Share/E-mail This Story

Email This



BBC Loses Its Attempt To Silence Top Gear Test Driver The Stig From Revealing His Identity

from the hello-ben-collins dept

The incredibly popular UK BBC TV show Top Gear has been involved in a legal fight with publisher HarperCollins over the plans to publish a book revealing the identity of "The Stig," the always secretive test driver who appears in the show unidentified in a racing suit and helmet. The BBC spent its (publicly-funded) money to try to prevent such a revelation, but the UK courts have pointed out the basic free speech rights involved, and allowed racecar driver Ben Collins to admit that he's The Stig and have his autobiography published. Of course, in watching this battle unfold, I was confused as to why the BBC was going after HarperCollins, rather than targeting Ben Collins directly (and, by the way, I'm assuming the "Collins" in both names is a coincidence). Either way, as HarperCollins notes, this does appear to be a victory for free speech. In the meantime, if the BBC is really so upset that "the mystery" is gone, why not just get a new once-again secret Stig? In fact, the BBC has actually done exactly that in the past, dumping Perry McCarthy as the original Stig after his identity was revealed.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    frosty840, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 2:00am

    What I'm finding amusing is the BBC newsreaders who are conspicuously omitting the name of the "alleged" Stig from their reporting of the case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Phillip, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 2:10am

    Perhaps the BBC took up the lawsuit as a marketing effort to attract attention to its Stig gimmick?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    mat_mo, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 2:23am

    Confidentiality

    The point that you've neglected to mention is that Ben Collins had signed a confidentiality agreement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    NattyFido (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 2:32am

    As a fan of Top Gear and a fan of motorsport, I have only ever heard the name Ben Collins in relation to the Stig mystery.
    I have never heard of him in any of the motor races I have seen, yet they refer to him as a 'tame racing driver'!
    Where has he been racing?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 2:50am

    Harper Collins is Murdoch

    Harper Collins is owned by News international. This is part of Rupert Murdoch's attack on the BBC - now his only serious competitor in UK TV.

    He is trying to undermine the revenue making potential of top gear - which is one of the BBC's biggest moneyspinners. Ben Collins is being used...

    (Actually he was blown up in the last show - so it should be fairly easy to justify replacing him - or maybe "regenerating him" - like Dr Who...)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 3:07am

    Re: Confidentiality

    The point that you've neglected to mention is that Ben Collins had signed a confidentiality agreement.


    Which is why I said they should have gone after him for breaking the agreement -- not HarperCollins for publishing the book.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Griff (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 3:22am

    Re: Re: Confidentiality

    You are confusing suing him for breach of contract (which they will probably do when the book is published and he has actually breached the contract) with trying to prevent the damage occurring in the first place (by preventing publication , which requires an injunction against the publisher, not against him).

    Suing him after the fact is to some extent crying over spilt milk, and the only value in it is to warn future transgressors that such contracts will be enforced.

    I expect they'll win the breach of contract case (open and shut) which will take the edge of his book earnings. But the publisher will still do fine. As one of the posters above noted, it seems as if Ben Collins is being used.

    The main topic of discussion in UK is "should license payers' money have been spent trying to get the injunction ?". Or maybe "what advise did they take regarding how likely the injunction was to succeed ?".

    Given the Streisand effect, this whole affair will only serve to heighten Christmas book sales. But then you could argue whether or not the Top Gear program will do well out of the book publicity in the long term.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    mbs, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 3:24am

    The Character "the Stig"

    I think this matters less to fans of Top Gear than the BBC and Collins himself realise. The Stig is a character, and who plays him doesn't matter much - especially since we never see his face (well, now, except when Collins has contributed as himself). If this biography sells, it's probably because it's describing how it is playing an anonymous man, not necessarily because that man was the Stig.

    Another myth created by Jeremy Clarkson which this book might debunk, is that racing drivers "have tiny little brains", and are "dreary".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Ramon Casha, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 3:26am

    Why not just throw out a few fake Stigs?

    It's easy, just collect a half dozen people of the approximately same height and build, pay them each a few hundred bucks to say they're The Stig, then sit back and refuse to confirm or deny any of them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Aitala (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 3:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Confidentiality

    I think Griff pretty much nails the legal argument here.

    I think Mike's addition about public funding is also off base since Top Gear make the BBC a quite substantial amount of money. The mythos of the Stig is part of the show's fun and it could be argued that revealing his identity might reduce the profits the show makes.

    Now I need to find my 'I am the Stig's fat cousin' T-shirt.

    Eric

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Lisae Boucher (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 3:43am

    A Red Stig?

    I think the BBC will just drop the current Stig and have him replaced with a new one. Probably dressed in red and maybe female, for a change. Thus we would see a red Stig with blonde hairs from under her helmet. :-)
    Well, a girl can hope, can't she? ;-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 3:53am

    Re: The Character "the Stig"

    "I think this matters less to fans of Top Gear than the BBC and Collins himself realise."

    Exactly. The Stig is like a character from a movie. We know an actor has to play that character. But even if we know the actor's identity, what matters is that the man in the white suit is The Stig, not Ben Collins. People will always see him as The Stig, no matter what.

    BBC should see this as an end of an era and an opportunity to expand the myth of The Stig. Why not throw in a few more Stig clones or kill off this Stig and move on (like they did before)?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    mike allen (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 5:14am

    Re: A Red Stig?

    knowing Jeramy Clarksons views on women Fancy being first woman on Mars you stand a better chance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    ScaredOfTheMan, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 5:29am

    The Stig

    Some say he is made of nanobots and goat cheese
    All we know, is we will sue his a$$ for breach of contract as soon as this book comes out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Lisae Boucher (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 5:54am

    Re: Re: A Red Stig?

    Maybe. :-) Then again, it would be a very interesting idea. I can imagine how they would introduce her. IIt starts with the old Stig racing in some bad car. A bazooka becomes visible, in the hand of someone in red. The bazooka shoots and hits the car with Stig in it. BOOM! Flames, explosions, smoke and end of old Stig. Focus on the woman in red, she turns out to be Red Stig, and she forcefully takes over the job of old Stig. :-)
    Besides, it doesn't have to be a real woman. A blonde wig and two big oranges located at the right place and poof! Instant she-Stig. Would also make it much harder to guess her (his) real identity...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Jeremy7600 (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 5:58am

    As a longtime fan of the show, I should have never read the article after I saw the headline.. (my own fault there, but hey, I couldn't stop myself) I was always intrigued by the mystery and enjoyed the fact that they hid his identity. It matters less to fans of this show than they think? It matters a lot to me, now I won't think of him (the current one) as the Stig, and a mystery figure, but some no name driver I've never heard of.

    Who plays him does not matter, but the fact that it has been revealed who he is DOES matter. Bit of a difference there. Like I said above, I enjoyed the idea of not knowing who he was and always guessing who he might be. Now, that's ruined.

    I would hope that there is more than one Stig and that the mystery continues. I love it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:03am

    Re: Confidentiality

    Well it looks like the UK court did not think that the agreement was worth the paper it was written on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Evostick, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Confidentiality

    good comments Aitala and Griff. Have some mod points, oh wait...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Evostick, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 6:25am

    Re: Re: The Character "the Stig"

    I am now imagining a whole field of stigs. A'la matrix 3.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Aitala (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 7:49am

    Re: A Red Stig?

    I wonder if Sabine is looking for a part time job?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabine_Schmitz

    Eric

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Christy McFarland, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 8:52am

    No, no, no, you said it wrong...

    "...Some say he eats six lawyers before 6:00 AM every day.

    Some say he moonlights as a vigilante from Intellectual Property law.

    All we know, is that he's called The Stig."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Re:

    Some say… that he sleeps inside out
    Some say… that he’s confused by stairs
    Some say… that he invented November
    Some say… that he has a digital face
    Some say… that he’s banned from the town of Chichester
    Some say… that he appears on high-value stamps in Sweden
    Some say… that he sucks the moisture from ducks
    Some say… that he’s illegal in 17 US States
    Some say… that his breath smells of magnesium
    Some say… that his genitals are on upside-down
    Some say… that he invented Branston Pickle
    Some say… that his voice can only be heard by cats
    Some say… that his first name really is “The”
    Some say… that his tears are adhesive
    Some say… that he once punched a horse to the ground
    Some say… that, once, he had an affair with John Prescott
    Some say… that he has a full-size tattoo of his face… on his face
    Some say… that he knows two facts about ducks. And both of them are wrong.
    Some say… that he thought Star Wars was a documentary
    Some say… that he once had a vicious knife-fight with Anthea Turner
    Some say… that when he slows down, brake lights come on in his buttocks
    Some say… that to unlock him, you have to run your finger down his face
    Some say… that he once had full sex with Russell Brand’s answering machine
    Some say… that he isn’t allowed, by law, within a hundred yards of Lorraine Kelly
    Some say… that he’s never seen an episode of Top Gear, because he’s a huge fan of Midsomer Murders

    All we know is, he's called The Stig!

    Just assume that they sacked Collins and it's someone else behind the visor now. Mystery intact.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Ben (profile), Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 12:44pm

    Statistics are wrecked

    But the point of the Stig is to set fast times with all the cars. Now they have to start over, because the new Stig's times won't be comparable with the old Stig's times, because we'll all know they're being set by a different driver.

    I do like the idea of a female Red Stig, however. And none of this 'blonde wig and a pair of oranges' malarkey. Let's have a real woman (most people can tell the difference in silhouette anyway!) to do the driving - the power to weight ratio is likely to be better anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 4:30pm

    Re: Confidentiality

    Griff spouted:

    You are confusing suing him for breach of contract (which they will probably do when the book is published and he has actually breached the contract) with trying to prevent the damage occurring in the first place (by preventing publication , which requires an injunction against the publisher, not against him).

    So what? What legal grounds do they have for going after the publisher for damage? All they have is the contractual agreement with Collins himself, not with the publisher.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 4:36pm

    The Funny Thing Was ...

    ... I saw this on the TV news the other day, and the item was dominated by commentators saying how the BBC had invested millions of pounds in its intellectual property, which therefore had to be protected. Nowhere did they explain why millions of pounds automatically gave them a legal right to any intellectual property, or even what the nature of the intellectual property was.

    That, to me, is the biggest problem with the term intellectual property: that you no longer seem to need to spell out exactly what the nature of the intellectual property is, whether its specifically a copyright, a patent, a trademark or a trade secret that youre trying to protect, instead by just calling it intellectual property you can give the impression its something that mixes together all these concepts, while at the same time managing to go beyond them all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Sep 2nd, 2010 @ 4:37pm

    Your Comment System Is Screwed

    At least before I was able to include UTF-8 characters in the comment bodies, even if titles were a bit iffy. Now they no longer seem to work anywhere.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 12:19am

    Re: Your Comment System Is Screwed

    copy-and-pasting from Word does weird things to text.
    Just use the standard editor (or if needs be Notepad) and the more regular " and ' quotes. And you'll be just fine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Sep 6th, 2010 @ 7:49pm

    Re: Your Comment System Is Screwed

    I don’t use Word.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2010 @ 5:55am

    Re: Confidentiality

    Just like spiderman and batman and superman and daredevil and captain America and...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2011 @ 5:06pm

    The Stig

    I don't actuallys ee why they keep his identity hidden in the first place, all he does is drive the cars, let him have his word as well, what could it really hurt. Working and subscribing to DISH network I get to enjoy the stig in HD whenever I can, the HD quality is crystal clear, which only makes the cars look beeter, and with all HD being free witha ll top packages. can't complain. I promise we will let the HD reveal itself if it wants to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This