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February 7, 2013


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In Space, No One Can Hear You Sue

February 7, 2013

Hey, all! First things first.

My friend, Natalie, who's kinda awesome (and will one day hopefully have her Arch-Angela cosplay ready) works for the Indiana School for the Blind & Visually Impaired. Like many state funded institutions, they've got limited funds and are in need of help. There's a lot of stuff they need for the kids and Natalie
Now, on to le drama.

A lot of you have probably heard about this already, but for those of you who game and missed the news: apparently
Games Workshop, a game company known for its miniatures-based systems, thinks they own the idea of Space Marines. Those of you who don't read a lot of science fiction , Space Marines are a common science fiction archetype. They're the soldiers who go off into space, brave danger, fight intergalactic wars, protect their home planet. You can find the in Avatar and the Alien movies, or games like Quake and Starcraft. The first instances of the term "Space Marine" appear in 1934.

Which makes it even more interesting that Games Workshop, who created the battle miniatures game Warhammer 40K a good fifty-three years after that first use, is apparently claiming they own a trademark on Space Marines. See, this all started back in December when a e-book by author M.C.A. Hogarth was blocked from sale on Amazon.com because Games Workshop claimed they owned the term, which was featured prominently in Hogarth's book, Spots the Space Marine.

Again, Space Marines have been around in fiction since 19-goddamn-34. Warhammer 40K came out fifty-are-you-fucking-kidding-me-three years later, and was used - many, many times - in other works during the meantime.

Hogarth has been in contact with Games Workshop as well as many lawyers and, according to Hogarth, GW ain't budging. Here's a quote from Hogarth's blog:

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. Space marines were around long before Games Workshop. But if GW has their way, in the future, no one will be able to use the term "space marine" without it referring to the space marines of the Warhammer 40K universe.

Now, let me say right here and now, there are always two sides to the story. I'd love to hear Game Workshop's side, although with possible impending litigation, they may prefer to keep mum. There may be some valid points that need to be made for them. And I hope they do, 'cuz right now it just looks like a company trying to bully an author to cave from using a term that's been around for a sold forty-guys-you're-kinda-looking-like-assholes-here-one years before their company even formed. And according to an article from Io9, a lot of authors in the science fiction community are whipping into a rage over this.

And if there's one thing I love more than sloths, it's authors on an angry, angry tear. Twitter's gonna be fun, guys.

There has been some good news, at least. According to another blog post from yesterday, Hogarth, who was understandably concerned about the costs of such a case, has been in contact with the Electronic Freedom Foundation. And a lot of folks have been voicing their opinions to Games Workshop (which, should you do, remember: more flies with honey than vinegar). It'll be interesting to see how this all turns out.

I should say, though, I honestly hope we hear from Games Workshop on this. But until they explain their side, I'll just have to rework my planned follow-up comic to Something*Positive a little, but Something*Positive 40K: Hello, Space Sailor! just doesn't have the same ring to it.

See ya tomorrow! -R.


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