|Event:||The Omegaverse Litigation|
|Date(s):||April 2018 – July 2020|
|Fandom:||Romance, Original Fiction, Alpha/Beta/Omega|
|URL:||omegaverselitigation, Archived version|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Note: The following article is not intended to serve as a legal reference, but rather as a document of an event in fandom and the fan reactions to it. Please do not add excessive amounts of legal detail to this page. Editors are encouraged to discuss any proposed changes on the Talk page before making them.
The Omegaverse Litigation is the commonly used phrase to describe the lawsuits involving two authors: Zoey Ellis and Addison Cain, both of whom wrote romance/erotica novels with "omegaverse" tropes. The lawsuits and their resulting publicity resulted in a number of "mainstream" news outlets reporting on this formerly obscure kink trope.
The instigating event for the lawsuits involved one author (Addison Cain) filing DMCA takedown notices against the other (Zoey Ellis) for alleged plagiarism of her work. In response, Zoey Ellis filed two lawsuits alleging abuse of DMCA takedown notices. The central question of these lawsuits then became whether there was true plagiarism involved, or whether the two works were simply similar because they called upon established hallmarks of the same trope (A/B/O, or Omegaverse).
While the case closed in July of 2020, it continues to be widely discussed online, with many people (both fannish and non-fannish) discovering the existence and history of Omegaverse tropes for the first time via these lawsuits. Additional drama has played out online, particularly surrounding the two videos created by Lindsay Ellis summarising the case (see: 2020 Timeline).
What is Omegaverse?
Omegaverse: Its Origins and Connections to Fandom and Fanworks
Although individual elements of the trope appeared much earlier in fandom, the Omegaverse originated in Supernatural fandom with a few very specific AU kink meme prompts for the J2 RPF ship. The first was posted to spnkink_meme in May 2010, followed by a similar prompt that was posted to two different Supernatural anon memes in November 2010 and January 2011. This prompt contained the now-standard alpha/beta/omega terminology and inspired several different fills.
The trope was a natural extension of Supernatural's popular werewolf and knotting kinks, and may also have been influenced by Dark Angel, where heat cycles were canon and often explored in fic. It spread rapidly beyond Supernatural and J2 fandom into other fandoms as well as original fiction and other media.[note 1] Het omegaverse fanworks, while comparatively less common, have also been around since the beginning of the genre; All Ways by netweight, published in 2011, is an early example.
For a more thorough overview of the history and evolution of the omegaverse in fandom, see Alpha/Beta/Omega.
Pro Author Omegaverse
Some early professionally published works that are often cited as containing "omegaverse tropes" are the 2007 novel With Caution by J.L. Langley, the second novel in the M/M werewolf romance series 'With or Without'; and the Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs, a het werewolf romance series that also began in 2007. These were both erroneously cited by Lindsay Ellis in her first video about the Omegaverse Litigation as early, professionally-published examples of the genre, despite the fact that their publication predated the documented origins of the trope in Supernatural RPF fandom. Wikipedia also cites With Caution as "the first commercially-published novel with Omegaverse tropes".
However, while there is an evident trope overlap between werewolf erotica and omegaverse, including the fact that both feature "Alphas", "Betas" and sometimes "Omegas", the collectively-established A/B/O universe has a specific set of tropes that separate it from the werewolf genre (and for the most part it does not feature actual werewolves, unless these are a hallmark of the fandom it is being written in, such as Teen Wolf).
Ellis then clarified in her follow-up video that she had been wrong in calling Patricia Briggs' Alpha & Omega the first het omegaverse novel, when that title is in fact held by Taken by Darkness by Nora Ash, published in 2014. It is generally acknowledged that prior to this point the genre was dominated by M/M (as it is in fandom), but it is not known which was the first commercially published M/M novel to use omegaverse tropes as recognised by fandom.
The Litigation: An Overview
In April 2018, Blushing Books Publications, the publisher of Cain's "Alpha's Claim Series," sent DMCA take-down notices to retailers relating to Ellis' "Myth of Omega Series," alleging substantial similarities. A few retailers removed the books from sale for a period of time (no less than three months). Amazon did not remove the books at any time.
Ellis, through her company Quill Ink Books Limited, filed two lawsuits against Blushing Books Publications and Cain, respectively, alleging misuse of the DMCA take-down notices. In 2019, Blushing Books settled, releasing a statement that there had been no plagiarism and that the DMCAs were invalid.
The second lawsuit against Addison Cain remained. As of August 2020, three of Zoey Ellis' four claims, brought by her publisher Quill Ink Books, have been dismissed with prejudice. The fourth claim, Intentional DMCA Misrepresentation, was dismissed for lack of prosecution, as Quill Ink Books went bankrupt and were unable to continue with the suit. The case is now closed.
Timeline of Relevant Facts and Dates
- April 19, 2018 - Cain and Blushing Books send DMCA take-down notices to all retailers where "Myth of Omega" was published.
- April 26, 2018 - Cain is made aware that retailers are taking down "Myth of Omega" books (but book 3 remains up for preorder).
- May 15, 2018 - Cain and Blushing send second round of DMCA notices for Ellis' book 3's preorder.
- May 16, 2018 - Quill Ink Books Limited is made aware that book 3 is being taken down as well.
- May 17, 2018 - Counsel for Quill Ink Books Limited sends a Cease & Desist Letter to Blushing Books as a counter-notice to the DMCA notices.
- May 2018 - "Myth of Omega" Series titles are reinstated on other platforms.
- May 23, 2018 - Crave to Claim, the third book in the "Myth of Omega" series, is published in ebook form. The paperback edition is published on May 27.
- September 18, 2018 - Zoey Ellis and Quill Ink Books Limited file the first lawsuit in an Oklahoma Federal District Court against Addison Cain and Blushing Books.
- October 18, 2018 - The website omegaverselitigation.com is created and a copy of the 10/17/18 Amended Complaint in the Oklahoma Lawsuit was published on that site, including the headline “No one owns a genre, Especially Omegaverse.” (By 2020, no post of that title was on that website; presumably it was moved or copied to the author's site.) That site was created and maintained by Quill (admitted in answer to Counterclaim).
- October 19, 2018 - Zoey Ellis writes a Facebook post about Cain and the litigation. She directs any inquiries to be made to an omagaverselitigation.com email address. Some supporters of Addison Cain believe that this statement contains false claims. They believe that Ellis's assertion that Addison Cain claimed to own omegaverse tropes and that Cain attempted to blackmail Ellis are false.
- Statement of Zoey Ellis, on Behalf of Quill Ink Books:
In April 2018, an author and her publisher filed take-down notices against my Myth of Omega books, causing them to be removed from sale at various retailers. These deliberately harmful actions against my work violated the Copyright Act because they made inaccurate and misleading claims of plagiarism. This accusation not only misrepresented the events in my work, but also asserted that that author was the creator and owner of common tropes found in m/f, m/m, and f/f Omegaverse as well as dark romance. After these claims were found unsupported, my books were reinstated; however, this process took a significant amount of time for some retailers. During this period, a title that wasn’t even published yet—that no one could have read—was also targeted, and preorders were lost when the book was removed from presale.
Instead of responding to attempts to resolve this issue amicably, the publisher and author chose to delay communication and persisted with threats of blackmail and attempted intimidation, as well as continued existing attacks against my character and books in collusion with others. I’ve since learned of other M/F Omegaverse writers who were similarly targeted by the same parties, including one who abandoned her story due to threats and take-down attempts. My publisher, after seeking professional guidance, realized legal action was unavoidable.
Obviously, as a new author, this was a scary conclusion for me, but the various actions taken by the author and publisher have been astonishingly wide-ranging and consistent, and can ultimately prevent me from having a successful career. I wrote my own interpretation of the Omegaverse, creating my own characters, world, and stories, and I have the right to publish and promote my work without unprovoked interference and defamation from others, regardless of their popularity. Anyone who reads both works without bias can clearly see they are not the same story, even if they are unfamiliar with the genre. So my publisher has now filed a lawsuit to address these unwarranted attacks on my works and reputation.
The court will be presented with all the necessary evidence to make a judgment about whether the process that exists to protect copyright can be abused to aggressively remove an author from the marketplace by inaccurately claiming to own tropes of a genre. All genres are recognisable by the familiar tropes and archetypes of their stories and characters, like the expectation that vampires drink blood and mysteries will be solved. Omegaverse depicts certain behaviors from its characters because they are highly instinctual, so many of the stories explore the conflict between body and mind just like countless paranormal and dark romances.
What’s important to realize is that all versions of Omegaverse began in fanfiction as early as 2010 and any claim otherwise dismisses the work of thousands of writers who helped to hone and define it as a distinct sub-genre. The author in question heavily borrowed from this existing universe to create her own work—she has no authority to gatekeep the genre, she was not the first to write any version of it, and she cannot claim to own copyright for any of its recognized concepts such as alphas being big or omegas being rare and resisting their heats. The court process will have the final say on this outrageous conduct to stifle other authors. [...]
- September 9, 2019 - Quill Ink Books obtains a judgement that Ellis' Myth of Omega series did not plagiarize Alpha's Claim.
Defendant, ABCD Graphics and Design, Inc. d/b/a Blushing Books Publishing ("Defendant") ... extends the following offer of judgement to Plaintiff, Quill Books Limited ("Plaintiff") and stipulates that Zoey Ellis' Myth of Omega Series does not plagiarize Addison Cain's Alpha's Claim series, and the take-down notices transmitted pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act are invalid.
- September 9, 2019 - Quill Ink Books Limited files an Amended Complaint with four counts: Intentional DMCA Misrepresentation, Tortious Interference with Business Relationships, Defamation, and Statutory Conspiracy.
- September 23, 2019 - Cain files a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint.
- October 29, 2019 - Counts II, III and IV of the Amended Complaint were dismissed, leaving only Count I, Intentional DMCA Misrepresentation, remaining.
- November 12, 2019 - Addison Cain files Answer to Amended Complaint (Count I only).
- May 23 - New York Times Article is released with interviews from Zoey Ellis, Gideon Lincecum, and Professor Kristina Busse as well as reference to emails and documents that resulted from the subpoenas in this case.
- June 3 - Cain files a motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution and a brief in support.
- June 18 - Quill Ink Books Limited files a Notice of Liquidation advising the Court that it is filing for bankruptcy.
- July 1 - Cain's request to dismiss for lack of prosecution is granted.
- September 3 - Lindsay Ellis publishes her first video summarising the case: Into the Omegaverse: How a Fanfic Trope Landed in Federal Court.
- October 23 - Lindsay Ellis publishes her follow-up video, Addison Cain's lawyer e-mailed me, and it only got worse from there, detailing her further interactions with Addison Cain and the DMCA takedown notices that she received. It is even more widely shared and discussed in both fannish and non-fannish circles than the first video.
Fandom Comments & Response
Regarding Plagiarism: The Pro Books
News of the plagiarism complaint was spread quickly online, particularly on Twitter. User LilithKitty tweeted "Imagine getting jury duty, and it's the ABO lawsuit" There was also some talk comparing it to the #CopyPasteCris scandal, and pushback against that comparison. One example was a twitter thread by former law professor Courtney Milan that was widely shared in fannish spaces.
[@courtneymilan's tweet thread]
I’ve had people ask me to refer people to Addison Cain’s GoFundMe over a lawsuit where she is being sued for DMCA abuse, saying it was similar to #CopyPasteCris. I held off saying anything because federal lawsuits have public documents, and allegations may or may not be true.
@courtneymilan's twitter thread continued, eventually getting the attention of Addison Cain.
By the way, I don’t think Addison is affirmatively claiming to have invented Omegaverse. She is just not disclosing that she didn’t, and claiming ownership to standard A/B/O events by listing them as “similarities."
Some people agreed with Cain's complaint, pointing to similarities between the two series.
I want to be very clear here, it's not just that these things are in both books, this is what happens in both books, scene after scene, beat following beat with only a few differences between the plot structure. I've read a lot of books that have the same tropes, ideas, whatever... but they didn't follow each other's outlines like this. 
A user on Goodreads named Meredith, who identified themselves as a fan of Addison Cain who had initially been inclined to support her GoFundMe to cover the cost of her legal defense, posted an extensive review detailing the ins and outs of the situation. Some quotations:
I almost didn't read [Crave to Claim], because I've considered myself an AC fan. Months ago I read AC's blog claiming this series plagiarized Alpha's Claim. I got so worked up after reading AC's blog post that I almost donated to AC's GoFundMe page for her legal expenses.
Fortunately, I decided to read the court docs myself, and even purchased court docs from PACER to find out more information about the case.
What I found floored me.In the beginning, I was on Addison Cain's side. I initially swore off reading Zoey Ellis after reading AC's blog post. In fact, I put Crave to Conquer on my 'gonna pass' shelf. After reading all the court documents, it's clear AC is not the victim in this narrative, and I'm saddened to see this kind of bullying from an author that I've enjoyed reading in the past.
I think the lesson to be learned is really a lesson for authors and publishers to learn. Take what your fans say with a grain of salt. If fans say another series has plagiarized your work, those fans may not be aware of the differences between tropes and plagiarism. They're inherently impartial because they're your fans. If you're convinced another author plagiarized your work, it's not always wise to jump the gun and send a DMCA takedown notice, it can backfire. Sending aggressive emails can backfire too.It's clear to me both Blushing and AC demonstrated poor judgment from the beginning and got themselves in a hot, sticky legal mess. A mess that nearly cost me the experience of reading a new author and the enjoyment of reading a great book in the Omegaverse genre.
Regarding Fanfiction and Original Origins
Some fans focused on the fact that the trope began in fanfiction.
Clearly none of you have been around fandom or read any kind of alpha/beta/omega verse fanfiction. My friends and I were writing male/female omegaverse back on Tumblr when it first became popular in the Supernatural fandom, back in, oh, 2010, 2011? You guys are hardly the first to use these tropes even if they seem novel to you. I'm glad you guys are enjoying it, but it's a bit wrong to think that Addison Cain invented it. 
I got here because I just found out via twitter that my favorite fandom genre since the J2 days went "mainstream" in a complaint/court document. Details of Omegaverse history and whatnot got written down in that statement and I think that was a gargantuan mistake.Omegaverse is a public sandbox. No one can lay claim to it. Even if you were the first to commercially publish a subgenre of it, you have no legal rights on the idea because it is not your copyright. Detailing it in the statement as proof of plagiarism only hurts your case because it's easy to disprove. This applies to both Cain and Ellis by the way, since both of them (or their publishers) filed complaints against each other. 
None of you started the A/B/O trend, certainly none of you own any claim to it, and I can guarantee there are a thousand or more fanfics with those exact same plots all over AO3, geez. Grow up. You can plagiarize an idea you didn't even come up with. 
[descriptions and links to fics on Archive of Our Own] -- So these are just five out of 419 works within the Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics tag specifically for the F/M category, but if you include Multi category works (F/M, M/M, F/F, etc) that number bumps up to 1579, and these are published BEFORE 2016. The overall number of F/M & Multi works in the archive for Omega-verse are 2681 and 7735 respectively.I say, for patrons of erotica, the commercial writers in y’all’s community are missing out on a lot of delicious Omegaverse goodness. Both Addison and Ellis should take this as an opportunity to expand their reading. Fanfiction is fun. 
Some fans drew comparisons to other complaints of plagiarizing tropes or copyright infringement, made by fans/writers in the past.
Ooooh this reminds me of when there was an author waaaaay back when ( like 1997 or so ) who claimed to have invented/come up with body swap fics ( like two characters accidentally switching bodies in a curse/spell/soulmates, whatever ) and was pulling something like this, she started in about lawyers and such but twitter and stuff didn’t exist then so I really don’t know what came of it. Honestly, I kind of believed her at the time because it was a long ass fic and hers was the first I ever read of the kind - fan fiction.net didn’t even exist when she wrote it so who knows?
This reminds me of a BL comic on Lezhin called Spring in the Heart, which featured Hanahaki disease (a fictional disease in which the victim coughs up flower petals when they suffer from one-sided love). From what I remember, it won an award in a competition on Lezhin? The story only had one chapter out and I thought it was quite good, after that it just disappeared. It wasn't until I looked into it that I found out it was disqualified from the contest and pulled from the site because apparently someone owns the Hanahaki disease. The author of the comic had no idea and thought it was a concept that was free to use. It's a shame they couldn't continue the story because of that. Edit: Just checked and it's still on Lezhin, not sure why I thought it was pulled.
Fanworks in Response
- One fan wrote her own fanfic AU about the litigation, casting Star Wars characters Ben Solo and Rey as associates working in the firm that is defending an author against plagiarism and copyright claims "brought by a published author of original A/B/O fiction." Another fan created a mood board for the story.
- No one owns a genre, least of all Omegaverse, a blog post by Zoey Ellis (October 20, 2018)
- Discussion of Addison Cain's Alpha's Claim and Zoey Ellis's Myth of Omega by Kristina Busse, kristinabusse.com.
- The Omegaverse Lawsuit, Archived version by earlgreytea68 (March 13, 2019)
- Copyright: The Alpha and Omega(verse) – Legal Inspiration!, Archived version and Not Walking Away from Omegaverse – Legal Inspiration!, Archived version, an analysis by lawyer Mark Whipple (March 14, 2019)
- Love, Lust and Rambling: Drama in the Omegaverse, Archived version, analysis by GoldenAngel, one of Addison Cain's supporters (March 14, 2019)
- Love, Lust and Rambling: Omegaverse Copyrights, DMCA Abuse, and Lawsuits, Archived version follow-up to GoldenAngel's earlier post (March 20, 2019)
- "A NON-COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF THINGS PEOPLE ARE DEFINITELY WRONG ABOUT IN THE OMEGAVERSE LITIGATION, along with what is right", Archived version by Courtney (March 14 2019).
- A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question (archived link) by Alexandra Alter for the New York Times. (May 23, 2020)
- Episode 13: There Will Be Knots — ALAB Series, Archived version [podcast] (July 3, 2020)
- A win for the author community!, an account published by Addison Cain to her own website. (August 17 2020)
- Into the Omegaverse: How a Fanfic Trope Landed in Federal Court a video essay by Lindsay Ellis (Sep 3 2020). And its sequel, Addison Cain's lawyer e-mailed me, and it only got worse from there (October 23 2020).
- Some examples of this include the Omegaverse project series of doujin anthologies and the BL game Omega Vampire.
- According to an anon on fail_fandomanon: 2016-03-02 comment.
- Request: Jensen/Jared - AU Doggy style, bottom Jensen comment in spnkink_meme, posted 2010-05-17.
- The prompt, Request- J2- AnimalTraits, Claiming, Knotting, DomJared, SubJensen, Impregnation was posted at spnkink_meme on November 8, 2010 and received one fill, "Heat" by the_miss_lv. The same prompt was later posted at blindfold_spn on January 10, 2011 (now locked) where it inspired the fill "No Substitution" by pianoforeplay.
- Into The Omegaverse: How a Fanfic Trope Landed in Federal Court by Lindsay Ellis via YouTube. 'With Caution' is referenced at 7:30, and 'Alpha & Omega' is referenced at 22:22, although Lindsay states that the series began in 2008, when there was an initial novella published in 2007.
- Revision of Omegaverse on Wikipedia, dated 10 November 2020.
- Addison Cain's lawyer e-mailed me, and it only got worse from there by Lindsay Ellis via YouTube. Timestamped to 23:11.
- 2019 Judgement in Virginia suit, Oct 29 2019, accessed 17 Aug 2020.
- Crave to Claim Kindle edition, Goodreads. Accessed August 16, 2020.
- Crave to Claim paperback edition, Goodreads. Accessed August 16, 2020.
- Amended Complaint (pdf)
- Statement: Omegaverse: Litigating DMCA Abuse: Because It's Just Not Right!, Archived version by Zoey Ellis, at omagaverselitigation.com
- Image via Imgur, published November 1, 2019 (Accessed August 16, 2020). Archived version.
- A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question, New York Times article from May 23, 2020, accessed Aug 17, 2020
- 4:22 PM - 12 Mar 2019, Archived version "I just want you all to know that an ABO plagiarism lawsuit was filed today. Reading the complaint was one of the best experiences in my life" from @Anaphiel_ gained 3k+ retweets and 4.8k+ likes.
- 1:42 PM - 14 Mar 2019, Archived version "Imagine being Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki and knowing this paragraph is now part of the official record of a US court case" from @arthur_affect
- 4:47 AM - 13 Mar 2019, Archived version [4:47 AM - 13 Mar 2019] from @LilithKitty gained 1.6k+ retweets and 3k+likes
- Tweet, Archived version by @courtneymilan on 12 March 2019. (Accessed 14 March 2019.)
- Tweet by @Addison_Cain on 12 March 2019. (Accessed 14 March 2019.) Archive
- Tweet, Archived version by @courtneymilan on 12 March 2019. (Accessed 14 March 2019.)
- Tweet, Archived version by @courtneymilan on 12 March 2019. (Accessed 14 March 2019.)
- Love, Lust and Rambling: Drama in the Omegaverse, Archived version by goldeniangel, March 12, 2019
- Goodreads review of Crave to Conquer by Meredith. Published October 12, 2019 (Accessed August 23, 2020).
- Love, Lust and Rambling: Drama in the Omegaverse, Archived version, Anonymous #1 (March 13, 2019)
- Love, Lust and Rambling: Drama in the Omegaverse, Archived version, Anonymous #2 (March 13, 2019)
- Love, Lust and Rambling: Drama in the Omegaverse, Archived version, Unknown (March 13, 2019)
- Love, Lust and Rambling: Drama in the Omegaverse, Archived version, Anonymous #1 or #2 (March 14, 2019)
- Love, Lust and Rambling: Drama in the Omegaverse, Archived version, Anonymous #1 or #2 (March 15, 2019)
- Comment by u/Cant-Take-Jokes on Reddit thread Going around on Twitter - an ABO plagiarism lawsuit, Mar 14 2019.
- Comment by u/neongloom on Reddit thread Going around on Twitter - an ABO plagiarism lawsuit, Mar 14 2019.
- Tits v. Porny, Archived version
- Tits v. Porny mood board, Archived version