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Dear Nora Roberts and Tomi Adeyemi, Books can share Titles without Authors Feuding

By Alexander Opicho
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On 28th November 2018, Tomi Adeyemi, the Nigerian author of the fantasy novel Children of Blood and Bone shared a photo of the cover of her book alongside ofblood and Bone, Nora Roberts’s forth coming book on her Tweeter page. Boththe photos show that the two books share similar titles.Adeyemiposted a tweet of accusation against Nora Roberts for stealing the title of her book. Adeyemi posted a tweet that; ‘It would be nice if an artist could create something special without another artist trying to shamelessly profit off it’. These tweet let to a heated conversation on social media, with many people calling out the Tomi Adeyemi of blatant disrespect. The fans of Adeyemi also were not late to go for the neck of Nora Roberts. The social media immediately succumbed to the psychology of mob rule, evinced in the tireless trading of hatred-loaded accusative exchanges between the fandom of Roberts and Adeyemi. To speak it all, harsh words like idiot and shamelessly were often used in the course of the tweeted exchange between the fandoms.

Sometimes later Adeyemi made a statement of apology to Nora Roberts by posting a tweet which read that; ‘NoraRobert was kind enough to reach out and explain that today was the first she’d heard of my book. After talking to her, I believe our titles were created in isolation. I’m grateful she explained & I’ve apologized, but I wanted to address it here as I know others were upset too’. Believably, Roberts was not satisfied.

A day later, Nora Roberts released a very bitter statement accusing the social media for irrational mob rule and Adeyemi for recklessness. However, Nora Roberts only described Adeyemi as ‘another reckless woman’ without mentioning the name of Adeyemi. Roberts also swore that she will never read Adeyimi’s books.

The center-piece of all these conflicts is that Adeyemi made allegations thatNora Roberts had plagiarized the title of her book. Robert’s book has been released by the beginning of December 2018. Hence the controversy. This feuding got its global status immediately through the facility of thoughtless use of the social media. However, there is no law which says that it is crime to mimic a title of another book. In response to the matter,the Authors Guild explained away the issue by pointing out that , ‘the law is clear that you cannot trademark individual book titles, but a title for a series of books can be trademarked since it serves the role of a brand.’

Evidently , there are very many books in the world that share titles; Home coming by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Homecoming (a short story) by Dilman Dila.In reply to this feud between Roberts and Adeyemi, Rachel Kramer wrote in the culture pages of the Forbes Magazines byshowing images of the book covers of Nightshift by Charlaine Harris, Night Shift by Stephen King and Night Shift by Nora Roberts. Kramer also observed in the same pages that CharlaineHarris wroteNight Shift(2016); Stephen King (1978); andNora Roberts (1991)...and yet none of these greats ever found it appropriate to complain of title plagiarism. Another example beobserved from H G Wells and Nial Ferguson. Wells wroteWars of the World(1898) and Ferguson wrote theWar of the World (2006). And that is not all, those of us that are friends of literature are aware of the age-long Blood and Bone by Ian C Esslemont, the Canadian fiction writer.

Thus, sharing a book title is not a legaloffence;however a disingenuous person can shrewdly pass-off his or her book by closely imitating the title of the popular book or the name of the popular author, she can do these for the sake of quick sales. This is where one cannot commit a crime of plagiarism by imitating the title of a book but can commit a civil offence or a tort of passing off. This can only be established if the trial is able to point out maliciousforethoughts in the author of the copy-cat title. Moral obligations has it that any author to day daring to use titles like ‘king Lear’, or ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Things Fall Apart’ on her book will not walk away scot-free even if her book is wildly different from the classics she is imitating.However, it is certainly evident that Nora Roberts cannot imitate any title in the world for the sake of money or popularity. She is saintly famous as a writer of romantic literature. This fame has made her rich in terms of money. Roberts is a respectedauthor of more than 225 romance novels. She also writes as J. D. Robb for the in Death series, and has also written under the pseudonyms Jill March and for publications in the U.K. as Sarah Hardesty.Thus she is a writer with enough capacity, and hence she cannot degenerate into any stuff of intellectual immorality.

Tomi Adeyemi has all the rights of emotional intelligence to protect what she treasures. A good writer loves her books the way a good parent loves the children. More so Children of Blood and Bone is Adeyimi’s first book. It cannot fail to trigger wild feelings of envious protection the same way a first borne child could do to a loving parent. it is under this context, that the Luhyia people of western Kenya have a proverb that mwanawambelinasiekhoyela, a first born child is sweet.This is why I believe that Adeyemi has to be forgiven for her intellectual possessiveness. There isalso onetimely virtue that young African writers can learn from Adeyemi;she is differing with a citizen of the first world over intellectual property, in fact onequal footing. This could not have happened fifty years ago. This does not mean that Africans have not been productive in terms of art and literature, they have been, even Sembene Ouasmene lost his manuscript of God Bits of Wood to a dishonest French woman-friend, only to recover it later.

The problem in this juncture was not Nora Roberts imitating Adeyemi’s book title, the problem hinges on the poverty of words in English language as an agent of commonwealth literature, poverty of communication etiquette or discipline among the social media users and also the mental conditioningthat Tomi Adeyemi acquired from the black-white relations during her days as a student atHarvard University. Thus, consideration of these factors guides Robert and Adeyemi to change their positions and reconcile by writing or co-authoring novel for the world to read. If anything, they are both the children of the common blood and bones that once buckled under the heavy weight of British cultural imperialism, the political process that saw a substantial cultural Englishnization of Africa and America.

By-Alexander Opicho writes from From Lodwar, Kenya [email protected]