Every Writer Has a Dog in this Cocky Fight

Have you been following cockygate?

What is that, you ask?

Well, hold onto your socks and chickens, it has nothing to do with footwear or fowl and everything to do with romance novels.

First, let me tell you the name of a writer who you have probably never heard of before. It seems this is part of the big mystery: no one knew who this writer was before cockygate became a thing. A copyright thing.

It all started a few days ago when news of an unknown writer getting exclusive rights to use a generic word in a book title hit Twitter. This all sounds very weird, and it’s about to get weirder.

The nobody’s name is Faleena Hopkins. The story begins for this woman on June 16, 2016 when she published the first book in the Cocky romance series. Since then, a few more books were published.

Over the past year or so, she’s claimed other romance writers have used the word ‘cocky’ to copycat her stories because there were so good, famous, long . . . cocky. This led to her claim that other writers used the same stock image as she did to get sales, tricking unsuspecting writers into buying their book instead of hers.

Obviously, her readers aren’t that bright if they can’t read the title and the author’s name and they go by only pictures.

Obviously, this woman isn’t so knowledgeable about photography. She didn’t know she had to buy exclusive rights to photographs or create her own to be original. I’ve seen multiple books with the same stock photos, and I ain’t that bright, but I can read titles and author names to pick the right book I want to buy.

Anyways, this cocky writer Hopkins thinks she should have exclusive rights to the word ‘cocky’ because . . . hold onto your hats . . . she thinks she made the word unique in romance novels.

. . . sorry. I had to stop to laugh.

She has sent letters to other authors who have book titles with the word ‘cocky’ in it, telling them they must change the title, or she’ll be entitled to their royalties.

One of the most famous books out there with this word is Cocky Bastard by Penelope Ward. It was published in August 2015, almost a full year before Hopkins published the first book in the Cocky series.

One might ask, who is copycatting who?

The Romance Writers of America, along with a growing number of authors, is fighting this. They understand we can’t sit idly by and let one word after another become exclusive to only one writer.

As of yet, they have not hired a lawyer to fight this. They are gathering information. I feel it is only a matter of time before a court battle is had over this. I know I’d be ticked if my book came out before 2016 and was subject to this insane copyright.

I’ve seen comments that stated, “I’m not a romance writer, so I don’t have a dog in this fight.”

Yes, you do.

I’ve also seen, “I’d never use that word anyways, so I’m not worried.”

You should be.

As L. M. Brown clearly states on her website:

Why is #cockygate important for ALL writers?

Suppose…

A sci-fi writer TM’s “space” and “alien”
A fantasy writer TM’s “sword” and “magic”
A mystery writer TMs “murder” and “mystery”

You see where I’m going with this?

This is NOT branding and it impacts ALL writers.

Brown is helping where she can by supporting authors with ‘cocky’ in the title. On this same page, she writes, “As the train wreck that is Faleena Hopkins’ career implosion continues, here are some authors who are involved in this who I am giving a shout out to in support.”

Please spread the word. Let others know. Cocky must not go down without a fight – be that a cock fight or a sword pen fight.

PS: I wanted to emphasize Hopkins was an unknown writer in the business because if she can do it, what is stopping those who dominate the industry: Stephen King, James Patterson, Margaret Atwood?

Links that can tell the story better than I can:

Jenny Trout of Trout Nation

Kayleigh Donaldson at Pajiba

UPDATE (3:20 pm in Nova Scotia): I just read the following and I am wondering if I have ever used the word ‘cocky’ in a review. This is getting insane. It’s as if all material with that word is being removed from Amazon.

It’s getting worse. Amazon is now removing book reviews that use the word ‘cocky’ in them, even outside the romance genre. I also saw a post from an author who writes mysteries–I think–who said their book was removed for having the word ‘cocky’ in the narrative.

Also: If you want to follow this closely, I see a lot of information posted by and commenting to Kevin Kneupper’s Twitter account. He’s a lawyer who is challenging the “cocky” trademark.

UPDATE (7:11 pm in Nova Scotia): Books & Quills Interview with Kevin Kneupper posted today.

UPDATE (Thursday morning): Writer Beware wrote a post that clearly explains the trademark use. It is not for the word in general, only when it is used in a series title. That’s not how authors with ‘cocky’ in the title were treated though.

UPDATE: It’s Thursday May 10, 2018; 2:00 pm in Nova Scotia, and I just read the word ‘rebellion’ has also been claimed. Rest assured, a Cocky Rebellion is well in the making.


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21 thoughts on “Every Writer Has a Dog in this Cocky Fight

  1. I’m not a lawyer, but did research this topic because I use song and movie titles in my books. There’s a difference between the legal terms copyright and trademark. You can trademark a series name, but not copyright it, just as you can trademark a brand such as the name of a fast food chain or a type of jeans or a type of phone (e.g. iphone). How many restaurants have been sent a letter because they opened a restaurant called McDonalds or Harveys? LOTS. As someone says above, the title of a song cannot be copyrighted, but the lyrics can (an original work). There can be a number of books with the same title, or even books with the same author name and title as that of another author’s book, and copyright is not violated. THis situation is where an ISBN comes in handy to differentiate the works. However, some names can be trademarked. The Rolling Stones, a name and brand, can be trademarked but not copyrighted. This is so another band cannot come along and call itself the Rolling Stones, or sell Rolling Stones merchandise without a licence. However, the words “rolling stones” are not copyrightable. Although the word cocky is not copyrightable, a series title that includes that word could be trademarked. This author has indeed opened a can of worms, because a) series names can be trademarked and b) authors may now try to trademark their “brand” (their famous author name) so they can merchandise exclusively under that brand.

  2. This cocky nutjob sounds like she works with dOnald tRump. I can’t believe this is even a thing! I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this ‘cockygate’ thing. I think I’m much to absorbed in Russiagate right now LOL 🙂

    • Russiagate is a smoke screen, so other things can happen without us knowing about it. I don’t pay any attention to what’s going on in politics south of the border. That is not my dog fight. The people elected a president. It was their choice. End of story for me.

      But Cockygate is a different story. This author seems bent on enforcing something she doesn’t truly have: complete ownership of the word.

      That’s small potatoes to what was uncovered during the investigation into this. Two brothers are trying to trademark the word ‘rebellion’ for everything, not just books. As of yesterday, I believe they had five days until it became legally registered. This is unbelievable.

      • Well sounds an awful lot like the crazy shenanigans going on in US. Rebellion has been in the dictionary for eons, how on earth are they stealing a word and trademarking it??????? 😦

  3. I’ve been following the whole mess, and I think the Writer Beware post has the best breakdown on the whole mess, including the news that Amazon has ceased it’s ‘takedown’ of books.

    If this writer (who is getting enough publicity outta this whole mess so I’m not going to add to her searchabilityby using her name yet again) put just as much energy into her writing as she obviously did finagling this whole fiasco she wouldn’t’ve had to manufacture this whole fiasco.

    • I agree. Writer Beware has a great explanation on the limits of the trademark. From what I understand, I can use the word ‘cocky’ in a title as long as it is not the name of a series. I think she — the author — failed to understand this when she sent those letters to authors.

      As they say in Hollywood: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

  4. This woman is insane, for god’s sake I do hope this doesn’t get any more serious. She must realise that she can’t own the rights to the word cocky, omg…

    • I, too, think she’s insane. And she doesn’t think much of her readers. I’d be insulted if she said I bought books by mistake because I was confused by who wrote them. It also would mean I wasn’t smart enough to use Kindle’s free return policy.

      I just read that ‘rebellion’ has also fallen.

      How ironic. We should launch a Cocky Rebellion. Lol

  5. I remember seeing an image of her paperwork, and it being a “wordmark”, using a particular font for the word “cocky”. The irony is the font she used is trademarked. Definitely this spurious attack on other authors has to be stopped, for the reasons you have listed. No one should be allowed to copyright a word in common usage.

    • A ‘wordmark”. That’s a new one for me. I did, however, read about the font and its registered copyright. Apparently, the owner of the font stated no one can trademark it and that he’d be looking into it.

  6. Obviously Hopkins is not a lawyer and knows nothing about copyright. From the get go, TITLES cannot be copyrighted. Nor can single words. This won’t go farther than her getting in legal trouble.

    • Actually, John, she has gone through the legal process and has done exactly that: copyrighted the word ‘cocky’. From what I’ve read, she is the only writer allowed to use that word in a romance title. I don’t think it is any genre, only romance. I don’t know if books published before hers with that word can still use it.

      It’s incredible that any judge would allow it to happen, but she can legally lay claim to it. That’s what makes this story so unbelievable.

      • Thing to note: it is registered in the U.S. I read an Aussie writer early on say that a U.S. trademark is invalid outside of the U.S.
        Copyright and trademark laws need to change. Too ambiguous, especially concerning books, book titles, etc.
        At least today, Amazon has put back the books they pulled (I’m not sure about the reviews, though). For now.

      • It’s a trademark registration according to one of the articles you linked to. That can be done but probably will be undone by the Patent and Trademark Office after likely successful challenges. The articles indicate that’s already in process. Hopkins and her supposed law firm have chutzpah up the wazoo trying this scam. In the end, if she really has a lawyer, she’ll be incurring some extra billable hours defending and losing on this.

        • I agree that she’ll be loosing money on this. I think she thought it would be a walk in the park, but with so many writers up in arms, they are searching her blog, watching her videos and scanning her reviews for every shred of evidence that support their case. She apparently admitted in one podcast that she used the word ‘cocky’ because she found other romance authors having lots of success with it. That alone makes her the copycat.

  7. Unbelievable. I read an article once that stated that the titles of songs cannot be copywritten even if the song itself is. The same should apply to books. When I thought up a title for my current manuscript, one thing I did was search Amazon for other books with that title, I found many! I will be changing my title, not because of any copywrite infringement, but to make mine unique.

    • I agree, Doug. This story is far from over. This writer may regret what she’s done, or she’ll live off the fame the bad publicity has created. She is an actress, and those in Hollywood know there is no such thing as bad publicity.

      I’ve done what you’ve done. I’ve search Amazon and Google to see if my title has been used before I choose it.

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