BBC Upset That Fans Are Knitting Dr. Who Characters

from the send-in-the-daleks dept

While many people are familiar with copyright issues concerning things like music, movies and software online, there’s another community that also has been quite active: the knitting community. For a few years now there’s been an ongoing battle between hobbyist knitters who have uploaded patterns that others feel are infringing on their copyrights. Now it appears that issue is touching on the tech/sci-fi community as well. Boing Boing points us to the news that a fan of the famed BBC show Dr. Who had created some knitting patterns of his own that would enable anyone to knit various characters from the show. This isn’t a case where he was uploading someone else’s patterns — but he had created his own. The BBC, however, flipped out and told him to remove all such knitting patterns as they infringed on the BBC’s copyrights and trademarks. This seems like yet another case of overly aggressive enforcement of intellectual property rights because someone can, not because it’s a good idea.

It’s nearly impossible to see how a fan getting people to knit versions of Dr. Who characters somehow diminishes the rights of the BBC. All it’s doing is enabling fans (who are also into knitting) to express their fandom. If anything, the BBC should be encouraging this kind of fan support, rather than trying to stifle it and shut it down. It’s stunning that after all these years, people still don’t realize that helping fans express their feelings towards something is a good thing, rather than infringement.

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Companies: bbc

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Comments on “BBC Upset That Fans Are Knitting Dr. Who Characters”

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Petréa Mitchell says:

At least they didn't copyright the scarf

I’m not sure if I’m nmore startled that the BBC is alleging IP violations over this, or the mere fact that there is an entire community of people knitting Doctor Who characters. And I’m a Doctor Who fan myself. (Well, of the original series, anyway, not that currently running show with the same title and practically no other resemblance to it.) I mean, the knitted Daleks were totally understandable, but…

Matt says:


The BBC has taken some hits lately for poor management and so on, and they’re talking about shutting down channels, etc. Stephen Fry has come out just recently to chide them for being stupid about IP, claiming poverty at the same time they are “giving away” programs by “naively” counting on their iPlayer to serve up programs — including the new Doctor Who series — online in an uncopiable way. Apparently quite a few fans, including Fry himself, do find ways to copy and save the programs anyway.

The Doctor Who franchise is a big success story, one of the most prominent. While I can sort of understand trying to protect the reborn brand, the IP folks at the BBC have their heads in the past, policing knitting patterns when there are far bigger things afoot.

Iron Chef says:

Idiots at other networks

This has been the most boring 4 months of my life because the ABC has pulled back on episodes of “The Chaser’s War On Everything”. The Season ended in January. (Don’t get a big head, Hollywood, ABC = Australian Broadcast Network)

Fellow TechDirters, please hold on a moment… This is to my NBC fan club I apparently amassed:

I was incredibly disappointed when the last recommendation I made for a NBC property suddenly changed and became a screen/character test. I throw you a bone here on TD and the next thing I know is that it becomes a marketing opportunity. Who the fuck are you guys at NBC Uni that troll TD? Please find your way through the dark. You’re truly the Blind leading the blind. You want to know how bad your content sucks? Ok, here you go: I was importing DVDs from Australia that were better than your Saturday Night Live Shit, and that’s where it starts. After 38 years, Lorne Michaels as done all he can with the show. But the fact remains that, well, you lost every single edge you have. So may your shows die a slow, and painful death and be replaced by a better production that utilizes internet technology, maybe on CBS or FOX! I wish all of you famed success and excellent luck in your DRM and content limitation drivel.

Ahem. Sorry about that. Thanks for staying with me.

Where was I. Oh yes. Dr. Who is cool.

Iron Chef says:

Re: Re: Idiots at other networks

You do realize, I hope, that NBC owns the Sci-Fi channel, where Doctor Who is shown in America? BBC America only runs old re-runs.
NBC still basically sucks, though.

Wow, Kevin, Thanks… Suddenly it makes sense why I haven’t seen a Top Gear episode on Discovery Network for over Two years.

Friends at BBC, I know it’s been a few years, but I still have the series set to record on my TiVo if you come back to Discovery.

For those who haven’t been privvy to The genius of Top Gear, here are a few clips:
Top Gear Winter Olympics – Rocket-Powered Mini
What it takes to kill a Toyota Pickup

Ray T says:

The Beeb and Doctor Who

Don’t worry about the BBC – they are pussycats really. Some lawyer’s got overzealous in protecting the brand, they’ll pull him back into line. Or turn him into a cyberman.

I’ve been watching Doctor Who since 1963 (not kidding). That probably makes it the longest running TV show in history, but there have been a few gaps. The latest series over the past three years have been FANTASTIC!

The Doctor is embedded into the British psyche – if you are in trouble, the Doctor will save you. We love him.

Jake says:

Re: The Beeb and Doctor Who

Additionally, I suspect the BBC wrote the contract so that cast members would not have their likenesses used in action figures etc without their consent; I’m no lawyer, but I suspect that enforcing this would come under the umbrella of copyright/trademark law, even though it only really applies to a few characters.

Kevin (user link) says:

Re: The Beeb and Doctor Who

Ah, but Americans love the Doctor too! I’ve been a fan since Tom Baker back in the 80’s (and Peter Davison after that, then I lost track of the Doctor for a while). And Torchwood rocks also (love that Cap’n Jack!), especially the crossover stories. And it was lovely to see Sarah Jane back in action, as well!

BBC could learn a lesson from Paramount. They’ve quietly looked the other way while fans write fiction, make new episodes (of the original series), make screen savers, wallpaper, etc.

Perhaps it’s a “plausible deniability” issue – Paramount may simply claim they’re “unaware” of the infringing content. After all, you can’t be expected to defend against it if you don’t know about it, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: BBC is publicly owned!!

Anyone who owns a TV that they use to pick up TV transmission has to pay for a TV license, that goes straight to the BBC. Anyone without a TV doesn’t have to pay it, and for any british folk reading this (especially students), if you have a TV that you only use for watching DVDs / playing consoles, you don’t need a license either. The guys who come around student campuses try to bully you into believing that you do, but you don’t. Check their site yourself.

MalcVolm says:

Dr Who Code

Just how far does this go?
The knitting patterns are code to produce a crude represntation of the Dr. Who characters.
If a child produced some logo code to produce an image of a Dr. Who character, and then uploaded it, would the wrath of the BBC be invoked?
Surely this is a case of a giant corporation intimidating an individual.

eflotsam says:

It's not IP the Beeb is worried about...

It’s sales!

The sales of the ever-popular Dr. Who knitted figures from the BBC store (bricks and online) have been going through the roof. They can’t get the millions of British grandmothers they have subcontracted enough wool fast enough. Sales figures has Ty – the makers of Beanie Babies taking notice. It won’t be long before everyone has their favorite TV star or politician in a knitted form and dangling from every available rear view mirror or lampshade. God help the naked sheep.

Brian says:

Utterly ridiculous.

It’s hardly conceivable that someone would try to sabotage their own product.

Was this just some insane monkey acting independently, or is there some committee or group who decided that this was a good idea?

Quick, someone get the Sonic Screwdriver to shake loose their brains. They haven’t been used in ages.

John says:

Trademark Enforcement

Unfortunately, you can’t do selective enforcement of your rights as the owner of a mark. If someone does something that infringes your mark, you have to take action otherwise you run the risk of losing the ability to enforce your mark. The BBC and the owner of the patterns simply need to enter into some kind of agreement where the owner of the patterns acknowledges the BBC’s rights and BBC grants the owner of the patterns a license to use the images.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Trademark Enforcement

Unfortunately, you can’t do selective enforcement of your rights as the owner of a mark. If someone does something that infringes your mark, you have to take action otherwise you run the risk of losing the ability to enforce your mark.

Not quite. At least in the US, it’s a myth that you *have* to enforce it. It’s only true that you have to enforce if there’s a real likelihood of confusion. If it’s obviously a fan-effort you do *not* need to enforce.

August West says:


There people are dumbasses. Lets look at the polar opposite. The grateful Dead encouraged recording and free trade of their concerts. They even set up a special section for tapers starting in 1984, and often would let fans patch directly in to their equipment to get studio-quality recordings of their live shows. And they don’t care if their fans sold home-mage Grateful Dead related items in the parking lots of the shows.

And with NO real radio airplay, only one top ten hit in 30 years, no “outside” promotional campaings and no gimmicks, they sold out concert after concert after concert for 30 years. And oh yeah, the songs were copyrighted. As is their name. You don’t exactly have to be a rocket scientist to see that maybe, just maybe, theres a connection there. Duh.

ehrichweiss says:

This issue has already been tackled once...

….by those who do “balloon sculpture”. You see, there are a lot of people who twist balloons that can’t use the names of the superheroes** that they resemble because of trademark/copyright issues so what they do is use names like “GuyBat” and “ReallyStrongMan” and then there is nothing for the companies to complain about since they’re not infringing on the trademarks that they built on those characters.

**make that “ultra beings dressed like a retarded gay ballet dancer from the 1980s” if you’re referring to DC/Marvel comics who say they own the word “superheroes”

Anonymous Coward says:

They are pissing into their pants

The BBC’s reaction only illustrates how much the entertainment industry is afraid of competition by people like you and me. They may have the better writers, equipment, actresses and actors, more money etc., but we have more ideas. And that is why they do everything from claiming copyright infringement to capping and crippling our Internet access, not to mention the one-way Internet access which most “home” Internet service really is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Unfortunately, you can’t do selective enforcement of your rights as the owner of a mark. If someone does something that infringes your mark, you have to take action otherwise you run the risk of losing the ability to enforce your mark

This seems to be the crux of most of these types of cease and desist orders.

My question is “why?” Why would selective enforcement jeopordize anyones “mark”?

Andy (profile) says:

Utter hypocrisy!

The BBC have some nerve making an issue out of this. Some years back (I’m thinking maybe 20 or so), there was a commercial product spin-off of the popular Thunderbirds puppet series: a model of the Tracy island HQ of International Rescue. Blue Peter, a very well-known and extremely long-running BBC children’s programme, ran a feature on how to make your own copy of the model, justified on the grounds the commercial version was quite expensive, and they encouraged children to follow the instructions they gave on the show. They were not so worried about protecting IP then, at least not other people’s!

steve says:


are those top gear epissodes the cut down american ones or the full blown english ones, jeremy clarkson is very anti american, so much so that they have to re record each episode just for the american audience….

i find it funny how anyone in america can have heard of dotor who the old stuff is great but i find the ew stuff not so good how did it take on.

if you want to see something really great and classic BBC Sci Fi watch Red Dward utter excelence

Iron Chef says:

Re: topgear

I didn’t know about Clarkson’s stance. That’s a bummer. The magazine subscription to TopGear is now on par with WallStreet Journal, and I am debating renewing. I knew they had to produce an American version for a while, but Still, it’s a great show. Brainiac is also up there.

On another note, I think you meant Red Dwarf. Is it still running?

wifezilla (profile) says:

While I have not knitted a Dr. Who character yet, I have made a Futurama brain slug, some Harry Potter scarves and a Serenity Fruity-Oaty octopus. I guess it’s only a matter of time before the law gets me now. LOL

Fan knitters not only show their love of a show by knitting for themselves, they spread the love for that program and create interest in others. I personally know of at least a dozen people that never would have bought Serenity DVD’s if that octopus hadn’t sparked conversation about the movie.

anne (profile) says:

Re: Re:

When the long arm of the law reaches out and grabs your knitting needles, you’re going down for the count, wifezilla. I hear the Feds really want to make an example out of knitting-trademark-infringing mamas and grandmas. Today, you’re just a nice lady with a serious knitting addiction, but tomorrow, you might wake up and start downloading bootleg music or wrapping kilos of heroin and weighing them in your home office.

You say that you’re using that scale to weigh your Ebay packages, so you can check the cost of the postage? Pshaw. Hands against the wall, wifezilla, and drop the knitting needles.

Old Guy says:


Didn’t you know? Knitting is a threat to national security.
True Story:
A friend of mine (she’s 76) likes to knit. She tried to get on an airplane with her knitting (btw PLASTIC needles)stuff (ya know cause flights theses days are so fast and interesting) They were confiscated. She innocently asked “Why, are you afraid I am going to knit an afghan?”
See the BBC is just trying to protect the UK!!!

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