I’ve been wanting to write about Cocky-gate for some time now but the story – a row between self-published authors that degenerated into ridiculousness – seems finally over and perhaps we can all get some perspective. The whole thing started in May when a self-published romance author, Faleena Hopkins, began attempting to enforce her copyright on books that contained “cocky” in the title. This included, but was not limited to, Cocky Cowboy, Cocky Biker, and Cocky Roomie, all titles in Hopkins oeuvre.
Hopkins filed a trademark for the use of the word Cocky in romance titles and began attacking other others who used the word cocky, including Jamila Jasper who wrote a book called Cocky Cowboy and received an email from Hopkins.
After taking up the cause on Twitter and creating a solid example of Streisand Effect, Jasper changed the title of her book to The Cockiest Cowboy To Have Ever Cocked. But other authors were hit by cease and desist letters and even Amazon stepped in briefly as well and took down multiple titles for a short time.
From the Guardian:
Pajiba reported on Monday that the author Nana Malone had been asked to change the title of her novel Mr Cocky, while TL Smith and Melissa Jane’s Cocky Fiancé has been renamed Arrogant Fiancé. Other writers claimed that Hopkins had reported them to Amazon, resulting in their books being taken down from the site.
This went on for a number of weeks with the back and forth verging on the comical…
to the serious.
Hopkins went to court to defend her trademark and then bumped up against the powerful Author’s Guild who supported three defendants including a publicist who was incorrectly named as the publisher of one of the offending titles, The Cocktales Anthology.
“Beyond the obvious issues with the merits, it is evident from the face of the complaint that Plaintiffs failed to conduct a reasonable pre-filing investigation before racing to the courthouse. Indeed, the number and extent of defects alone call into question whether the filing was made in good faith. Plaintiffs’ lack of due diligence failed to uncover the stark difference between a publisher and a publicist, i.e., non-party best-selling author Penny Reid is the former, while Defendant Jennifer Watson is the latter (Ms. Watson’s website even states that she provides “publicist and marketing services” and nowhere indicates that she writes or publishes books),” wrote Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York. “In sum, there is nothing meritorious about Plaintiffs’ situation, let alone urgent or irreparable. Defendant Watson cannot offer Plaintiffs the relief they seek as she bears no responsibility for The Cocktales Anthology they wish to enjoin from further publication. Defendant Crescent’s first allegedly infringing book was published over nine months ago. Plaintiffs have admitted that her use of “cocky” in titles would not likely cause confusion as to source or affiliation; moreover, she has publicly stated that she has not suffered lost sales.”
Online communities are wonderful but precarious things. One or two attacks by bad – or even well-meaning – actors can tip them over the edge and ruin them for everyone. In fact, Cocky-gate has encouraged other authors to try this tactics. One writer, Michael-Scott Earle, has attempted to register the words “Dragon Slayer” in a book title and there is now a Twitter bot that hunts for USPTO applications for words in titles.
Now that the cocky has been freed, however, it looks like the romance writers of the world are taking advantage of the opportunity to share their own cocky stories.