Are the Creators of Warhammer Going too Far?

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This isn't just a battle between an upcoming author and Games Workshop, its a battle between Games Workshop and SciFi

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Original Author's Story:…

Warhammer 40K publisher Games Workshop appears to be lining up a claim that the term "space marine" belongs to it and it alone.

To me, "space marine" is a very generic term for heavily-armed soldier types in space. The Master Chief is a space marine. The guys from Doom and Quake are space marines. The System Shock 2 marine is a space marine. Heinlein's Starship Troopers are space marines. Imperial Stormtroopers are space marines. Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez and Apone - space marines all. You get the idea.

To Games Workshop, however, there is only one space marine, and it's the Space Marines from the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargame and related properties. The company holds a trademark on the term for "board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint," but now it appears to be broadening its claim significantly beyond what it has a right to.

In December 2012, Games Workshop used a trademark infringement claim to force the removal of the ebook Spots the Space Marine from Amazon. The book, an homage to classic sci-fi author Robert Heinlein, is still available in <a title="" href="…"8-1&keywords=" target="_blank"">physical format</a> but the ebook edition is not, and according to the author, M.C.A. Hogarth, the real worry is that Games Workshop may be readying a similar move against all other uses of "space marine."

"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," she wrote. "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."

Hogarth said it makes perfect sense for Games Workshop to trademark Warhammer-specific terms like "Adeptus Astartes," but laying claim to "space marine" is simply an attempt to "co-opt the legacy of science fiction writers who laid the groundwork for their success."

"Even more than I want to save Spots the Space Marine, I want someone to save all space marines for the genre I grew up reading," she continued. "I want there to be a world where Heinlein and E.E. Smith's space marines can live alongside mine and everyone else's, and no one has the hubris to think that they can own a fundamental genre trope and deny it to everyone else."

Games Workshop does hold a European trademark that covers a wider range of goods than the U.S. and U.K. marks, but as she noted in a January update, trademarks are limited to the territories in which they are granted, meaning that a European trademark cannot be enforced in the U.S.; furthermore, even the European trademark doesn't cover ebooks, yet that, and not the physical edition, is what was removed from Amazon because of the claim.

Unfortunately, Hogarth says she doesn't have the resources to take on Games Workshop's lawyers, so for now Spot the Space Marine remains out of reach and she is focusing instead on raising awareness of the issue. "For now, step one is to talk about this. Pass it on to your favorite news source. Tell your favorite authors or writers' organizations," she wrote. "To move forward, we need interest. Let's generate some interest."

E. K. Knight: I'm with the author on this one. I think that the creators of Warhammer are overstepping their bounds. However, this is not one of those journals posted for the sake of biased ignorance. Everyone is welcome, and even encouraged, to state their opinion here. If you care about Science Fiction and to a lesser degree, High Fantasy, I implore you to do so.




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Wyzilla's avatar
The stupid thing is that the official name of 'Space Marines' in W40K canon isn't even 'Space Marine', it's Astartes, or Adeptus Astartes for what effectively in our terms would be their military branch or office. Adeptus Astartes is something completely fine to copyright by them, as it's the proper name of their faction, just like how Jedi and Sith are copyrighted.

Space Marine? Come the fuck on. It's existed as a term for over half a century, if not a century.
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
You just taught me something today. I thought their canon name was space marine. Haha. The fact that it isn't is making Game's Workshop look very petty/ greedy. Adeptus Astartes sounds cool though. I'm glad the author won on this one.
Wyzilla's avatar
And shouting Space Marine constantly gets old lest you have the brilliantly awful group of some voice actors from the DOW games. However, yes, they're properly called Astartes. Just for some reason GW wants to hammer the drums constantly and spout 'SPACE MARINE!' everywhere.
ScoutSpartan157's avatar
I never liked Warhammer. I can't speak for the lore or storyline, but based on what I've seen, it seems so cartoonish and cheesy that I couldn't even have the slightest interest in it. And copyrighting the term "Space Marine" just goes to show how stupid Games Workshop is. God forbid this actually happens...what's next? Are they going to copyright the word "space" it's self? Though if you ARE a fan, I mean no offense. I just feel that this would be an excellent series, if it had a little more science added to the fiction. I'm emphasizing the cartoonish-ness I talked about before. And maybe if the makers weren't such assholes about it, I might have a bit more respect for them and their idea.
Wyzilla's avatar
Warhammer 40K isn't Science Fiction, It's Science Fiction/Fantasy, similar to Star Wars.

The lore is exceptional, all you need is a push and a lot of reading of the books, as the universe itself is more of a Grimdark Epic than it is at all similar to most Science Fiction.
Although there is significant amounts of Science Fiction in it- the fact remains that the actual science in-universe has been bogged down as the entire human civilization plunged into a seemingly permanent Dark Age furthered by a fear of technology itself.

(Machine Spirits for example are most likely simply shattered AI's that were kept secret of their existence and passed of as spiritual entities after AI's were outlawed after the rise of the Iron Men during the Dark Age of Technology.)
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
Thanks for checking this out. Games Worship ended up losing the Battle. "Thank God" . Someone might as well copyright the term dark elf if they could take space marine.
grisador's avatar
Nope because they're not finished their work yet...They still go extreme far
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
Thanks for commenting. I actually found out this issue was resolved and GW lost to the author.
grisador's avatar
DominicHautmann's avatar
I still have the Blood Angels Space Marines from the Warhammer 40k Tabletop Game in my basement :)
And yes, it is a pretty expensive hobby, but it was very fun, too.

I saw, that the problem is solved, but I still wanted to post a comment, not only because I feel so honored, that one of my works is featured here ;) 

Although I really love the GW Space Marines, I too think that they overstepped it a bit, although I kinda understand why they think so.
But to claim something like Space Marines is... well, just to much to ask for :P

Anyway, thx again for featuring me, it is much appreciated.
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
Thanks for your thoughts. I think they went way too far, but again, they have to protect their interests. I think I might start reading a few of the 40k books though. They seem to bridge the gap between Sci Fi and fantasy. And your welcome for the feature. I posted the best Sci Fi art that I could find.
Ursakar's avatar
As far as I understand, the issue was already resolved because Ms Hogarth received a lot of public support from other best-selling sci-fi authors like Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross and John Scalzi. Right now the book is once again available for sale on Amazon both as e-book and paperback. And GW didn't file any lawsuits. Seems like they realized that it they were way over their heads.

Personally, I prefer to stick to the WH40k novels and computer games. Tabletop is just too expensive for me and there are very few tabletop players in my country.
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
I just found out that it was resolved. Haha. I'm glad that she came out on top. The 40k books look cool but I've never read one. Somebody else was telling me about how expensive the tabletop game was too. Thanks for the comment.
Thesis-D's avatar
This caught my eye because I used to play Warhammer (fantasy) and was on the verge of getting into 40k (it would have been a Sisters of Battle army).

From my understanding, which is limited, Games Workshop created the backstory or original concepts for what would later become the StarCraft and Warcraft universes. That is to say, that the races, designs, etc, are inspired heavily by the pre-existing Games Workshop products and imagery....and that this was later sold to Blizzard, which took it and made a computer game franchise from it. Is this correct?

If it's correct, then I would say it's a matter of what GW sold to Blizzard and what the copyright covers in fine print, not just for Blizzard but for any company wishing to use generic terms to describe specific characters, like 'space marine'. If the copyrights cover the term 'space marine' as something that GW has withheld, then it should be honored as withheld no matter how silly or impractical it would later become for other industries.

If what I am saying is incorrect, or some other stipulation exists in the copyrighted works, that would allow Blizzard and others to use the term 'space marine' loosely and ambiguously, or in the case of a specific product, intentionally, then GW is out of bounds and overstepping what their copyright mandate allows them to enact legally.

If thus far Blizzard or any other company has stopped using this term, or has never used the term 'space marine' and products were pulled from shelves, then it seems to me this would not be occurring unless GW had the right to enforce it in a way that the other companies were forced to oblige. If GW runs into a wall where they cannot enforce their will in a legal matter and a court determines something contrary to GW's intentions and will in the matter, then it also suggestions that the GW copyrights or not complete, thorough, or legally binding enough, and that therefore other companies and products can be labeled with terms GW had coined or used previously (such as 'space marine') as that would be a specific in what the copyright does not enforce.

Personally, I don't care either way what happens. Like I said, I USED to play GW games, and I USED to play Starcraft, so I don't feel any strong emotion towards either company or any sense of loyalty. In a general sense, I think it's petty on GW's part to not allow generic terms like 'space marine' to be used by other people, but I'm not losing sleep over it.
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
Thanks for the comment. I've never played Warhammer before but I think it looks awesome. I didn't know all of the history you provided but GW actually isn't battling Blizzard, their battling an obscure self published author for using the words space marine in her EBook title. Her arguement is this: The term space marine has been in use since at least the 1940s, long before GW ever existed. In fact space marine is actually a certified tv trope. She and many others feel like GW is overstepping its bounds by laying ownership over the terms. Let's say for instance Wizards of the Coast wanted to own the terms "High Elf and Dark Elf" Wouldn't that be a tad bit extreme? Again, your viewpoint is highly valued. I hope to get a lot of people in on this debate.
Thesis-D's avatar
Ok, well, in this instance of an author wanting to have that wording on her book's title, or in the book itself, I understand and sympathize with her and any other company, artist, writer, publisher, etc that wishes to use the term because it is quite ridiculous. My point still stands though that if GW has legal grounds to file a complaint and cease and desist order, and yank products off shelves, or whatever is going on or will go on, then GW has the right to do this; if GW did not have the legal right to do this, they would probably get shut down and bogged up in a process that is too costly and unfavorable to them (because it would be them versus everyone else wanting to say 'space marine from now until they go out of business), especially if there is a chance they might actually lose and the author can retaliate or has legal recourse.

I understand what you're saying though, and I agree with it. It's plain silliness and idiocy, especially when the term has been around prior to GW adopting it for a specific purpose. If the author ends up having a case in federal court she will most likely cite fair use laws.

As for Warhammer, don't bother; it is very expensive and a big investment costing upwards of 300 dollars or more for a single, basic medium sized army and the prices keep going up annually.  It's a fun hobby and personally fulfilling if you're a good painter (which I was very good at painting the models always used to get compliments from patrons and walk-in customers and I even made my own models from scratch with mostly just epoxy putty), but it ends up becoming a money issue before long and in my case specifically I began to have an issue with some of the demonic themes the game has. You have to figure in the rising prices of the boxsets, the increase in cost of materials and supplies, and how many people actually play the game in your area. Just because GW puts up a shop in a good location doesn't mean that people will be flooding in. You have to consider several things. If you don't have the patience for the models, etc, and painting them, you're going to lose interest. I ended up getting obsessed with the game, so I left; which was at a good time too, since shortly after the main army I had had undone a huge revision (as did some of the core rules for the rulebook) that would have made my army build obsolete and ineffective, which means my investment was partially flushed down the toilet and some of the models I had purchased, some of them 15 bucks or more a piece, were now not allowed in this army anymore.
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
Author might actually be a (he) by the way. I know I've been putting (she) .
Thesis-D's avatar
Either way, it sucks to be them right now.
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
300$ for a medium army? Wow. That's horrible that the rule change wiped out your military, especially since you put so much effort into sculpting it. I was more interested in the books though. Oh, the series does indeed look demonic so that was good of you to back away if it made you spiritually uncomfortable. Overall, I think if the author made it to federal court she would win. The problem is that GW is a wealthy powerhouse with enough funds to drag things on until she goes broke. Without support from the public or a private sponsor she wont be able to defend herself. That is why I posted this. Hopefully when my book comes out I'll be the next J.K.Rolling so I'll have a bigger say in things and watchlist for people to see articles like this. Haha. I do understand that we live in a dog-eats-dog society and GW has to be ruthless to protect its interests but, come on! I'm hoping more people see this so that I can build some support base for this person that I don't even know.
Thesis-D's avatar
$300 was a conservative estimate; it's more like 500-600 if you want a full army, plus the costs of art supplies (paints, glues, primer, brushes, etc.) Another thing that makes the game expensive is that you must field a specific amount of units in order to play, and each unit has to have a minimum specific number (monster type units might need only 3 models to make up a minimum unit, but consider each model is sold separately and costed at the time about 15, but by now it's 20 something.). It's not bad with the bulk of your army, since GW usually provides you without enough models to field at least the minimum model requirement per unit. The thing is, though, with the rule changes, to get certain bonuses, like ranks, etc, you'd have to have more models per unit under the newer rules, which means having to buy more sets, just to field a few more extras. Now, they did at some point sell packs of 3 so you don't have to buy another $30-40 boxset, but it does little to help the overall cost. Oh, and don't forget the army book and the main rule book...that's probably like 50-80 dollars right there. It's easy to see how this hobby can quickly become a huge sinkhole, and how even a minor change in the rules or army can hurt your investment.

Yes, I am Christian (Catholic specifically) but that in itself did not make me uncomfortable. What made me uncomfortable were the stories, the artwork, and the models themselves became increasing demonic in appearance. In the newer remake, there's even dark alters and things (actual models that you build, paint, and play with), it just all reeks of the occult. Sure, it's just a game, but these aren't spiritually wholesome things to make-believe or pretend with. Aside from that, it's expensive as I've been saying.

Well, hopefully it goes well for you. Are you posting this article anywhere else? Try facebook and other social media sites. If you just use deviantART you probably won't have much luck.
SapphireCityMedia's avatar
I'm actually catholic as well. Warhammer does sound like a moneypit. I actually don't have a Facebook at all. I'll just have to try my best to spread the word here. Oh yeah, the author is for a fact a (she).
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