Thursday, September 13, 2012

On Trademarking The Word "Cosplay" And Double Standards

.:On Trademarking The Word "Cosplay" And Double Standards:.

And here comes this issue just after I do my Project 52 for the week. And it's not like I can hold off on writing about this until next week, considering how much discussion the issue has engendered. I see that Gameops has written about this already, but what the hey. May as well get my two cents in.

But first, let me show you what I'm talking about.

The legalese had me going for a while, too. Click to enlarge.

In the interest of disclosure, if I actually had a horse in this battle (And I don't.), it would actually be the one who filed for the trademark, Tanya Bairan. I have had nothing but pleasant experiences with her through my dealings with, and if somebody had to own the trademark of the word "cosplay," then I wouldn't mind it at all if it were them.

Buuuut I don't really know if anyone has to own the word "cosplay," in the first place. At least, not on a legal basis.

This isn't an ethical or moral issue, so the fact that it was Mike Abundo who brought this "issue" (Notice the air quotes, because I personally don't think it is one. Yet.) to light isn't exactly the favorite person of the cosplay community is irrelevant. Nobody is beyond scrutiny, after all, regardless of how much we like or dislike the person in question. This is a purely legal matter, and since I'm not a lawyer, the implications of the trademark, as well as its merits, completely escape me.

I have seen similar efforts happen before. A few years back, someone tried to form a National Bloggers' Association without consulting bloggers nationally. What a novel concept! A group that seeks to represent bloggers completely ignores the very people it represents?

What next? Will the CBCP trademark the word "Catholic" now? Oh, wait.

It's okay, Abante fell for it, too.

That being said, I categorically don't approve of assuming the worst of and their intentions, because whatever the case may be, her side deserves to be heard before we even try to cast judgment on this issue.

Yes, the timing of the issue cropping up is suspect: Cosplaymania is coming up on September 29, yet the trademark was filed in 2011. Why now? Is it an attempt to stir up controversy to discredit the event? Well, I can't assume anything about Mike's intentions, either. I think it's unfair of me to do so since I haven't spoken to him about it yet.

Furthermore, if that were really the intent, well, expect it to backfire, because if anything, this kind of "issue" would only spur more people to attend Cosplaymania. As you should. The event has a pretty good track record in the past few years it's been running.

It's tempting to sneak in a plug about the cosplay event I'm hosting this weekend right here, but I will resist the urge to tell you that Best Of Anime is happening this weekend in SMX. I'm above shameless self-promotion like that.


Aside from "cosplay," the phrase "cosplay Philippines" and the website plus logo for were also trademarked.

I am willing to go by the doctrine of charity and assume the best of intentions and the lack of any ill will in what has done, but I am alarmed by the double standards some have employed to blindly defend them from being so much as questioned about this. True, has a good reputation established over the years. True, I think highly of them. But if, after careful consideration, it is established that nobody should own the trademark to the word "cosplay" (Which has yet to happen, might I say.), then we can't look the other way just because we like the people involved. Nobody is beyond reproach or question. Especially not when we criticize PNoy for supposedly doing just that with Rico Puno.

This hypocrisy alarms me, because some of my closest friends have been subjected to these double standards, not to mention the rampant slut-shaming I see prevalent in the cosplay community whenever a pretty cosplayer gains some measure of popularity. No, wearing skimpy clothing doesn't make her a "slut," nor does accepting money for being a cosplayer/model at an event make her a "whore." Especially if we turn around and praise people we happen to like for doing the exact same thing, when given the chance.

And yes, I'm talking about people like Alodia or Chienna or Myrtle (Who I don't even personally know.). It seems like to certain people, these people can do nothing right, no matter what costume they wear, or whatever they say or do. Always something wrong with the costume. Always clamoring for attention. Always getting the character wrong. Always misrepresenting cosplay. Huh.

Some people would even go as far as to say they're not cosplayers because cosplay should never be about money (Which clearly contradicts the trademark, based on the text.), because the word "play" is in the term.

Yet the NBA is home to some of the highest-paid basketball players in the world, and nobody bats an eyelash at that "injustice?" For shame!

To some people, the overall message is that because these cosplayers are now actresses or models or whatever else, they no longer "deserve" to be called "cosplayers."

Why not?

Who sets these standards?

Who elected these people to set these standards?

What checks and balances are in place to assure that these standards are fair and properly observed?

I ask, because if these so-called defenders of the "purity" of the "art form" merely appointed themselves, then such a practice is specious at best, and downright discriminatory at worst.

I also ask, because the exact same reasoning was given by someone who defended the trademarking of the term "cosplay": to protect the word from misuse by douchebags. If we were to listen to the people speaking for Tanya and the rest of the, you'd think that these actions are to "save" cosplay from the evil clutches of the "dastardly" Mike Abundo. A little overdramatic now, aren't we? Besides, what is up with that Messianic complex?

Nearly the same questions apply.

How is the word misused by douchebags?

Who are these douchebags?

Who determines when something is misused? Who determines who are douchebags? Are these going to be the same people?

Who elected these people to set these standards?

What checks and balances are in place to assure that these standards are fair and properly observed?

Yet again, that's merely someone speaking ahead of Tanya's turn, so for all we know, that reasoning may not even be applicable at all.

That being said, I refuse to talk about whether or not she has any merit to the trademark claim until she has aired her side, and as of my call to her earlier this afternoon, she promised that she will issue an official statement soon enough. I believe she is due the respect and accord to air her side, so for that, I will hold my piece, especially since my stake in this matter is limited at best.

Aside from the whole hoopla over the trademark itself, I really wanted to write this to decry the double standards being demonstrated by certain people within the community. It's been getting to me for years already, because even some of the people I'm closest to seem to just have a logic block when it comes to these standards. To a guy like me, who's mainly outside looking in, it feels petty and vindictive to apply one set of standards to an Alodia Gosiengfiao and to apply a completely different set of standards to a Jin Joson, solely because they like one and hate the other. These are people, too, and they deserve to be treated as such. They are not whores. They are not sluts. They are not your property. And they certainly do not exist for your amusement alone.

For now, I am vouching for Tanya's integrity, and eagerly await the official announcement, because it will definitely clear up a lot of things. As useless as it may seem, this fence-sitter hopes both sides won't resort to mudslinging and rumor-mongering at this point, because it's a disservice to a community that has grown by the leaps and bounds that cosplay has in the past few years.

P.S. I'm glad I'm hosting Best Of Anime this weekend, and not Best Of Cosplay. Wala lang.

For the addendum post made after the official statement came out, please go here.

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