Book at centre of space marine row back on sale

Screenshot from Space Marine
Image caption Games Workshop's space marines have appeared in video games as well as in tabletop games

An e-book at the centre of a row over who can use the term "space marine" is back on sale on the Amazon website.

The Spots the Space Marine story was taken off Amazon after model-soldier maker Games Workshop complained it infringed its trademark on the phrase.

A blog post about the row by the story's US author, Maggie Hogarth, led to much criticism for Games Workshop.

And digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it had then helped Amazon "review" the case.

In a statement about the row, the EFF said it was "outrageous" for Games Workshop to claim any rights over a term that had been in wide use in fiction since the 1930s.

It said the case was an example of a growing trend, in which trademark and rights owners targeted the "weakest link" in the chain of people that helped content, be it fiction, movies or music, appear online.

Often, said the EFF, the weakest link was an ISP, a hosting company or a website that acted as a store front or aggregator for many different creators.

Such "providers usually don't have the resources and/or the inclination to investigate trademark infringement claims", it said.

Many simply removed the disputed content immediately to stay "neutral" and avoid trouble, said the EFF, but that made it hard for those on the end of trademark claims to mount a challenge.

The online chatter also prompted Games Workshop to put a statement about the row on its Facebook page, in which it said it had "no choice" but to act in cases where its trademarks in a commercially available product were being used without its consent.

Despite this, it said, it had never claimed to have rights over the ways in which the terms "warhammer" or "space marine" were used in day-to-day speech. This everyday use also covered a "body of prose", it added.

"Trademarks as opposed to use of a word in prose or everyday language are two very different things," it said.

"Games Workshop is always vigilant in protecting the former, but never makes any claim to owning the latter."

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