Writers nowadays are faced with an extremely large problem: getting their work published and getting it out there to the people who want to read it. Unlike in previous generations, today’s publishers are now looking for writers with an established set of followers on social media, before deciding whether to publish their work or not.
Most writers have then resorted to simply publishing ebooks and selling them online. What happens, then, when one minute you’re watching orders come in for your newly-published SciFi book, and the next, you get an email from Amazon saying that it’s been pulled out of the store for copyright infringement? This is exactly what happened to Maggie Hogarth, U.S.-based writer and author of “Spots the Space Marine”, whose book was pulled from Amazon’s shelves because she used the term “Space Marine,” a term that has apparently been held by U.K. toymaker Games Workshop.
The past few years have seen a rather large boom in the gaming industry, a fact that Gaming Realms, operators of Pocket Fruity, attributes to “the increased adoption of smartphones by consumers, which currently account for 17% of mobile usage, facilitated by increased mobile internet capabilities.” Because of this, many game developers and manufacturers are seeing a much heavier need to push for stronger intellectual property and copyright laws, as well as a better way to enforce them.
Games Workshop took things into their own hands when they had Amazon pull “Spots the Space Marine” from their virtual shelves, claiming that the firm had possessed a trademark for the term “space marine” since 1995. Ultimately, however, the writing community prevailed and “Spots the Space Marine” was reinstated, but not before Maggie Hogarth had lost months of potential sales.
But what happened to “Spots” shed light on a much graver issue: the lack of due process for takedowns in Amazon. “I continue to be gravely concerned by the lack of due process shown me,” Maggie wrote. “There’s a tradition of facing one’s accuser, and one of the worst parts of this ordeal was having no petition, no appeal, no right to defend myself and point out the absurdity of the claim against me.” To this day, guidelines for publication remain to be iron-clad and enforced with a passion; yet it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself being taken off of the shelves for reasons you may not be aware of.
Should you or anyone you know encounter any problems with publishing your work online, you might feel better knowing that there are foundations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation that have experience dealing especially with digital rights. It’s important to keep yourself updated, and always have a backup plan when it comes to publishing your work online.