Amazon Pulls Down Memoir Because Cover Mentions 'Star Wars'

from the overkill dept

Last week we had a story of Amazon pulling a book because of a dispute over the term “space marine,” which Games Workshop insisted they have full control over due to their trademark (a massive exaggeration of what protections the trademark provides). The latest may be even worse. As a number of folks are reporting, Amazon has pulled a self-published memoir by Gib Van Ert entitled A Long Time Ago: Growing Up With and Out of Star Wars.

The book has received some great reviews from places like Wired, but apparently someone at Amazon thought the title is trademark infringement. The email from Amazon seems particularly silly:

Thank you for the information you provided regarding the following book(s):

A Long Time Ago: Growing Up With And Out Of Star Wars (2353856)

Your book(s) contains references to the trademarked term, “Star Wars (Trademarked Term)”. We have reviewed the information you provided and have determined that we will not be making the book(s) available for sale in the Kindle store at this time. While we cannot advise you on trademark laws, we encourage you to conduct your own research by possibly going to your local library or using other online resources that may be available to you.

This seems silly. The use is clearly descriptive, and the memoir discusses the impact of the movie on the guy’s life. No “moron in a hurry” is going to assume that it is endorsed by Lucasfilm or anything like that. The likelihood of confusion here is nil. But in our risk averse age, where too many people incorrectly think that trademark gives you 100% control over a phrase, we see more and more unfortunate stories like this. Hopefully, Amazon quickly reconsiders… and the publicity from this silly bout of blocking leads to more sales.

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Comments on “Amazon Pulls Down Memoir Because Cover Mentions 'Star Wars'”

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out_of_the_blue says:

SO what's the down side for author?

“publicity from this silly bout of blocking leads to more sales.” — Perhaps it’s a way to do what I frequently suggest that you publish: tell people how to get noticed! But no, Mike only gives away little meaningless blurbs. — Or at least, one of your readers thinks that you sell ideas somewhere… HA!

Is anyone here really certain that Mike “Streisand Effect” Masnick…
Doesn’t get a little thrill every time I post this link?

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: SO what's the down side for author?

@ “Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

Re: SO what’s the down side for author?
Please, everyone, just don’t reply and stop feeding the troll. It’s barely even English at this point, there’s no reason to feed him and allow comments to be eaten up by replies to this garbage.”


Yes, sound advice from this brave AC! It’s all I’ve ever asked. Make your comments and don’t ad hom mine. (IF you had anything worth saying on topic: even this advise-full AC can’t keep himself from sheer ad hom referring to ME!) — But the fanboy-trolls aren’t confident that other readers won’t be taken in by me…

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: SO what's the down side for author?

Rikuo (profile), Dec 26th, 2012 @ 1:35pm

Re: SO what’s the down side for author?
“Perhaps it’s a way to do what I frequently suggest that you publish: tell people how to get noticed!”

Which is what Mike does, day in, day out. He posts articles of people doing weird and crazy things with new business model ideas, that do get them noticed.

NO, as I’ve mentioned so frequently that it became an explicit point here to counter: Mike mentions “anomalies” and uses them to “prove” whatever he wants about his notions. Take “Psy”, for example. He popped onto the scene for no known reason and then Mike and Minions claim that because he didn’t use copyright or protest his video being manipulated, it proves that artists don’t need copyright. That doesn’t follow logically: he’s just an anomaly.

“people doing weird and crazy things with new business model ideas,” — It’s NOTHING NEW! Lucky Lindberg was “crowd-funded” in 1927! In the 50’s or earlier, musicians used to hang around with fans while selling records out of the trunk of their cars! And so too is semi-self-publishing at low cost publisher. I’ve some perfectly awful poetry from the 20’s by some local woman. — And this is ALL in the entertainment field: Mike has NOTHING to say about manufacturing. (Except for mistaken notions about 3D printing.)

“that do get them noticed.” — Okay, tell me how to get noticed. Example HERE, as I mentioned above, leverages “Star Wars”, NOT anything specific to the author: it’s a specific case of using a cultural icon to get noticed. BIG DEAL, also ancient.

I’m done being “engaged” for the day. You can contradict endlessly, that’s easy. — Tell me HOW Mike funds a $100M movie with a plan to get it back ten cents at a time. You just try to move the goal post, saying you don’t even want $100M movies!

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re:2 SO what's the down side for author?

@ “Rikuo (profile), Dec 26th, 2012 @ 1:56pm

Re: Re: Re: SO what’s the down side for author?
Okay…if these are “anomalies”, then what does someone have to do for them to not be an “anomaly” in your book? Why does the movie have to cost $100m? What is so holy and sacrosanct about that number?

Listen, “Rikuo”, if you haven’t read Mike’s “can’t compete” piece — and I bet that you haven’t, because if analyze that at all you come to my conclusion that it’s contrived deception — then the $100M figure is Mike’s. He pulled it, er, out of the blue, then waved it away by saying forget “sunk (or fixed) costs” (to make the point that marginal costs are all that matter) so could have been a BILLION, would have made NO difference to HIS movie example.

Now, I’m not playing endless questions, either, just wanted to make that explicit in the unlikely theoretical event of non-biased readers.

[HUH. For first time I’ve seen “can’t compete” link is gone from those below! Just use search. IF you actually want to know why I use the figure.]

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 SO what's the down side for author?

“Now, I’m not playing endless questions,”

Yes. Yes, you are.

“[HUH. For first time I’ve seen “can’t compete” link is gone from those below! Just use search. IF you actually want to know why I use the figure.]”

Why should I do the legwork to look for information supporting your side of the “argument”? (Argument in parentheses because you don’t know the first thing about the rules of debating).

Also, it doesn’t matter if Mike brought up $100m first or not. What does matter is YOU are the one who keeps harping on about it, who keeps demanding that someone give you the magic bullet that will always give you a return on a sunk sum that large (FYI, if I was the CEO of a company, and you were the guy who kept saying that a project has to cost $100m and refusing to work with a lesser budget, I’d fire you on the spot for not knowing how to do your damn job. First rule of business, cut your costs).

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re:2 SO what's the down side for author?

@ Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

Re: Re: Re: SO what’s the down side for author?
Shocker: No one responds to your arbitrary and useless hypothetical situation buried in rambling incoherent babble.


Shocker! Techdirt Anonymous Coward makes hit and run ad hom attack, not responding at all to the substance he obviously read in order to have mentioned it!

This virtual sock-puppet spells and punctuates his snark accurately, and that’s all the consideration any reasonable person can expect from the regulars here.

Anonymous Coward says:

too many people incorrectly think that trademark gives you 100% control over a phrase

?Finally, and in the same vein, we cannot indulge the facile assumption that one can forbid particular words without also running a substantial risk of suppressing ideas in the process. Indeed, governments might soon seize upon the censorship of particular words as a convenient guise for banning the expression of unpopular views.?

????? ????? ??Cohen v California (1971)

out_of_the_blue says:

Yet another leveraging by means of cultural "icon".

“memoir discusses the impact of the movie on the guy’s life.” — GAAAH! IF his “life” (small “L” for sure), really was significantly affected by that piece of standardized tripe (hero and heroine are born, not made, sheer rule by divine right), then by any and all means ban it; will not be missed. Besides that, the technical flaws with “Star Wars” are so severe that any child should notice: being let run loose in the battleship that has NO television or computer monitoring, eh? Besides that Imperial Storm Troopers can’t shoot straight even with a laser. Don’t get me started. — But at least this guy claims to have grown “Out Of” it, and that’s halfway there.

ANYHOO, if the basis of the book is the movie, then while not illegal, it’s just feeble, a sign of present times. — By 25 I’d seen and done much of the world, should write my memoirs… So long as copyright keeps it from getting ripped off!

out_of_my_mind says:

Re: Yet another leveraging by means of cultural "icon".

Having never participated in popular culture, nor engaged with ‘friends’ (whatever they are) in make-believe play, nor loved, nor even hated, my consciousness is informed only by the shadowy archetypes that bubble up through the sub-conscious, where there is no light or mercy, only aching hungers and red appetites. I exist, because I have never made a misstep. Because I exist, I am perfect. Because I am perfect, I am Troll.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This would be a terrible mean thing for Amazon to do – if not for?

Comment dated Today 10:58 AM left at BoingBoing by ?thissortofthing?

Yes, it looks like the Kindle version of my book is back in the store. I haven’t had an e-mail from Amazon yet but it does appear to be back. I am grateful to Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow and dozens of retweeters on Twitter for their support. I think they made the difference.

Robin says:


As a librarian, I am delighted to see that the author of the Amazon e-mail thought to refer the recipient to his local library to research trademark law… but the irony of such a suggestion coming from someone who clearly has a very limited understanding of trademark law would have made my blood boil had I been the recipient of Amazon’s condescension.

McCrea (profile) says:

I'm the moron.

At a glance, I see a death star and the title “a long time ago”, which makes me think “Star Wars”. If I finish reading the cover, I even see “Star Wars”. Without reading handling the book to read more than the cover, I cannot reason that it is not about Star Wars.

If the author’s name were “George Lucas”, I would reason it is about Star Wars. The fact that I do not, however, associate the name “Gib Van Ert” with “Star Wars” does not dissuade me to reach a different conclusion. For all I know he could be Lucas’ heir.

I would probably be drawn to the book because I was curious whether it had something to do with Star Wars.

Stepping away, I assume that the intent of the publisher is to use the “Star Wars” name to market the book to me. The publisher wants to profit from “Star Wars”. Does that not matter?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm the moron.

Does that not matter?

Do you want to contend that everyone who refers by name to the classic movie, [title redacted], must pay for the privilege?or remain silent?

But if that would would be a silly restriction on oral speech, then perhaps writing is different. Perhaps, even though people may freely talk about [title redacted], anyone who wants to write about [title redacted] must first get permission.

Or if that is deemed too harsh, then perhaps the rule should be that people may talk or write about [title redacted] as long as its non-commercial. But as soon as someone takes money for talking or writing about [title redacted] then they must give up a cut to the owners of [title redacted].

Hey! Maybe that’s a good idea. Since newspapers are commercial enterprises, then that means the owners of [title redacted] could control all the reviews of [title redacted]. The owners of [title redacted] could permit the good reviews (for a small pittance) and forbid all the bad reviews of [title redacted]. Since there would only be good reviews of [title redacted], everyone would think [title redacted] was a great movie!

Jon B. (profile) says:

Re: I'm the moron.

As a moron, the question is not whether you think, at a glance, that it’s about Star Wars or refers to it. The question is whether you think that it is endorsed by or created by Lucusfilm/Disney.

If so, then maybe a small disclaimer sticker is enough to resolve the confusion, which is all trademark is really about anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

They should have known better

Windows is a trademark of Microsoft. Does it mean that everyone except maybe Microsoft Press have to seek permission from Microsoft before writing any book about Windows and it’s technologies?

The author could and should have just add the boilerplate “… All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.” and get away with it…

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