A+E Networks (AETN) and I have reached a tentative agreement on the publication of a revised cover for Unearthing the Truth. Despite the fact that AETN does not own the rights to the variant A rune (“Hooked X®”) design or to Scott Wolter’s book, The Hooked X®, the network informed me that although I agreed to all of their other terms and conditions unconditionally, they would not permit me to print new copies of my book without removing the variant A rune (“Hooked X®”) because of the alleged “substantive similarity” between my book cover and Wolter’s, on whose behalf they claim to be acting. Because they do not own the rune, they gave me a choice: remove either the rune or the U.S. map from the cover. While I strongly disagree with their action, their threatened lawsuit would have prevented me from printing the book for months, or possibly years, at high cost while I waited for a court to tell them that they have no standing vis-à-vis Wolter’s book since they are not the rights owner nor (so far as they represented themselves to me) his legally designated representative for such rights.
Obviously, Unearthing the Truth isn’t as useful after the second season of America Unearthed debuts. As a result, I have decided to remove the variant A rune from the cover of my book so I can sell it faster because I think the information is more important than the graphic design. Not a single word of the actual book text will change.
That said, I don’t come away from this empty-handed. I forced AETN, acting as they claim on behalf of Scott Wolter, into a strategic concession. They admit that neither they nor Wolter own or can own the variant A rune design: “We agree that the ‘hooked X’ letter is in the public domain for all to use.” That will therefore end any attempt to assert control over the design of the variant A rune (beyond the word mark for the exact phrase “Hooked X®”) in any medium, forever. To celebrate, you can all scrawl runes all over every available surface.
Since AETN and Scott Wolter admit that the variant A rune is public domain, I decided to make use of my right, conceded by AETN, to use the design as I see fit in any category except book covers. So, this morning I launched a clothing store (seriously), and I am now first-in-category to offer variant A rune (not “Hooked X®”) clothing and accessory designs! Since these designs use a public domain letter and make no reference to any product or mark owned by Scott Wolter or AETN, nor are represented as relating to such products or works, there’s nothing they can do about it. So, please enjoy a range of t-shirts, mugs, iPhone covers, and whatever else I have time to slap together. I’ll be expanding the merchandise listings as I have time and as it amuses me.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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