By Alana Ranger
She ran her fingers over the silky fabric of the wedding dress, her eyes on the full-length mirror attached to the wardrobe door. Downstairs was quiet, her guests presumably waiting for her to make her appearance. She had wondered at first if inviting them round, all together, had been a mistake. Her parents and soon to be parents-in-law around one table could easily have spelled disaster, but the afternoon had gone better than she could have hoped. Damien knew nothing of the meeting, of course. She had taken advantage of his weekend work-outing to have both sets of parents see her dress with their own eyes, instead of the rather poor-quality photo she had sent them. Perhaps then they would stop complaining about it. One less thing for them to harp on about was very welcome.
At first, planning the wedding was easy. She’d never found organising large events to be a problem and the amount of stress she had heard other brides went through to achieve their perfect day, she had expected there to be more to do. She had a venue booked, menus set, transport arranged, decorations taken care of and the dress fitted inside of a month. Everything else fell into place and all was in hand.
It was when the dress was readied was when the problems started. She had gone into the bridal shop and tried it on after the latest round of alterations, and happy with the final result had sent photographs to hers and Damien’s parents. Their initial responses were of delight. A week or so later her mother asked her, over a cup of coffee, if she thought the neckline of the dress was too low. It was a day after that Damien’s mother had asked if she thought it appropriate to show so much cleavage. She had been a little paranoid since then, wondering if both sets of parents were communicating secretly while maintaining the pretence of never having met, because since then they had been united in their criticisms. The venue was too small and too badly lit, the cars weren’t ‘good’ enough –
“They’re a bit scruffy, don’t you think? A Rolls Royce is what you want. More fitting to a wedding,” Damien’s father had said and his mother followed this with a complaint about the ‘tacky’ decorations.
The menu argument was the last straw. She had presented both sets of parents with a menu, advising that meals had to be chosen before the day. Damien’s mother had merely sniffed at her choices, but her own mother had gone into a full-blown rant.
“Mini-quiche! As a starter?” she’d sneered.
“I like mini-quiche.”
“This is a wedding, not a food court! That is a buffet food. Not a starter.”
“It’s part of the buffet platter. I like it,” she said, and had taken a few deeps breaths to keep herself calm. “It’s a sharing dish, you see. I think it’s romantic.”
“It’s ridiculous. Why not consider another menu? You don’t have to change it, just have a look and see what else there is. See if you can find something more suitable.”
Her mother picked out a meal for herself anyway, while urging her daughter to look around for other options. It was only minutes after that minor fiasco she decided to return to the dress, continuing her insistence that she reconsider the style and buy a new one. Out came pictures from her over-sized handbag of a dress that her mother considered more suitable. Pushing aside the hurt, she instead arranged a home viewing for them. After all, the photo she had sent didn’t do the dress justice.
It was silky and soft, as smooth as water. She was a princess – a queen – in a dress like this. With a deep breath, she left her room and went downstairs into the kitchen, where she was greeted with astonished silence.
“It’s much better in person, don’t you think?” she said, running her hands over the skirt. She couldn’t help herself. The feel of the fabric on her fingers was beautiful. “I think we can agree….”
She held her hands up as her mother’s mouth opened.
“Please. Let me say what I have to say.”
She took another breath, smiling to herself. She had really out-done herself this time. Not a word came from the table.
“I think we can agree, now, that the dress is fine. Now, the menu. I know you aren’t all happy with it…”
Again, she held up her hands.
“Please! I’m almost finished. I’ve also arranged for us to have a taste of what they have on offer. The buffet selection will be ready very soon. Once you’ve tried it, I know you’ll love it.”
A line of drool left the corner of her soon to be mother-in-law’s mouth, her eyelids drooping. She frowned, her hands on her hips. Perhaps she had gone a little overboard with the tablets she poured into their drinks. Counting them out might had been a better idea. Still, she thought, there was no reason to worry. The woman was still alive and well. It would just be a while before she was capable of tasting anything she was presented with.
“Now, I hope you appreciate with what we’ve spent on the wedding, I couldn’t afford to go all out on ingredients for this little taster session. The reception will be much better, they’ll be using the best quality, but for today I’ve had to settle for a little cheaper. That, and the food at the reception won’t have had quite so many drugs pumped into it. I’m sorry about that, by the way.” Running her fingers over the dress one more time, she stepped toward the kitchen cupboard and brought out the axe she had stored there. It had been surprisingly easy to find, something that almost all the hardware shops she had visited kept. She had chosen a dainty-looking one, with a white edge to the blade which she had then spent several hours sharpening. Hefting it in both hands, she approached her mother, ignoring the low whine that came from her father. He was in no position to do anything and didn’t deserve her attention anyway. The way he had sat back and allowed her mother’s bullying to go on still hurt.
“I’ll try to make this as nice as what we’ll get on the day, but you must understand I’m neither a butcher or a chef. I have the recipe, and it calls for chicken but I simply couldn’t get any with what I had in my budget. So, I’ll be using a substitute.”
Read Staff Coffee here
* * * * * * * * * * 10 / 10
Derek and Dave Philpott
Not a story, but a series of letters and replies, all real and fun enough to restore some of my lost faith in the human race.
It’s not something I could sit down to read in one go, or even a lot at a time, but as an ebook on my phone I could flip through during ten-minute breaks at work, it was perfect, and easily enough to brighten up the worst of shifts.
Note: As soon as I am able, I will edit with a book cover. Until then, buy the book here.
* * * * * * * * * * 10/10
I’m not a fan of zombie apocalypses, but always a fan of time travel, time distortions and Groundhog Day scenarios. This story could have gone either way.
It very easily gets a ten. The story is short, fast paced and every part of it works well. From the back-stories of minor characters, the fact that the engineer doesn’t have a name or a story of his own, to the cliché hero, all driving to an ending that… I can’t say much about without spoiling it. It is both worthwhile and hopeless at the same time. There are so many levels to such a short story.
It’s been far too hot. I didn’t think I’d ever say – or type – that, but it has. I never thought I’d hear myself say I’m glad for rain, but I was. I wouldn’t mind a little bit more sun now, though, so I can get my washing out to dry.
Driving lessons are going well, I think. I mean, I haven’t hit anything yet so that’s got to be a good thing. My holiday is coming up and I can’t wait, I’m nearing the end of the book I’m going to call ‘Gitta’s Monster’, the follow-on from Sweet-pea’s Thief. It’s slow going right now, and I would blame the heat but really it’s because I have a tendency to take on too much so I can’t do a lot on any one thing because I’m doing a little on a lot of things. It doesn’t help that I spend far too much time on Minecraft.
I have a cool Minecraft world. There’s a mine out in the open just waiting to be raided, and I stumbled on the End Portal completely by accident. Within sight of that are two ocean monuments. With the 1.13 update I can’t use my favourite texture pack any more, but I hope it gets an update soon.
My own game, Chase the Cake, is going quite well. It’s being redrawn by the very talented JustDav1d – I’m not at all biased – and looks a lot better. I know more now than I did when I first pushed it out, so it will play a lot better too. The basic plot isn’t going to change, but there are going to be more bad guys.
I’m trying very hard to make more time for Youtube. It’s something I’d really like to see grow, since it’s something I enjoy doing, but I’m finding it so hard to make time to read enough that I can put out a steady amount of content. I’m a lot less patient with books than I used to be too, since my time is so limited now, and I have a tendency to put unedited books down where in the past I’d have slogged through because the story itself is good. I’m playing around with the idea of food-related content. I love to cook, but I’m not any kind of chef like you’d see on My Virgin Kitchen, so I’m not sure I’d have anything worth watching. I’ll see what I can come up with.
Faye does very little, as ever. I think she has some ideas going in that empty head of hers, but since she has yet to leave that pit she calls home, I don’t hold much hope for her. She has got a couple of short stories ready to go, but I don’t know what she plans on doing with them.
We have a new addition to the family in the shape of a cat. He’s another rescue and was a stray before the RSPCA took him in. He’s very affectionate, extremely greedy and a little bit overweight due to his habit of eating anything he comes across, edible or no. He and May are the best of friends, even though he has no sense of personal space. The orange fluff-ball is May, the stripy fluff-ball is Ranger.
* * * * * 5/10
The story sounds like a good one and the author has a humorous way of writing, but in the end I gave up on the book a quarter the way through. As much as I’d like to know how it goes and how it ends, it needs some work doing to it. It is over-written and too slow-paced to suit the plot. Once it has been edited, I’d love to take another look.
Cakey is by far the best character I’ve come across. I love that little thing. I want a Cakey of my own.
* * * * * * * * * 9/10
When your doctor makes a typo, it’s supposed to be no big deal. Everyone makes mistakes, obvious mistakes are easily corrected and life goes on without any fuss and nothing even worth remembering. Except if you happen to be Myron ‘Mike’ Moskowitz.
A simple typo during a doctors visit leads to a series of events that happen to lead to Mike ceasing to exist in all respects but the unimportant being-alive-and-breathing one. Without an identity, Mike finds life rather difficult and he becomes more and more desperate to get himself back on the grid. How fortunate he has help…
There’s a lot of humour in these pages, alongside a gentle dig at how much of our lives depend on other people admitting we are alive, and being a part of a system that we’re born into but can do little to change. There’s some sort of lesson in here about common sense, too, and how devoid of it government can be.
Cam Carney was a chirpy Cockney chap who owned a cock-eyed Corgie. He’d inherited it from his dear old Cockney mum, who had called the ghastly little beast Cocky without a shred of irony. Cocky the cock-eyed Corgie was the bane of Cam’s life, cocking its leg in every corner of the house and upon every caller at the door. Cocky had cost Cam numerous conjugal encounters, the Corgi’s accumulated aroma incompatible with convivial intercourse. The stench was so strong as to set eyes streaming. If mere chemical blinding were insufficient disincentive to abide, the little brute Cocky would itself set upon any visitor. Those few young ladies to dare beyond the front door soon departed, stockings shredded about the ankles by the ferocious nipping terror that was Cocky the cock-eyed Corgie…
I could go on, but that is sufficient to claim copyright on the character of Cocky the cock-eyed Corgie. That’s mine now, copyright. Only I may write the adventures of Cocky the Corgie. Should they be a hit, and launch me to megastar authorial status, I might go for a trademark. There would then be images of Cocky, a logo, a brand, and thus the components of a Trademark. At no point in this process would I acquire ownership of all Corgies, Cockneys, the word “Cocky”, or the concept of alliteration. It is also incidentally impossible to Trademark the concept of Satire, which is protected Free Speech under law.
Welcome to Cockygate, the latest daft scandal to rock the Small-Press. Someone has raised the question (again) of whether it is possible to Trademark a word.
Short answer: No, it is not.
Long answer… people seem very confused about the difference between Copyright and Trademark, what each of those actually means, and the consequences for publishing.
Copyright is automatic, the default state of any written or artistic thing to which you claim authorship. You wrote it, you own it. You do not have to register it. The common mistaken belief that you do arises from a brief period in 20th Century America when the US required Americans to register copyright. Only in America, and only once upon a time: Since literally every other country on Earth did not do it that way, the US changed its position to become compatible with international copyright law. You do not have to register copyright.
Copyright relates to creative content in all forms and media: A Trademark relates to the corporate identity of a brand. There is crossover; both copyright and trademark may apply to essentially the same objects.
A story is copyright; the author owns the words on the page in the order they are written. They do not own each word individually, nor any specific phrases or combinations of words. They do not even own the names of the characters or fictitious places in the story. What they own is the story, as a whole, and all things contained within it, in that context. It is the literary work itself that is copyright, not any specific part of the content.
A Trademark is a corporate identity, in all senses: It means both the total collection of imagery and tropes in the Trademarked thing, but also the business identity and public face of whoever owns the Intellectual Property in question. A Trademark may be a logo, character, name, imagery or concepts which together create a recognisable identity; we all recognize Mickey Mouse, and know that the big black ears or the big red trousers, or the puffy white gloves, represent Disney. Disney does not, however, own any of those component parts: They do not own cartoon mice, black ears, red trousers, white gloves, or variants of the name “Michael”: They only own one specific cartoon mouse, and the specific ears, trousers and gloves associated to him, because Disney created him (Copyright) and he represents Disney (Trademark).
A basic grasp of Intellectual Property law is foundational to pursuing any professional ambitions as a writer, as essential as honing your creative craft and learning your way around the publishing world.
Writers need to know this, for their own Intellectual Property rights and to advise clients in creative projects: Copyright and trademark relate to a collection of imagery, not to the individual images comprising the whole.
Back to Cockygate, and the present hysteria. People are asking what they should do, if they are one of the authors facing harassment for already having the audacity to have used “Cocky” in the title of a book, or if something similar happens again.
Be assured that there is case law on this, which sets the precedent for how such claims are resolved. Just because everyone knows (or should know) that you can’t copyright or Trademark a word doesn’t stop people occasionally trying.
Disney have filed so many brand infringement claims that it has become a running joke. Many of Disney’s most iconic films are fairytales, and as such the story and characters are Public Domain. Anyone can write a new Snow White. Disney challenged that and similar examples in court, and came away with only the Distinctive Likeness of the characters: Disney one specific version of Snow White, her costume as depicted in the cartoon. They do not own the name, concept, or plot. They do not own the Seven Dwarfs, they only own a specific Seven Dwarfs. You can call your Seven Dwarfs anything you please, so long as they are not named for the famed Seven of Disney’s film.
That an alleged infringement be accidental or not intended to cash-in on a trademark is influential to such cases; a successful claim often swings on whether the accused party knew or believed that they stood to gain financially from mimicking larger, more popular brand. Important too is any element of deception; Disney have been unable to prevent children’s party entertainers dressing as recognisable princesses, for example, since there is clearly no attempt to pretend that the company itself is directly affiliated to Disney. Parents hiring Belle or Snow White for their daughter’s birthday do not generally think they are hiring a Disney employee, so there is no demonstrable loss of revenue to Disney’s brand.
Fantasy wargames giant Games Workshop recently had to rebrand many of heir products in the “Warhammer 40K” line, after losing a Trademark infringement claim against small producers of Fantasy and Sci-Fi gaming miniatures. Among the many points contested by GW, they attempted to claim that the specific scale of miniatures used in Warhammer was a Trademark. On this basis they sued, attempting to stop anyone else from producing miniatures and scenery that matched “their” scale. GW lost, and were unable to shut down the hundreds of small companies producing compatible wargames pieces.
Another point contested and lost was ownership of the concepts of “Space Marines” and “Imperial Guard.” The Space Marine issue had also previously seen legal threats between Games Workshop and the owners of the Aliens franchise. It was found in court that GW do not own “Imperial Guard”, but the specific design of their Space Marines and the nomenclature “Adeptus Astartes” are legitimately their IP. GW failed to prove that the specific design of shoulder-pad worn by their Space Marines was a Trademark, but were upheld in ownership of the symbols and insignia specific to Space Marine units in the Warhammer universe. GW have also since increased the usage of the term “Adeptus Astartes” to strengthen their claim on their specific Space Marines.
Much of GW’s case was thrown out, however, and the principle was upheld that no-one can own generic Fantasy or Sci-Fi tropes. You cannot copyright orcs and elves (a point long ago and much more gracefully conceded by Wizards Of The Coast, owners of the D&D franchise).
These and other high-profile cases were much more complex than the Cockygate fiasco. The actual document of registration is available online, and specifies that the claim relates to the word itself. It expressly states that there is no specific logo, font, or associated imagery. This means that components of a genuine Trademark are not present in the claim. I suspect that the person in question has made that same mistake alluded to at the start here, and mistakenly filed a Trademark thinking it the same thing or a “stronger form” of copyright. A reputable lawyer or fellow professional writer could and should have explained all this to her. I am sure the latter have since tried.
So what has she actually got, for the cocky trademark claim? Just what she had before: Copyright on stories in a particular genre, about two brothers of a particular name. Only she can write those stories. Anyone else can use the word “cocky”, in a sentence or a title. It is not infringing her brand because to be a brand, the Cocky Brothers would have to be a recognizable flagship product of the author’s business. There is no logo, no defining image, you would not recognize these brothers by a silhouette (which is a noted test of such things), there are no catchphrases, lyrics, tunes or jingles that one immediately associates, no items or apparel immediately iconic to these two characters.
The Chuckle Brothers are a Trademark, the Cocky Brothers are not (paperwork to the contrary notwithstanding). Both are copyright. The Chuckle Brothers are the face of two actors’ entire career, they are known for nothing else and trade under that name as a business in itself. The Cocky Brothers are just two characters in a romance series; they do not represent the author herself or her business, in the same sense that iconic characters like Mickey Mouse represent Disney.
To the people caught up in this fiasco directly, I would say: Fight back. Write back, and tell them to get stuffed. Then write to others in the same boat, and all write together, telling them to stuff it further. If publishers or platforms take this more seriously than it deserves, write to them too, politely, explaining what they should already know (much of it is right here, for your reference). If it actually comes to court, then start a Class Action lawsuit: When lots of people all need to sue over the same issue, they can legally club together and sue en mass. And that frightens even big corporations. It’s not Disney or some equally huge conglomerate pushing this one; it’s one author and her over-supportive publisher.
Stop panicking, please. This is not a scandal to rock the publishing world. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. Calm yourselves and wait for the court cases, if it even gets that far.