This is a story of our times.

A Dr Who fan and uber-knitter decides to publish patterns online for other fans to create knitted versions of the Ood and the programme’s other monsters.

A bit of fun? Undoubtedly.

Does the BBC share the joke? Absolutely not.

The patterns of Ood and Adipose have now been removed from her website after the BBC’s commercial arm complained that they breached its trademark.

I’m tending to side with Mazzmatazz on this, although I understand the Beeb’s need to protect the lucrative merchandising opportunities.

Let’s face it, with the quality of programmes not exactly scaling the heights these days the BBC needs to capitalise on making money anyway it can.

But my sympathy for the BBC’s stance is hugely diminished by the dismal start to the new series of Dr Who. Lifted only by the reappearance of Martha Jones and most recently by the prospect of the Doctor’s feisty and foxy “daughter” joining the fray, the decision to cast Catherine Tate as the regular assistant this series has backfired.

It is in the BBC’s interests to quickly reach a compromise with Mazzmatazz that doesn’t just smack of it being too heavy-handed or money-grubbing.

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6 responses »

  1. Jon Bounds says:

    Blimey, I like to knit and perl one as much as the next man (which is not at all really), but I can’t imagine many Who fans making these as opposed to buying some of Worldwide’s plastic tat.

    There’s a interesting debate about intellectual properties to be had, particularly around the BBC where we (in theory at least) own the IP to a certain extent. But I don’t think it’s about to happen in the media (lobbied as it is by various copyright obsessed organisations).

    Bad PR really, especially as they look about as much like Dr Who monsters as those paintings of Mickey Mouse on ice cream vans look like they are Disney originals.

  2. Paul Groves says:

    Jon: My thoughts exactly. The IP issue is possibly the most interesting one here (no offence to Mazzmatazz and her creations).

    We’re all guilty of “borrowing” stuff we find on the internet – I make use of Beeb shots on Apprentice blogs – but is a simple credit good enough?

    My wife’s drawings have drawn attention from a few authors who’ve asked if they could use them. She’s politely declined as she’s hoping to do something with them herself, but how many others have used them without her knowledge?

  3. Rick says:

    This is coming from a Yank, so apologies if these are dumb questions:

    Are there official ‘knitted monsters’ being sold, and thus a direct conflict?

    Assuming not, the BBC would be much better off embracing this fan creation then shunning it. They are in effect saying, “Stop being a fan of our show!” Dr. Who is a DINU (Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe) and that encourages fans to not just consume, but produce. Brand owners would be wise work with fans, not against them. It’s the current reality. I’ve written a couple of posts on this very subject on my blog:

    eyecube.wordpress.com

  4. Paul Groves says:

    Rick: The patterns to knit your own monster were free to dowload from Mazzmatazz. But the BBC claims some people had knitted the monsters themselves, then put them up for sale on eBay.

    So there was certainly an issue to address, but the heavy-handed way the BBC has gone about this will just provide them with bad PR and potentially alienate fans.

    As far as I’m aware there are no official knitted merchandise, but there appears to be a niche market out there and you’re right that the BBC has possibly missed an opportunity to work with Mazzmatazz.

    I think it shows even the major players (on this side of the Atlantic at least) still have a fair bit to learn.

  5. Ursula says:

    Rick, I love it when people apologize for being Yanks. Don’t worry, you poor lot brought over on the Mayflower; you come from you good stock.

    As to you Jon, of course a grown man doesn’t want to be seen knitting and pearling when he could do manly things like polishing his car, chopping wood and wringing a chicken’s neck. However, knitting is good for your soul; if I say so myself. And I have chucked many a pattern in a bin, and abandoned the project.

    U

  6. Mazzmattaz did licence her work under a Creative Commons Licence specifying the patterns were not for commerical use. The knitter is being represented by The Open Rights Group and what they have to say makes total sense to me:

    “As part of our response to OfCom’s public service broadcasting review, we’ll be making arguments similar to those we made last Summer during the iPlayer/DRM debate. That is, that in the future, organisations like the BBC with a public service remit should have a role in stimulating the creative economy in the UK, by allowing budding creators to remix its content. Even if this is only allowed to happen in a non-commercial context, the BBC could seed a new generation of creators and remixers, just as it nurtured a generation of computer games developers in the 1980s with its computer literacy project, centred around the iconic BBC micro.

    This approach doesn’t mean giving all the BBC’s content away for free, although in some situations that might be appropriate. But it does mean being more flexible in the approach the BBC takes to controlling who gets to use its content and how. The approach the BBC have taken with Mazz’s knitting patterns demonstrate a distinct lack of flexibility. It is quite possible that through transforming the characters in Doctor Who into knitting patterns, Mazz may have infringed upon the BBC’s copyright. But it’s hard to see how Mazz’s non-commercial knitting patterns actually damage the commercial interests of the BBC.”

    http://www.openrightsgroup.org/2008/05/08/bbc-removes-doctor-who-fans-knitting-patterns-from-the-web/

    You can’t help but feel the BBC’s cease and desist order if motivated by an eye on commercial concerns rather than protecting it’s role as a Public Broadcast Organisation. Heavy handed stuff.

    So, no more knitting your own Tom Baker scarf. No repeating BBC comedy catchphrases in the workplace or playground …

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