Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

When Love Isn’t Enough

If you were expecting an ebook weekly article, come back next Sunday. We are taking a little detour today.

Alternative Reader AwardLast week Barbara Samuel put up a plea at Romancing the Blog for Readers to pay more attention to the RITAs. She titled her post “Why Readers Should Care About the RITA Awards.” I commented that readers don’t care because there is no personal investment in the process or the outcome for the readers. It was an industry award given by writers to writers and there was no place in that equation for the readers.

Samuel sparked off a huge debate on the internet, both at RTB and at SBs. There were over 300 comments at both threads with authors and readers weighing in. I was mentally exhausted after participating in the discussion. Later that day and the next, I thought about the RITAs and what it would take for readers to feel part of the award and the event.

One solution I thought of was to live blog the RITAs, much like the ladies at Go Fug Yourself did for the Oscars and like the Gizmodo lads do for Steve Jobs’ Keynote addresses. I hope to bring that to the readers this summer unless, of course, RWA won’t let me in with my laptop.

Another solution I thought of was to have a balloting contest wherein readers would guess who would win the RITA for each category and the one ballot whose was closest to being accurate would win a basket of the RITA winners. The books would be used because I don’t know that I could afford to shell out the cash for 13 new books, particularly if some were hardcover, but I figured the readers wouldn’t care. Free books are free books. I even had one author, Alison Kent, offer to help defray the expenses.

I ran it by my blog partners who liked the idea. I ran the contest by a fellow blogger, Sybil. She told me I was a fool and that I was just encouraging authors to assign blame to the readers that should really fall on the industry: the publishers, RWA, and/or the authors. That authors expect us to fix the problems ailing the industry even though its not of our making. And that by promoting the RITAs in this way, I was actually saying it was important to the readers, essentially contradicting myself.

I ran it by Ned who said, are you going to buy these books new? I said, no. He said, do it if you want to. Okay, the conversation was more detailed. He thought I should make sure to tell everyone that by running the contest, I wasn’t endorsing the winners in anyway, but simply trying to raise the awareness of an award as well as doing something fun. I thought we could also run a corollary contest: who should win the RITA. The results of this would be fascinating, in my opinion.

So I put up the RITA statuette and announced that we would be running the Reader RITAs. Saturday morning I received an email requesting that I remove the statuette

Please be aware that the name of the award and the statuette are registered trademarks of Romance Writers of America. While we have no objection to individuals and companies referencing the RITA contest in discussions and announcements, the statuette may not be used for any purpose in any publication not explicitly authorized by RWA.

Perhaps this could all go away if I simply went to RWA and told them of my plans and got “explicit authorization.” The problem is that by getting RWA approval means that they have input in the way the contest is run, perhaps even how I comment on the contest results or collate the contest results. I think that by seeking and obtaining (assuming I could) approval we lose some of the autonomy of the blog, or at least of the contest. It just rubs me wrong. Maybe my subconscious reasons is that I am a control freak, a megalomaniac or some other more selfish reason. Insert your own adjective here. I may be all of those things at one time or another. But I don’t think so in this case.

The fact is we don’t make any money on this blog. (Out of full disclosure, as part of Blogburst, we might get paid from Blogburst for letting them use our content if we are ranked high enough). It costs money to run the blog, to give away ebooks, to run contests to promote new authors, to mail books overseas. It takes time which is even more valuable than money. We do it because we love the genre and we love this interactivity with the romance community. It isn’t much fun, though, when we are slapped on the wrist for doing something we thought would benefit the community like raising the profile of romance authors who final and ultimately win the industry’s most coveted honor.

I haven’t decided whether we can run this contest without running afoul of the trademark law, but preliminary research seems to indicate that if there is no profit motive, the contest is not likely infringing on any trademark. The Lanham Act is designed to protect language “for the purpose of trade [or] to induce the sale of any goods or services” 36 U.S.C.  § 380(a). At its core, The Lanham Act prohibits only “confusing uses.” 15 U.S.C.  §  § 1114, 1125(a)(1)(A). There are exceptions to the Lanham Act for “fair use” and for “non-commercial purposes.” 15 U.S.C.  § 1125(c)(4). The case of L.L. Bean, Inc. v. Drake Publishers, Inc., 811 F.2d 26 (1st Cir 1987) seems to approve a noncommercial use of a trademark in parody or satire. However, right now, the idea of promoting the RITAs leaves a bad taste in my mouth regardless of my legal rights to do so.

I realize that some of this post sounds like an “oh poor me” lament, and I am trying to avoid that. I thought I had to explain what is going on with the Reader RITA contest. Maybe try to gain more understanding. I don’t want to give up the autonomy of the blog to run a contest contest to raise reader awareness for an award that RWA gives out and for which their members seek to gain greater recognition. I guess it goes back to my original thought which was the RITAs don’t matter to readers because readers can’t be involved in anyway. Fill out a ballot, like Barbara Samuel suggests, and you’ll get a cease and desist letter from the RWA. Readers can only do so much and even that isn’t good enough sometimes.

P.S. The first person who can tell me the author of the book with the same title published in 1984, I’ll send you a $5.00 Fictionwise gift certificate (trying to make this tangentially related to ebooks :) ).

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

69 Comments

  1. May
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 03:36:26

    Amazon says it’s Kathleen Gilles Seidel.

    I cannot believe they emailed you have the statuette taken down!

  2. LesleyW
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 04:22:03

    Being in the UK the RITA’s mean very little to me. The only reason I know anything about them is because of forums like this one. They have no impact on the way I buy my books.

    And I’m sorry to say I agree with your original thought – the RITA’s don’t matter to me because it comes across that the readers don’t matter to the RWA (as far as the RITA’s are concerned).

  3. Nora Roberts
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 05:41:04

    ~While we have no objection to individuals and companies referencing the RITA contest in discussions and announcements, the statuette may not be used for any purpose in any publication not explicitly authorized by RWA.~

    I don’t get this. It seems reader interest would be considered a good thing. Not a necessary thing, but a good thing. And it’s not like you were drawing a beard and mustache on Rita.

    Readers aren’t required to fix anything–and I honestly don’t think most authors feel they are. But with so many reader blogs and sites, so many author blogs and sites, it can feel as if we’re all in this together (or on opposite sides of a line, depending).

    We mix and mingle, agree and disagree, over virtually any topic that comes up–with books as the springboard. I think it gets easy for an author to say to a reader, or a reader to say to an author: Why don’t you do this, or how about doing that. And then agree or disagree or get a little bent when we disagree on how someone did that, or when they didn’t do this.

    I think it’s too easy to forget to be grateful when readers, or authors, do anything above and beyond the base. Read. Write. If we do, we can slip into taking each other for granted, and expecting more. And more.

    As to the contest, something like that should be fun and interesting. Not a headache in legalities.

  4. Angelle
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 05:45:17

    Wow, that totally sucks. What’s wrong with readers voting in their faves or guessing what they think will win the RITA? It’s all for fun anyway and maybe people will become more interested in reading more RITA winners / finalists.

  5. Karen Scott
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 06:02:46

    Jane, I stayed away from the debate because I couldn’t give a shit about the RITA’s. They aren’t for me as a reader, and they do nothing to enhance my reading pleasure.

    I’m afraid I’m with Sybil. Fuck ‘em.

    Ingrates.

    Nice thought though.

  6. Barbara B.
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 06:24:32

    As always I’m amazed at the incredible investment in time and energy that some romance bloggers put into their blogs. I love reader blogs because they add a lot of value to my reading experiences. The RITA’s, on the other hand, are completely irrelevant to me. Mrs. Giggles, Bam, Dear Author, and other reader reviewers get the job done to my satisfaction. You can tell me a book is good but unless that rating is accompanied by an in-depth review to convince me, I can’t put any credence in your opinions. If I pick up a RITA award winning book and the judges’ in-depth reviews are on the inside cover and first few pages for me to read that might help. Saying a book is good is not enough. You have to tell me why. Convincingly too I might add.

    Jane (I hope this is Jane who posted the commentary), why knock yourself out on this one?

  7. Tilly Greene
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 07:25:56

    What RWA should have been was thrilled with what you were doing and offered to work with you…shame they couldn’t see outside their own narrow little box.

    Hmmm, are they thinking too much of themselves to remember they exist at the pleasure of the reader?

  8. Angie
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 07:46:15

    And it’s not like you were drawing a beard and mustache on Rita.

    Am I the only one who nearly snorted soda at this?

  9. Sybil
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 07:54:01

    I object!

    I really doubt I called you a fool. No really! I hardly ever use the word fool, do I? That sounds like a janish word. Just saying. Although is this were I get to say I told you so? If not just let me know when.

    We will be the first people in RWA history thrown out before getting to the conference.

    I wonder if they are gonna get all pissed off with me listing the winners by year. Have you started the process to register the ATSNBN statuette (you go ned with your badself, tres cute)? Maybe I shall use that instead… uh with your permission of course.

    ::giggle::

    Maybe RWA doesn’t WANT their award to be oscarish. Maybe they want to above the sqqquuueee’ing and stuff. Who knows, many a thing they do goes over my silly lil reader head.

  10. Sybil
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 08:00:19

    [quote comment="25230"]
    I’m afraid I’m with Sybil. Fuck ‘em.
    [/quote]
    Hey! You say that like it is a bad thing.

  11. The Good, The Bad and The Unread » Blog Archive » When Bad Things Happen to Good Readers
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 08:11:08

    [...] And in case you are like shiloh, sitting there going what in the fuck is she talking about… go here Posted by Sybil | Categories: Uncategorized, Blog Stuff [...]

  12. Kristie(J)
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 08:16:19

    I’m with Karen and Sybil and just say fuck em. I’ve been reading romance for years now and haven’t paid much attention to the RITA’s. They have zero effect on what I buy and read. In fact I’ve seen the winners lists and the vast majority of winners I’ve never heard of and not tempted to read anyway. If romance writers want to have awards amongst themselves, I think it’s a good idea and if I were an author, I would most likely enter myself and cross my fingers that I would win someday. But it’s an award by authors for authors. So when a participant encourages readers to care, and then when one does try to get readers involved and gets smacked down for it by the PTB – well, that puts me in the minus as to why I, a reader should care. I will continue to read and adore and support authors and their books – but as for RITA’s – pffffttttt.

  13. Sarah McCarty
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 08:23:43

    My personal opinion: I’ve been following this thread since it started, thinking about it and then biting my tongue, however, today I’m feeling fiesty so I’ll post. *G*

    I don’t attach any particular importance to the Rita as a writer and I’ve been a member of RWA for many, many, many years, mostly as an unpubbled so it should be my shining star, my utlimate goal, but it’s just not. My goal is to write books readers enjoy, not books other authors feel best exemplify the standard for the genre. (which was the standard for judging last time I looked)

    This does not mean I think the RITA’s need to change. They work for the majority of members the way they are and in an organization the size of RWA, that is the definition of success. I participate in them to support the org, the same way I bring baskets to conventions to be auctioned off for charity, etc. You belong to RWA as an unpub, you enter the Golden Heart. (more tangible benefit here) You belong to RWA as a pubbed author, you enter the RITA.

    My apathy toward lifting reader awareness of the RITA has nothing to do with the quality of the books entered, but everything to do with my personal impression of the contest as shaped in my mind through years in the organization. I see this as an award insular to the org, influenced yearly by the politics within the org and restructured frequently to placate dissatisfied members of the org, therefore I don’t see it as relevant outside RWA.

    Does that mean I think someone shouldn’t be proud to win a RITA? Absolutley not. They should be. Their peers found them to be the best that year and that’s quite an honor for the author. I just don’t see the RITA translating to important for the reader because, as others have pointed out, what authors consider the “best” doesn’t directly correlate to reader enjoyment.

    As a reader, I do shop the yearly reviewer choice awards to see if there’s a treasure I have missed. I don’t do the same with the RITAs. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it’s because reviewer choice awards are founded in opinion. A book has to impress someone to get nominated. Nomination is not restricted to a limited pool of entrants who meet that year’s rules and req’s and who paid for the opportunity to have thier books judged. Maybe I see yearly reviewer choice awards as more organic and reader focused so more pertinent to my assessment when it comes to potential enjoyment factor? Not sure, but more likely than not.

    I do think your idea is fun and can’t see why RWA would object, but obviously, they did. I also think dueling reviews (maybe from assorted blogs) in regard to the nominated books, (even if it’s just reposting already completed reviews) would be interesting for discussion. Kind of having all opionons at one place at one time.

    Sarah, donning flame retardant material

  14. Jayne
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 08:39:13

    Karen, I’m with you. For the most part, I don’t care about the RITAs. I’ve never gone out and bought a book based on the fact that it won one. Most of the time after the winners are chosen, I scan the list and think, “never heard of it, never heard of it, never heard of that author, that book won?, who makes up these categories?, and what the hell is the difference between a long historical and a short one?

  15. Alison Kent
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 08:43:12

    She told me I was a fool and that I was just encouraging authors to assign blame to the readers that should really fall on the industry: the publishers, RWA, and/or the authors. That authors expect us to fix the problems ailing the industry even though its not of our making. And that by promoting the RITAs in this way, I was actually saying it was important to the readers, essentially contradicting myself.

    Okay, this went way over my head.

    Having fun with the RITA awards, bringing them to the attention of readers (whether it makes a difference to readers or not) has nothing to do with whatever problems are assumed to be wrong with the industry. Having fun with the RITA awards, highlighting the finalists, does not in and of itself mean they are important to readers. Having fun with the RITA awards, giving readers who don’t know what the award means and might enjoy seeing what authors think about one another’s work, does not encourage authors to assign blame to readers for anything. (What exactly are we blaming readers for?)

    Jane’s contest idea is for fun! Nothing more. And I think it’s cool! She could do the same thing with the annual AAR awards. Or for the EPPIE’s. Or for all the books awarded five thong reviews. The publicity is just showcasing a peer award rather than a reader award or review. Big honking deal! *g*

  16. Kristie(J)
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 09:02:01

    And being a bit slow on a Sunday and not being able to figure it out (?) what does ATSNBN stand for?

  17. Angelle
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 09:20:51

    [quote comment="25242"]And being a bit slow on a Sunday and not being able to figure it out (?) what does ATSNBN stand for?[/quote]
    Award That Shall Not Be Named, IIRC.

  18. Larissa Ione
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 10:02:39

    This is crazy. I would think that RWA would appreciate your efforts and would want to be seen. Is “branding” not a huge topic amongst authors and within RWA…chapters, the RWR magazine, conferences, etc? Yes, so why in the world would they not want the statue visible in conjunction with what will be a very visible contest for award-winning authors?

  19. Jan
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 10:02:40

    I bought a book once because it won a Rita. The key word there is once. Unlike the Nebula, where I can count on quality winning, the Ritas seem to recognize books more for popularity of authors than anything else. I’m not saying good authors don’t win. The law of averages guarantees that some will. Good writing just doesn’t seem to be the standard by which the books are judged, so I have no interest in the outcome any longer.

  20. Fiona Glass
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 10:18:53

    Thanks for trying, Jane. Without you I’d never even have heard of the RITAs. :) They obviously don’t travel as well as the Oscars… certainly not as far as the UK. Perhaps the RWA should take note that you’re doing some of their promotion for them….

  21. Janine
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 10:30:14

    [quote comment="25246"]I bought a book once because it won a Rita. The key word there is once. Unlike the Nebula, where I can count on quality winning, the Ritas seem to recognize books more for popularity of authors than anything else. I’m not saying good authors don’t win. The law of averages guarantees that some will. Good writing just doesn’t seem to be the standard by which the books are judged, so I have no interest in the outcome any longer.[/quote]

    Candy at Smart Bitches blogged about this with similar sentiments to yours, Jan. Then Sarah blogged asking people how to fix the RITAs.

    One of things I said there is that I think there need to be fewer categories, and that the “Best Romance of the Year” award category should be brought back. That award was won by LaVyrle Spencer’s Morning Glory, Laura Kinsale’s The Prince of Midnight, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, Jill Marie Landis’s Come Spring, Susan Wiggs’ Lord of the Night, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ It Had to Be You, and Nora Roberts’ Born in Ice. I’ve only read four of the seven books, but I thought all four that I read were well-crafted.

  22. The Stalker on Sunday « Milady Insanity
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 10:50:14

    [...] have a new romance novel award, the ATBSN, which was created out of necessity, because love wasn’t enough. According to my book [...]

  23. TeddyPig
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 11:17:03

    I vote for your statue.

    I also think we should combine the Romance Readers Book awards with the Gay Video Porn Awards and call it the Chick n Dick Awards.

  24. TeddyPig
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 11:19:46

    Ours is not to question the old and busted.
    Ours is to subvert and annihilate.
    Chaos killed the dinosaurs.

    Let’s make something better from the ground up.
    How about a Readers Award?

  25. TeddyPig
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 11:28:08

    We can nick name the Gay Porn Video and Readers Romance Awards

    The Lickies!

    Kathy Griffin will die for the chance to present.

  26. Robin
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 11:45:15

    Perhaps this could all go away if I simply went to RWA and told them of my plans and got “explicit authorization."

    Or perhaps they could have automatically authorized your use of the statuette in their email. Even considering what Shannon Stacey said in the other thread, even if your original tag line was “Reader’s Rita” or whatever, all it would have taken — if they were REALLY worried about confusion (because trademark holders should know the limits of their protections, right?), they could have simply asked for a clarification or a different title.

    You know, it’s interesting that they would do this so close on the heels of Samuels’s column. Even though there were some moments when I felt her comments outside the post appeared somewhat reader-hostile, I don’t think she intended to come off that way. So maybe the powers that be at the RWA would deny any reader hostility, as well. Okay. But what I have difficulty with is this: how much forethought would it really have taken to mentally walk through the consequences of their little cease and desist email and recognize its counter-productivity? Not, of course, that their agenda is synonymous with Samuels’s; in fact, the RWA as an organization may not want reader engagement in the RITAs (since their goals may not be the same as ours). They may have a decidedly proprietary sense of the RITAs as an author-only undertaking. I could see that as legitimate.

    But as the organization supposedly working to forward the genre, and to represent the interests of authors, isn’t it in the best interest of authors that readers are *interested* in these damn awards? Or at least interested in books that are nominated and win? How many authors wouldn’t see the DA contest as free publicity? I ask this seriously, because I’d love to hear from an author who can explain the RWA’s rationale here. Because, as holder of the trademark, they’re not compelled to cry “infringement” here.

    How much shit happens in this industry, I wonder, because of a few moments of thoughtless reaction rather than a few moments more of thoughtful and considered response.

  27. Jane
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 11:57:15

    Because I am pig headed, I still kind of want to run the contest. I mean, wouldn’t it be interesting to compare, say a couple hundred ballots of who people think will win versus who will win? It’s like the Big Dance of the NCAA (which by the way is a contest run on any number of websites, even profit motivated ones).

    I am leaning toward running it because I don’t think its infringing and i do think it would be fun. After all, what is the worst thing that could happen? I have to take down the contest and put up a different one?

    I don’t think any reader (and by that I mean anyone who reads, authors included) would be upset if we had to take it down. I found this great piece of online software that makes inputting and then collating results super easy. :) LOL. I just want to try it out.

    I suppose we could do our own reader awards but do we need another set of reader awards? AAR does those and seems to work hard at them.

  28. Jane
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 12:10:15

    kristie j – ATSNBN – Award That Shall Not Be Named

  29. Robin
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 12:10:54

    Because I am pig headed, I still kind of want to run the contest.

    Pig-headed or an independent reader? I agree with Alison that holding the contest in no way encourages blaming readers or giving them too much responsibility in elevating the RITA profile. Run the contest if you want to run it, and heck, if the RWA happened to give you better publicity for your contest than they are giving their own awards here, then that’s on them, not on you.

  30. Jane
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 12:15:31

    RITA finalists being announced at this website. My brows are already raised. I started topic in the forum.

  31. Sybil
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 12:23:39

    [quote comment="25260"]RWA finalists being announced at this website. My brows are already raised.[/quote]
    yep

    and again I giggle

  32. Helen Madison
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 12:53:48

    I’ve judged the RITAs for nearly a decade, and I even finaled once. I was a horrible judge. They sent me books I would never – in a thousand, million, trillion years – buy on my own. I thought they were ghastly. Some books I never read. I skimmed. I thumbed through them. I read the reviews on Amazon or online review sites. I don’t care what the opinion is of the RITAs – I’m not that different from other people. I know there are judges out there just like me, which is why I know that the RITAs are subjective nonsense.

  33. Alison Kent
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:09:51

    [quote comment="25263"]which is why I know that the RITAs are subjective nonsense.[/quote]

    And that’s different from other contests how? :)

    Even with a strict scoresheet, no reader judges or author judges will necessarily see things the same way since we all interpret good craft or good storytelling based on our personal criteria for the same.

  34. Jordan Summers
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:15:41

    Why don’t you run a ATIR Reader contest? You could have the readers pick who they think should win and post the results the same night. Just a thought. :)

  35. Robin
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:23:15

    Even with a strict scoresheet, no reader judges or author judges will necessarily see things the same way since we all interpret good craft or good storytelling based on our personal criteria for the same.

    I actually think there are ways to introduce more objectivity into a subjective judging process (aka not all subjectivities are created equal), but if the RITAs are an author generated award, and authors are happy with the process of judging, then that’s really all that matters — to authors, at least. Despite Barbara Samuels’s impassioned plea to the contrary, I’m starting to think that the RWA doesn’t really want reader engagement in the RITA process, or perhaps that they only want certain kinds of reader engagement. Like, as long as readers buy the books and don’t question the process, it’s all good. The thing is, though, that if you invite readers to care, you invite our own values, too, not just our dollars. Had a gushing fansite posted the image of the RITA statuette, would a cease and desist email have followed?

  36. Jules Jones
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:28:29

    I’m not the RWA’s biggest fan, but this phrase “registered trademarks” is the reason for the cease-and-desist. They are legally required to defend their trademark, or risk losing it. If they know that you’re using it without a formal licence, and let you keep on doing it, they weaken their right to tell someone else to stop using it, which can cause big problems down the road.

    Of course, it’s possible to deal with this problem by simply issuing a specific licence to someone, as the Second Life lawyers did for a parody website.

  37. Sarah McCarty
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:39:07

    [quote comment="25264"][quote comment="25263"]which is why I know that the RITAs are subjective nonsense.[/quote]

    And that’s different from other contests how? :)

    .[/quote]

    I don’t think it is, but it’s a peer contest which makes it important to authors but pretty much meaningless to readers much the same way my liking for a movie has nothing to do with it’s Oscar status. (Could someone please explain to me what was so great about Little Miss Sunshine? *G*) It’s an important award within our niche, but outside, *shrug* I honestly do not see it’s relevance. I know some members want to extend it’s importance, but unless some factor is incorporated into the judging to refelct readers input, I don’t see that happening.

  38. Robin
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:39:38

    They are legally required to defend their trademark, or risk losing it. If they know that you’re using it without a formal licence, and let you keep on doing it, they weaken their right to tell someone else to stop using it, which can cause big problems down the road.

    Okay, you’re talking about dilution, right? Because my understanding of dilution is similar to that described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark_dilution and that it’s to protect against things like “xerox” being associated with all reproduction and not just the company Xerox — or kleenex, etc. That it’s all about minimizing confusion in the mind of the consumer to protect against inferior quality goods being passed off as indistinguishable from the original. That’s where I’m confused here about infringement or dilution of the RITA. Can anyone explain?

  39. Alison Kent
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:45:12

    [quote comment="25271"][quote comment="25264"][quote comment="25263"]which is why I know that the RITAs are subjective nonsense.[/quote]

    And that’s different from other contests how? :)

    .[/quote]

    I don’t think it is, but it’s a peer contest which makes it important to authors but pretty much meaningless to readers much the same way my liking for a movie has nothing to do with it’s Oscar status. [/quote]

    Right. I just meant that using subjectiveness as a reason to call it all nonsense could be applied to any contest.

  40. Jane
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 13:50:35

    What I read in regard to dilution was that the dilution had to be from commercial speech. And, parody and satire were free uses to the dilution argument – the LL Bean case was pretty strong on that. In the LL Bean case, High Society published a two page feature entitled “L.L. Bea m ‘s Back-To-School-Sex-Catalog".

    “The article displayed a facsimile of Bean’s trademark and featured pictures of nude models in sexually explicit positions using “products" that were described in a crudely humorous fashion.”

    The court upheld Drake Publishing’s right to parody LLBean’s trademark.

    “Trademark parodies, even when offensive, do convey a message. The message may be simply that business and product images need not always be taken too seriously; a trademark parody reminds us that we are free to laugh at the images and associations linked with the mark. The message also may be a simple form of entertainment conveyed by juxtaposing the irreverent representation of the trademark with the idealized image created by the mark’s owner.”

  41. Sarah McCarty
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 14:06:45

    **Right. I just meant that using subjectiveness as a reason to call it all nonsense could be applied to any contest.**

    Oh. Sorry. My bad. :)

  42. Sandy AAR
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 15:42:41

    Jane, debate the legalities all you want, but I think the very simple explanation for RWA asking you to remove the award is the obvious one — they were afraid that the contest you planned to run could be perceived as hostile or as making fun of the Ritas and, thus, would not be good press for RWA. They’ve TMd the award and it’s their right to do that.

    The RWA board has not always acted in their own best interests in the past, but I do understand their interest in protecting their brand. I work in advertising and, if RWA was my client, I’d probably advise them to do exactly what they did.

    I hope you run the contest because I think it would be fun, but I certainly don’t blame RWA for not wanting you to use their trademarked image for something that would be a total wildcard for them.

  43. Emily
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 15:59:31

    We know the RWA did it to avoid being made fun of and in their own interests as they see them. It also shows they can’t respond to a good “blogging” with grace and humor, and perhaps they need to understand the best defence is not always so offensive to the very people who consume their members products (award winning or otherwise). Over and over I see RWA creating bad press for themselves when it is so unecessary.

  44. Robin
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:01:43

    I work in advertising and, if RWA was my client, I’d probably advise them to do exactly what they did.

    So you wouldn’t have advised them to check out the text of the announcement, to query Jane first to see what her intentions were with the contest, and to generally take a more wait and see approach? I do a lot of damage control, so I’m often intervening on the other end of things, which may alter my opinion here. But wouldn’t you have anticipated the negative publicity that RWA brought to itself by not taking a more circumspect approach, Sandy?

  45. Karen Scott
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:07:57

    So you wouldn’t have advised them to check out the text of the announcement, to query Jane first to see what her intentions were with the contest, and to generally take a more wait and see approach?

    Good point, well made Robin.

    As per usual the RWA aren’t able to see past the end of their own noses. I’d like to say I was surprised, but I’d be lying.

    This makes a complete mockery of Barbara Samuel’s RTB post.

    Care about RITA’S indeed, what absolute piffle. *Sniff*.

  46. Sandy AAR
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:10:14

    Robin, protecting a trademarked brand is just smart business. That’s why you trademark something in the first place.

  47. Sarah McCarty
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:11:52

    [quote comment="25283"]

    what absolute piffle. *Sniff*.

    Piffle Karen? *trying to smother laughter* Don’t you think that’s a bit harsh? *G*

  48. Karen Scott
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:19:10

    Great word huh, Sarah? I already used the ‘f’ word once today, so to use it again on the same thread would have been overkill methinks. *g*.

  49. Robin
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:26:10

    Robin, protecting a trademarked brand is just smart business. That’s why you trademark something in the first place.

    But this isn’t really business, Sandy. IIRC, RWA is a 501(3)(c) organization. DA isn’t a commercial entity, either. That there might be commercial aspects to what the RWA does is different, IMO. Not to mention the fact that my understanding from Jane and my intellectual property professor is that it’s generally commercial uses that ARE protected in trademark because the standard of infringement and dilution and abuse is commercial confusion. In fact, from what Jane has said (and she’s a lawyer), it’s the parodic and satiric uses of a trademarked brand that are clearly *protected* under fair use via the Lanham Act.

    For me it comes down to balancing the RWAs desire to protect the sanctity of their reputation against the unexpected byproducts of publicity like that Jane’s contest and live blogging could create. Legal or not, there is just no way I would have advised the RWA to approach Jane as they did when there are so many alternatives, especially at this point in the process. By approaching DA in the way they did, RWA IMO has pushed its own self much closer to the very thing of which they were afraid . Which isn’t smart anything, IMO.

  50. Teddy Pig
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:37:37

    As a long time reader of MAD magazine… I do not think they asked either nor do I think they listened to threats much.

  51. Janine
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:38:59

    [quote comment="25279"]The RWA board has not always acted in their own best interests in the past, but I do understand their interest in protecting their brand. I work in advertising and, if RWA was my client, I’d probably advise them to do exactly what they did.

    I hope you run the contest because I think it would be fun, but I certainly don’t blame RWA for not wanting you to use their trademarked image for something that would be a total wildcard for them.[/quote]

    I’ve seen a newspaper run a very similar contest around the Oscars, asking readers to guess the winners and also, who they think should win. Would you also advise the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which holds the Oscar copyright, to not allow a newspaper that runs such a contest the use of the image of the Oscar statuette?

  52. Sandy AAR
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 16:54:19

    Janine and Robin,

    If, as a board member of RWA I became aware on a Saturday morning that there was an unauthorized use of a trademarked image on the web, I would have immediately done what they did. And, yes, I think it was a smart move.

    And, Janine, the Oscar image is always copyrighted. Newspapers and magazines don’t muck around with that. If MPAA didn’t like something, you can bet they’d pursue every legal avenue available to them.

    As for the bad press, Robin, I think that RWA will survive yet another Internet kerfuffle. It’s certainly not the first nor will it be the last. And, for the record, I think they can be pretty oblivious most of the time — but not this time.

    Clearly, my position is not the prevailong one here and I am most definitely not a lawyer, so I cede to you, Robin.

  53. Janine
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 17:04:28

    And, Janine, the Oscar image is always copyrighted. Newspapers and magazines don’t muck around with that. If MPAA didn’t like something, you can bet they’d pursue every legal avenue available to them.

    Your point about Oscar images being copyrighted is well-taken, Sandy.

    But the point of my question was that the Academy clearly does not mind such contests, since it allows them. How is our contest different from the contest I described in my earlier post, except for being about the RITA awards rather than the Oscars? If the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences finds nothing objectionable in such contests, why should the RWA find this contest objectionable?

  54. Robin
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 17:05:18

    As for the bad press, Robin, I think that RWA will survive yet another Internet kerfuffle. It’s certainly not the first nor will it be the last. And, for the record, I think they can be pretty oblivious most of the time — but not this time.

    Clearly, my position is not the prevailng one here and I am most definitely not a lawyer, so I cede to you, Robin.

    Actually, Jane’s the attorney; I’m merely a lowly third year law student and my legal understanding is not professionally sanctioned in any way. I understand the fear that the RWA would have of bad press, Sandy; I just think that acting on the offense sometimes creates more problems than hanging back for a while. Likelihood of bad press now v. possibility of good press later just reasons out differently for me, I guess.

  55. Alison Kent
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 17:13:06

    [quote comment="25283"]

    This makes a complete mockery of Barbara Samuel’s RTB post.

    [/quote]

    Except Barbara wasn’t speaking on behalf of RWA. She was speaking solely as herself.

  56. Sandy AAR
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 17:22:04

    Janine,

    In an ideal world, they would have asked for more information, I’ll grant you, while also asking for the image to be taken down until it could be clarified.

    And mine is not to reason why, but I think the RWA is — and always has been — suspicious of the Intenet community. We’re not RT. We don’t always like everything. And when we don’t like something they do, we speak up about it and I don’t think they like that very much.

    They’re hurting themselves with this attitude, unquestionably, but they don’t seem ready to change anytime soon. JMO.

  57. cathy
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 17:39:43

    2.
    When Love Isn’t Enough by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

  58. Keishon
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 17:57:53

    [quote comment="25230"]Jane, I stayed away from the debate because I couldn’t give a shit about the RITA’s. They aren’t for me as a reader, and they do nothing to enhance my reading pleasure.

    I’m afraid I’m with Sybil. Fuck ‘em.

    Ingrates.

    Nice thought though.[/quote]

    I guess I missed the debate on this topic but I could care less about the RITA award. It’s more a) political and b) gives author a chance to pat other authors on the back for a job “well done.” Their idea of what consitutes a good book vs. my idea of what consitutes a good is different. I have been burned once for buying into the RITA award winner thing because it doesn’t always equate to a quality, memorable read. Very few, too few of my favorite authors like Kinsale and Judith Ivory ever win so I don’t care for the award myself.

    Anyway, it sounded like a great idea but what Karen and Sybil said.

  59. Jane
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 19:02:03

    I don’t think our use was infringing. But I have a headache over the whole thing now. What’s completely ironic is that if I did draw a beard and mustache on the RITA and totally mocked it and exclaimed how ridiculous I thought it was i.e., ridiculous categories, biased judges, uninformed judges, (Gemma Halliday – best first book? WTF?), and so on and so forth, it’s not at all infringing. (Satire and parody long held to be constitutionally protected speech, even commercial speech). But do something uplifting to promo the contest, the authors, the winnners? No go. Bah.

  60. Melynda Beth Skinner
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 19:35:16

    Great idea, but, in spite of the spirit and/or letter of the law, I think you may have cause for pessimism.

    I was a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest in 1999. We formed an email loop for finalists and quickly became a fun, savvy, and warm sisterhood. One of the members made us all T-shirts that said “Golden Heart 1999.” We each reimbursed her what they cost her to make; no one made a proft. Yet, as I understand it, RWA forbade us to wear them.

    I understand that it’s important to protect trademarks and service marks…but this seemed a fair use to me.

  61. CindyS
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 20:27:31

    Sadly enough, I’m not bright but I came to the same conclusion as Jane, if you had put a beard and mustache on the award and then named it the Ridiculous Rita Award, would it have been able to stand.

    I have to say that I think you guys tried to do something admirable. You tried to get readers involved in something that is clearly the RWA’s domain as far as they are concerned.

    I understand now that Barbara Samuel was NOT speaking on behalf of the members of RWA or the Ritas but how was I as a reader to take what she was writing about. I did take some offense at being told that this should be important to me when ( and please correct me if I’m wrong ) 10 whole people have read and judged the book to be worthy. There are times when I look at the AAR awards where I know thousands of ballots have come in by very avid readers and think ‘meh’ I’m not going to read that one. So why would I take the view that 10 published authors would know what it is I would like to read.

    Therefore, I think this is a writer’s award. It must have to do more with an authors way with words or how a scene was perfectly described. I mean, I really don’t know but when I look at the list, and having read romance for 18 year, I just have no clue who half the authors are!

    Where I do think the a Rita award would have an effect on a romance buyer is, quite frankly, on the cover of a book or in the Author’s bio. Before the net I had no clue what a Rita was but I saw it refered to many times on author bios and my thought was, well, this author has won a few awards so maybe I should give her a try. Like many have said, there are some serious power house authors who have won this award so if you have read your favourite author’s bio or even the publisher’s blurb on the author then you would have seen the Ritas mentioned. Therefore, seeing ‘Winner of the prestigious Rita’ on an authors book may have an impact on readers who are not as picky as avid readers, who have screaming kids at their feet and dinner to cook and well, that one won an award.

    On the issue of legality, well, my opinion is not worth a grain of salt. Do I think the RWA shot themselves in the foot? Sure. But us bloggers are only a blip in the world of romance book buyers so maybe we’re just like a bothersome little fruit fly to them.

    Has Barbara Samuel given her opinion on this? I wonder if she would be willing to talk about this because I think I would have been thrilled to see readers getting excited and quite disillusioned to see this kind of result.

    CindyS

  62. LinM
    Mar 25, 2007 @ 21:06:01

    After following the posts all day, I agree with Barbara B who posted early in the morning. Awards are fine but I don’t pay much attention to the Rita’s or the Nebulas or the Hugos or the Edgars or …..

    What I do appreciate are the bloggers like the Ja(y)nes (and others who have commented here) who put time, energy, passion and commitment into reading, commenting, analysing, …. I have read some great, some good and some DNF books because of your comments.

    I hope that the authors who win enjoy the moment – it should be a time for celebration. But me – I’m lurking at DA waiting for a “joy” review, or an off-hand comment, or even a “didn’t-work-for-me” review that somehow says “this book, I have to read this book”.

    So I thank you for your time, your creativity, your thoughtfulness, your organization. Because the books that you choose to review, whether the review be good or bad, are the winners – they have been placed face-out on the shelf and flagged: reviewed by DA.

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  64. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 26, 2007 @ 07:35:32

    I think I fall into the ‘screw it’ category here. I dont’ follow the RITAs. I’ve never once entered. if a friend wins, hey, I’m happy for them, but the RITAs never appealed to me any more than OSCARS. I got better things to do with my time than follow a contest that won’t influence my buying decisions one way or the other.

    Although it does really… REALLY suck that you were trying to do exactly what it seems some authors wanted, make readers more aware of the RITA. Uh, well, some of them are now… but I wouldn’t say they were looking at them in a fond light.

  65. Christine Rimmer
    Mar 26, 2007 @ 10:24:07

    Jane, I still think it would be fun if you did the “Readers’ Rita” contest. Or the ATSNBN, if you wish. But after reading your experience–and all the posts and your posts about the posts…hey. I’ve got a headache, too.

    Controversy, however, is usually a good thing. Gets people thinking and talking. So in the end, however it all shakes out, I think you have done the RITAs a service. Raised the profile on them a little, which is great.

    Re the Best Book of the Year. Sorry, though the books chosen were great ones–and bestsellers–that contest was taken down because it was something of a joke. Nobody voted. 10 votes or so once named a book Best of the Year.

    And there are a number of Reader-judged awards. A big one is the Readers Choice Awards run by OKRWA and judged by readers only–readers from all over the country. Interestingly, the Readers Choice contest was one of the first to add a category for Erotic Romance.

  66. Christine Rimmer
    Mar 26, 2007 @ 10:34:45

    Ooops. Sorry. Not Best Book of the Year, but Favorite Book of the Year.

  67. Robin
    Mar 26, 2007 @ 22:35:36

    I was a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest in 1999. We formed an email loop for finalists and quickly became a fun, savvy, and warm sisterhood. One of the members made us all T-shirts that said “Golden Heart 1999." We each reimbursed her what they cost her to make; no one made a proft. Yet, as I understand it, RWA forbade us to wear them.

    This reminds me of the universal law of academic politics: the lower the stakes, the uglier the turf wars. I, too, understand why a trademark holder would want to protect the potency of its brand, but with these examples it seems a little absurd. I mean, seriously, are people just lining up trying to co-opt, confuse, impugn, or otherwise infringe or dilute the RITA or the RWA? It seems to me that, frankly, most people just don’t care that much, and those who do aren’t the ones the about which the RWA should be worrying.

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