In praise of Star Wars Rebels

I'm changing the name of this blog, and #WeWantLeia is why

I spoil it for Siri

Guest Post: How I came back to Star Wars action figures by YASWB

Beatrice and I watch Star Wars together

[Review] William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher 

Star Wars oil painting exhibit "Sandstorm" opens

Breakneck boredom: an old time Star Wars fan's thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness

They put me on the news to talk about Star Wars

More from Steve Sansweet on Star Wars and gay marriage

Carmine Infantio has died

I can die happy: I've been interviewed by Dungeons & Dragons

Star Wars Episode 7: All My Children?

What JJ Abrams needs to really succeed with Star Wars 7

Star Wars: The Old Republic is gay--on one planet at least

Tongal and Pringles bring us DYI desecration of Star Wars

Reminiscences about West End Games' Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Here's the biggest Star Wars news of 2012

Stephen Quinn interviews me about Star Wars on CBC Vancouver

Star Wars: modern myth or global franchise?

Parents turn child's 1st birthday into extended Lucasfilm/Hasbro advert

Me reading from A Long Time Ago

Highlights and lowlights of the upcoming Star Wars Celebration VI

Grown men (mostly) dressed up as Lando Calrissian

Beggar's Canyon Toys offer Star Wars toy "restoration" service

Blog's t-shirts banned by Zazzle

Will the real David Prowse please stand up?

LaserSaber: Unlicensed, dangerous and yours for only $99

Is this the future of Star Wars?

Is Star Wars link bait?

Dissent not tolerated at the Prequel Appreciation Society

TSOT discovers its nemesis

Comme des idiots: Star Wars teams up with poncy fashion house

US Christian activist attacks SWTOR for being gay

Yodaphone--the latest product pitch from Star Wars Inc.

Attention tortoise-fanciers: do you like Star Wars?

History of Star Wars as related by a bot

Is Star Wars a travesty of science fiction?

Luke Skywalker and company on the Muppet Show

Yoda now shilling instant soup in Japan

Commander who?

$6000 for a toy you can't even play with

Star Wars underwear

Retro Star Wars decor in my son's bedroom

Phantom Menace 3D: Now With Plot

Star Wars and disco: the forgotten love affair

Will Muschamp: What a guy!

Oi, fanboy: grow up! A reply to Darren Franich


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Entries in amazon (6)


Who owns Star Wars?

Tim Sampson of the Daily Dot interviewed me by e-mail about the Amazon episode and who owns Star Wars. From the piece:

No one will argue that the characters and locations of Star Wars originated with George Lucas, but more than any other pop-culture franchise, Star Wars has taken on a life of its own in the Internet age. Star Wars has spawned everything from fakeTwitter accounts to YouTube sitcoms. Changes to the original films by Lucasfilms will perpetually raise the ire of fans who feel a sense of ownership. The issue has even been the source of whole documentaries

The debate is something Van Ert knows all too well.

"(It)'s a complicated and interesting problem," he said. "There's no doubt that, instinctively, I often feel like Star Wars is somehow 'mine.' That doesn't make a lot of sense rationally, but George Lucas created something so stirring that it continues to engender fierce loyalty and passionate debate decades later. It's a tribute to the power of Lucas's story that it stimulates such strong reactions."

The Daily Dot: Amazon restocks the self-published "Star Wars" memoir it yanked


Sample coverage of my book online in the last two days

The story of Amazon's decision to pull A Long Time Ago from the Kindle Store on trademark grounds really got people's attention. Amazon reversed themselves almost immediately, to their great credit and my great relief and satisfaction. It has been amazing to see the story travel around the internet, and the world, like it has. Above are some samples of the coverage. 

Thanks again to everyone who supported getting me back into the Kindle store by their tweets, blog posts and coverage. And thanks to Amazon for addressing the issue so quickly and decisively. I'll get back to blogging about Star Wars soon, but I did want to share some of this with you.


My Kindle book is back in Amazon!

I haven't heard anything official from Amazon KDP [update: I have now], but the Kindle version of A Long Time Ago is back in the Amazon store! It looks as though Amazon has reversed its decision.

I don't think this would have happened so soon--and maybe not at all--if it weren't for the support of my followers on Twitter, their followers (who retweeted generously) and the kindness of Cory Doctorow, who understood the issue and blogged about it on one of my favourite sites, Boing Boing. 

I am also grateful to Amazon and KDP. They are running a huge operation and there are bound to be glitches from time to time. I don't doubt for a moment that the people I have dealt with were acting in good faith and trying to do their jobs. Like I've said a few times in blog posts and tweets in the last two days: I'm a fan of Amazon. This episode, now that it seems to have all worked out, hasn't changed that at all.


Wonderful Twitter and Boing Boing support for my book

I woke up this morning to a flurry of retweets, supportive messages and traffic to my blog (650 uniques by 6 am, and I usually get about 100 per day!). News of my trouble with AmazonKDP is getting around Twitter, thanks in large part (I suspect) to a RT by well-known author and internet advocate Cory Doctorow. I met @doctorow on a book tour stop in Vancouver recently and mentioned my book to him--awkwardly for us both! But he is a pro and was very gratious about it. (It must be exhausting dealing with the public as often as he does.)

Now he has both retweeted my original post about the AmazonKDP problem and blogged about my situation on Boing Boing. From the Boing Boing post:

"A Long Time Ago" is in my review pile, and has survived several purges of books of similar vintage (I've had it there for a long time!), because it looks awfully good, and got a great review from Wired's GeekDad. I hope that this is just some junior functionary at Amazon having a freakout and that someone higher up will see sense and realize that there's no reason in the world not to carry Van Ert's book.

Weirdly, Amazon is still carrying the print edition of the book, which makes things even more inexplicable. If Amazon faces some risk from selling an ebook, it faces the same risk from selling the print edition.

There has also been a blog post in Italian about the issue. I don't speak Italian and am not sure what this says, but I am very grateful to Luigi Rosa for his support.

I remain hopeful that AmazonKDP will change their position on this. Despite the unpleasantness of the last 48 hours or so, I remain a big fan of Amazon and KDP in particular. They have reshaped publishing in disruptive but ultimately valuable ways. They have created enormous opportunities for people to express themselves and to earn income from doing so. I admire Amazon and want to be a part of their project. I think there's just been a slip-up here. Here's hoping I am right. 

As Cory mentioned, the paperback version is still available for now.

Boing Boing: Amazon kicks self-published Star Wars memoir out of the Kindle store on nebulous and nonsensical trademark grounds

Siamo geek: Il poliziotto grep


Amazon KDP stands firm: my book is out for unspecified reasons

As explained in my last post, I learned on Christmas Day that Amazon was dropping A Long Time Ago from its Kindle store because of a supposed trademark problem surrounding the phrase "Star Wars".

I replied to Amazon's last email as follows.

Please reconsider your decision. My book is a memoir about growing up a Star Wars fan. It is not at all trademark-infringing. You have not said that you have had any complaint from Lucasfilm or others, and I cannot imagine that you would. There is more information about my book, and how we have got to this point, on my blog here:

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please feel free to call me at the number below if you would like more information.

I got this reply:

We have reviewed the information you provided and have determined that we will not be making the book available for sale in the Kindle store at this time. As mentioned in our previous correspondence, 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.

I'm sorry, but we can't offer any additional insight or action on this matter.

If you have any ideas about how to solve this, please email me at or add a comment below.


Amazon removes A Long Time Ago from Kindle for supposed trademark infringement

Kindle Direct Publishing informed me today--Christmas Day--that they have removed my self-published book, A Long Time Ago: Growing up with and out of Star Wars, from the Kindle store because it "contains references to the trademarked term, “Star Wars". 

I first published the book on Kindle in August. Since then it has been downloaded, either by purchasers or for free using Kindle promotions, over 400 times. There is also a paperback version, created through Amazon affiliate CreateSpace, which has sold about 120 copies so far. The CreateSpace version is still available, who knows for how long, but the Kindle version is now gone.

Until yesterday, Amazon had never raised any sort of complaint about the fact that my book uses the phrase "Star Wars". Why would it? My book is just a memoir of how Star Wars affected my life as a child and continues to do so today. If I had tried to publish a piece of Star Wars fiction without Lucasfilm's authorization, such as a novel set in the Star Wars universe, I would understand Amazon's position. But people are free to write books about how pop culture phenomena affect their lives. Amazon has been carrying John Booth's great Star Wars memoir since 2008. See also Simon Winder's The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond, or Michael Uslan's The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir

All this started very innocently a few weeks ago when Amazon announced they were making Kindle books available for sale from the Canadian Amazon store. Authors were invited to add a Canadian price to their books. Any time you make a change to your book on Kindle, KDP reviews the book before approving the change. This usually takes no more than 48 hours. This time, however, my book was under review for over two weeks. I wrote to ask what was going on. I assumed there was some sort of technical glitch. I only got standard form replies until yesterday, when I got this: 

Thank you for submitting the following book(s) for publishing to the Kindle Store.

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

During our review, we found that your book(s) contains references to a trademarked term. Due to this issue, your book(s) have been moved into a blocked status. We need you to take an additional step to confirm that you are authorized to use the trademarked term:

If you are authorized to use the trademarked term for this book, please provide any documentation or other evidence that proves you have retained rights for these book(s). Please send any  correspondence regarding these book(s) with the title and id of the book to Failure to respond to this email may prevent your book(s) from being available in the Kindle store.

Please respond within 5 business days with the requested information. Your book has been moved to a blocked status on your bookshelf and will not be available for sale in the Kindle store until we receive the documentation requested.

Thank you for your interest in publishing with Amazon KDP.

This email didn't tell me what the trademarked term was. Of course I guessed it was "Star Wars", but I didn't really know. If it was Star Wars (and all the other trademarked terms that go with it), the answer was that I didn't have "any documentation or other evidence that proves you have retained rights" to talk about Star Wars in a book about my childhood. I never asked Lucasfilm (or anyone else) for such rights and I don't believe I have to. 

I replied to Amazon's email like this:


See below. Please explain what this is all about. My book has been in the Amazon store for months. What term are you referring to, and what is the issue? Please reply with an informative e-mail, not something vague.



I confess I was a bit impatient, but I was not angry. I was convinced--and remain convinced even now--that this was a mistake and nothing more. It will get sorted out, I told myself.

Here is KDP's reply:

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. 

If you have any questions regarding the review process, you can write to us at To contact us about an unrelated issue, please visit:

Whereas before KDP was at least willing to give me a chance to show I had some right to use the trademarked term, now they have simply pulled the book. There does not appear to be any avenue for appeal--no one I can speak to, no willingness to reconsider.

I am awfully upset about this. I spent two years writing the book, as followers of this blog know. People seem to like it: it received a positive review on's GeekDad blog and, as of this morning, it had six customer reviews on and one on, all rating it four or five stars.  

It cannot be right that authors can be shut out of the biggest book market in the world on such a slim pretext. Trademark protection is important, of course. But so is free speech. My book does not raise any serious trademark concern that I can see. Certainly no one would confuse my book with a licensed Lucasfilm product--my feelings about Star Wars are far too mixed. I am a lawyer, but I'm not an intellectual property lawyer nor a US lawyer, and I don't claim any expertise in these areas. But I know a thing or two about human rights, and I've always understood that fair use and comment are defences to trademark infringement claims. And in any case, as far as I know no one has actually made a trademark infringement claim; Amazon's emails don't say that Lucasfilm has complained about the book. I can't imagine that they would. Anyone who has read it will know that it is, ultimately, a sort of tribute to George Lucas and his creations.

If you think my book should be brought back to Kindle, please let Amazon know. You can use @AmazonKDP in a supportive Tweet, or share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere by clicking on "Share Article", above. I would really appreciate your help. I like Amazon and I think they'll correct this mistake if I can get their attention, but they're such a big organization that I think it will take some support from you to help me get through to them.