin Kneupper, a novelist and retired lawyer, came out of retirement to fight Hopkins on this and force her and others imitating her to back down. He was joined by romance writer Tara Crescent and Jennifer Watson, a promoter for the CockTales anthology, whom Lady Voldemort had named in a lawsuit.

And so for about three months, this thing has been going on, with lots of authors wondering if, in a world where you can trademark any single word in a title, if it’s even worth it to write.* There have also been a slew of stories published with the word “cocky” in the titles in protest, and they’ve done quite well for themselves. And of course, everyone’s been watching the courts to see how this will play out.

Well, for the past few weeks, there’s been talk of both Hopkins either accepting a settlement or getting her butt handed to her by a judge. And this past week,  we got news. Hopkins agreed to an unspecified settlement and has withdrawn her trademark on the word “cocky.” If you go to the US Trademark and Patent Office’s website, it’ll say “invalidation pending” on Hopkins’s trademark.

Make no mistake, this is a victory for authors to be able to title their stories whatever they want without fear of legal repercussions. There are still plenty of imitators trying to get their own trademarks through, but Hopkins is the original, and this victory sends a message to her imitators and her opponents. So while there are still legal hurdles to get through with the former, us in the latter know that with enough people caring, we can overcome these monsters and get our stories out there without fear of being sued for using a simple word.

And as an author who could’ve easily been affected by this (seriously, type into Amazon the words “Snake” or “Rose.” If someone did this to me, I could be in trouble), I’d like to thank Mr. Kneupper and all the authors, lawyers, Twitter activists, and readers who lent their time and energy to putting up this fight against Lady Voldemort. You did the creative community a huge favor, and I hope we can always count on your love and strength when we need to fight assholery like what we’ve experienced this summer.

And to Ms. Hopkins herself, I hope she’s happy. The terms of the settlement aren’t known, but whatever they are, I hope she’s satisfied. Because this saga has led to her reputation being shredded. She set herself up as a bully and manipulative monster who went after authors without money or legal mettle. And during these three months, she’s only dug herself further into a hole, calling people who use stock photos after she does “copycats” (WTF?) and alleging people who call her fans and supporters stupid are equating them with having autism (um, excuse me?). Now she’s become a byword for a monster, a nasty character who tries to take advantage of other writers, of being greedy and willing to use underhanded tactics to get ahead.

And while I try not to wish bad things upon people I disagree with, I really hope that Lady Voldemort’s writing career goes like the GIF below from now on.

Thanks for reading, Followers of Fear. Hopefully this is the last time I ever have to mention Cockygate or Lady Voldemort ever again (though if I have to, I will). In the meantime, I wish you a good weekend and warn you to expect more from me this weekend.

Until then, pleasant nightmares!

*I mean, imagine if instead of proper titles like “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” getting trademarks, someone could trademark a word like “the.” Just “the” in any title, and it holds water. You run into all sorts of trouble from the get-go!

For my earlier posts on Cockygate from May 5th and May 28, click here and here, respectively.

I’m just going to skip over all the preliminary stuff and just get to the good news: the Romance Writers Association and the Authors Guild won a court ruling on Friday against Faleena Hopkins, the notorious romance author who put a trademark on the word “cocky” and then sent letters to authors who had books with “cocky” in their titles, threatening legal action if they didn’t take their books off Amazon or change their books’ titles.

Now, if you read my post from last week, you may remember that Hopkins’s lawyer had sent Kevin Kneupper, the novelist and retired lawyer who’s leading the fight against Hopkins, along with author Tara Crescent and publicist Jennifer Watson, a letter with intention to sue them, as well as filing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Petition of Cancellation for the trademark. Since then, it’s also come out that Hopkins was asking for another TRO against the publication of a collection of stories called Cocktales: The Cocky Collective, which was named as an obvious protest against her trademark (Jennifer Watson was incorrectly named by Hopkins as the publisher of the book in the papers filed for the TRO).

On Friday June 1st, several things happened:

  1. Kneupper was dismissed as a party to the lawsuit Hopkins’ lawyer filed, meaning he’s free to continue fighting against the trademark.
  2. Hopkins did not get her restraining order, so the petition and all the other legal battles against her can continue.
  3. Finally and most importantly, for the moment books with the word “cocky” in the title can be published, including the Cocktales anthology.

In other words, Hopkins lost, and she lost big. And while there’s another court date in September, and presumably this is when the decision on her trademark will be decided once and for all, it’s still not looking very good for Hopkins. As stated in the article the Authors Guild put on their website:

In ruling against the author Faleena Hopkins, who claimed exclusive rights to “cocky” for romance titles, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York, stated that he did not believe that Hopkins was likely to succeed on the merits.

In other words, the judge says that Hopkins’s trademark is on pretty weak legs.

Now, there’s still a lot of work to do. For one thing, while people can still publish their books with the word “cocky” in the title, the final decision won’t be made till September at the earliest. That gives Hopkins, her lawyers, and her supporters (yeah, there are some out there) to come up with legal strategies for the trial and for any potential appeals, both from her side and the other side. And unfortunately, there are a number of copycats out there trying to get trademarks on common words used in titles. It’s a hot mess.

But this is a bright spot in the ongoing saga of #Cockygate. I’ve heard from many authors who have expressed fear over the outcome of this controversy, and what it could mean for them if they couldn’t write because they could incur legal repercussions for using an everyday word in their story’s title. Hopkins’s defeat on Friday gives us all a little bit of hope that we can continue to not only write our stories, but give them almost any title imaginable and not have to worry about getting sued for it.

So with the trial not till September, what can we do now as authors? Well, we can continue to show our support for Kneupper and the legal team fighting Hopkins, as well as the RWA and all of the authors who’ve been affected by Cockygate (remember, if you’ve received a letter from Hopkins, contact for assistance and guidance). This can be something as casual as sympathetic messages online, or buying, reading, and reviewing the books of those involved/affected (a single sale and review can do an author a ton of good, believe me), or even donating your time and skills to the legal battle.*

You can also spread the word on Cockygate and any developments in the scandal. The more people who know what Hopkins is doing, the more we can rally against her or anyone else trying to copy her. The louder our voices, the stronger we are, and the better positioned we are to affect positive change.

And finally, if you’re a writer, continue writing. Don’t let fear get in the way of telling the stories you were born to tell. Like the people behind Cocktales, when we decide to put something out in defiance of bullies, we make a statement that we’re not going to take this sitting down.

That’s all for now, everyone. If there are any other significant developments, I’ll post about them. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

UPDATE 6/3/18 @ 7:18 PM EST: Erica Unsophisticated Blood Thirsty Wolf Fisher (@monet5280) informed me over Twitter that both Ms. Crescent and Ms. Watson’s lawyers are working on a motion to dismiss, which will be due in on June 22nd. In addition, Ms. Hopkins has to respond to the Petition of Cancellation from Mr. Kneupper no later than June 23rd. So it looks like things will be heating up longer before it starts to get cold again. Here’s hoping the end of June brings more good news like what we saw on Friday.

*Just be careful before you donate to any legal fund for those affected or claiming to be for any legal teams against Hopkins. There are a ton of people out there who have no qualms against taking advantage of those suffering in order to make an easy buck.


Boy, has my writing time been severely restricted lately. I’ve been so busy with everything that I haven’t been able to do as many blog posts as I wanted to (I wanted to write one about Indiana and Arkansas’s new “religious freedom” laws. Long story short, I’ll be avoiding those states for the foreseeable future).

But back on point, I’ve taken Daisy down from Amazon and Smashwords. For those of you unfamiliar with this title, Daisy is a short story I published as an e-book when I first started down the path to becoming a self-published author, about a girl who is kidnapped by a man who believes that she’s his dead girlfriend and has to hide from him in an abandoned building. I published it more as an experiment to see if people would download it than anything else. Although I am fond of it in my way, it’s definitely not one of my best stories, but its cheap price (free in some places) and how short it was certainly got people reading at the time.

So why did I take it down? Well last night, after what had been a long and arduous day, I lay down to sleep, and just as I’m drifting off, a stray thought pops into my head: You have song lyrics in that story. Isn’t that a copyright violation? Nearly sat up straight in bed and turned on my laptop after that nasty thought went through my head. After all, Daisy’s not the best read story, but if someone were to find it and realize I had those song lyrics in there, I could be in serious legal and financial trouble. Doesn’t matter that I didn’t know better at the time, it could still come back to haunt me.

So I took it down this morning after breakfast, and I’ll be taking down the entry for it on my Stand Alones page. And I might put it back up again. I’m not sure at this point. Like I said, it’s not one of my best works, and I hate having to give people sub-par writing. I also don’t do a lot of advertising for it, so  On the other hand, I’m still fond of it and a lot of people liked it despite its shortcomings. So maybe when I have a chance I’ll edit it and put it back up without anything that could get me in court.

In the meantime, I guess the people who already have copies on their various digital devices have the only copies in existence besides mine. So enjoy that folks, you have the e-book equivalent of a collector’s item. Not everyone can say they have one of those.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got homework to do, so I’m going to get on that. Have a good one, my Followers of Fear.

You know, I think it is appalling when that there is such a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor in this country. And depending on which side you find yourself on, you can find that your treatment varies considerably. And you know what? It sucks.

Just today, I found this article about a man who molested his children and was convicted of it. How much jail time is he serving? None, actually. Why, you may be screaming at your computer? Look:

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he “will not fare well” in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.

Okay, first off, nobody is supposed to fare well in jail. It’s meant to be miserable on purpose. The whole point is that people will be persuaded not to commit crimes after serving a prison sentence. And sending this guy to a sex offenders rehab program isn’t going to change him or protect his and other people’s children, which is what child molestation laws are for. Instead, Mr. Richards has been taught that with money and a high-powered legal team, you can get away with the worst and get a slap on the wrist. And I wonder, would the judge give this same sort of sentence to another man? One that might be middle class or lower? Maybe even had a public defense lawyer? I seriously doubt it.

This comes only a few months after the case of the “affluenza teenager”, a teenager named Ethan Couch who was driving drunk and killed four people. Normally you’d expect jail time for this example of vehicular manslaughter, but the psychologist called by the defense said that Couch had been so coddled and spoiled by his parents that it had led to irresponsibility, a pseud0-condition of pop psychology known as affluenza. Couch is being ordered to go to a $450K/year rehab facility to attend alcohol and drug rehab and to remain on probation for the foreseeable future.

Maybe I’m no lawyer, but I know there are plenty of kids who are probably just as coddled or not coddled at all and who don’t go doing what Couch did. And there are plenty of people across the nation who have been Couch’s age and in similar situations, or have been charged with crimes of greater or lesser nature. They’ve been given lengthy prison sentences. Do they get psychologists saying that they have conditions that were directly related to the actions they undertook? I don’t think so.

And you know what the biggest difference between Couch and these teens I just mentioned? The latter group are often from poorer backgrounds and are often black, which in our fractured legal system puts them at a greater disadvantage.

Now contrast this with the case of Shanesha Taylor, a homeless mother who is facing jail time for leaving her children in her car while going to a job interview:

A homeless single mother in Arizona who struggled to make ends meet is in jail after she allegedly left her children in her car while she went on a job interview.

Shanesha Taylor was arrested on felony child abuse charges after Scottsdale police discovered her two kids, aged 2 years old and 6 months old, in a locked car.

Scottsdale police responded after a witness reported a child crying from inside a Dodge Durango parked at an office complex on March 20. Police said that two children were left alone in the car with the engine off and the windows slightly cracked. The car was left parked in the sun and all the doors were closed.

AZFamily reports that the kids had already been in the car for 30 minutes when police arrived. Police said 35-year-old Taylor returned from her job interview about 45 minutes after officers came to the scene. She said she didn’t have anyone else to care for the kids while she was on an interview at an insurance company.

“She was upset. This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job,” Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark told KPHO. “Obviously not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation.”

Yes, it’s a sad situation! Our system constantly rewards the rich and punishes the poor. Ms. Taylor didn’t want to leave her kids in the car, but what choice did she have? She’s living out of her car! She can’t afford childcare. Yes, what she did put her children in danger, but I bet that if she had a choice her kids would be in a preschool watched over by licensed early childhood educators while she went to that interview. Now she’s facing jail time for wanting to provide food and maybe a better shelter for her kids.

Luckily there are good people out there who are raising money for Ms. Taylor’s legal defense, and they’ve already received three times the original goal. But that doesn’t change the fact that Ms. Taylor is living in terrible conditions, that unless there’s some serious intervention her kids will most likely live in a similar situation and be told by others that if they actually applied themselves and tried to pull themselves up by their bootstraps instead of living lives of crime or mooching off the system they could live a way better life. I’m calling BS here, because it’s definitely not that simple. If that was the case, every person who watched me and my sisters growing up while our parents worked would be living in nice suburbs and sending their own kids to wonderful schools with college opportunities (last I checked, that wasn’t the case).

I seriously hope that one of Ms. Taylor’s supporters gives her a job after she is hopefully exonerated, because otherwise she’ll be back to where she started. And I hope the whole nation takes a look at our legal system, because as these and so many other cases have pointed out, our legal system is broken. People who should go to jail are set free or get very light sentences while those who just need a helping hand are sent to jail and vilified before they even get there.

This is what we need to do to our justice system.

This isn’t America. It shouldn’t be America. And while it is America, we can’t call this nation a true land of opportunity or equality. So what we need to do is change it. Make the laws apply to everyone, and not cut deals or give rulings that reward people who are likely to re-offend. Also, childcare should not be so expensive! There has to be options for women like Ms. Taylor, and the lack of options is disturbing, because it led directly to this situation.

And unless we act, things will never change.