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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Stig-ment of the imagination?

In "Top Gear Stig legal wrangle goes to court", the BBC has reported a brisk dispute between the Beeb itself and popular publisher HarperCollins over the publication of a book that reveals the identity of BBC's Top Gear TV programme participant The Stig. The BBC is seeking injunctive relief. "Tame racing driver" The Stig never removes his helmet on the show and, the BBC maintains, the book's publication will breach contractual and confidentiality obligations following "an attempt by an external party to profit from unauthorised use of the Top Gear brand, one of the BBC's biggest and most watched shows in the UK and around the world".


Several newspapers have already carried speculation that the character's true identity is former Formula Three driver Ben Collins, based on the financial reports of his company.

HarperCollins has expressed its disappointment that the BBC has "chosen to spend licence fee payers' money to suppress this book" and says it will vigorously defend the perfectly legitimate right of this individual to tell his story".

According to the IPKat, the intriguing thing about this story is that the BBC spokesman is reported as identifying the primary reason for a confidentiality and copyright suit as protecting the BBC against an attempt by an external party (HarperCollins, actually) to profit from the unauthorised use of the Top Gear brand. This confusion between causes of action might not reflect the usual press ignorance about IP. Instead it probably genuinely identifies why the BBC has sued in this case -- the mighty corporation is only a frustrated brand owner trying to protect brand values but against activities that are not infringing its trade mark rights.

Merpel says, the BBC is trying to protect the entertainment value is something that is entertaining only because it is secret. The Stig's real identity doesn't matter at all - what matters is the fact that it isn't known. In other words, the value of this secret is only the fact that it's a secret, since that gives it entertainment value -- and entertainment value is real value for an organisation whose business is entertaining. She adds, HarperCollins might be better advised to publish a children's book revealing Father Christmas's true identity. The BBC would have no basis for stepping in to stop that!

People whose true identities were supposed to be secret here, here and here
Peopl whose true identifies we wish were secret here and here

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