May 9, 2008 | By Danny O'Brien

Knitwit BBC Goes After Dr Who Fans

Here's a fascinating UK legal analysis of an incident we see occurring all over the world: an over-eager rightsholder undermining Internet goodwill by pursuing their own fans for supposed IP infringements.

Andre Guadamuz, is a lecturer at the Edinburgh University school of law, and organizes the fantastic British conference on "geek law", Gikii. He was recently put in contact by the Open Rights Group with Mazzmatazz, a Dr Who fansite which posts knitting patterns of the current batch of Dr Who monsters, including those obedient servants of man, the Ood (see above).

BBC Worldwide, the commercial wing of the public service BBC, sent the site a demand to remove "any designs connected with DR WHO" -- even though the site was offering them free to anyone who wants to knit their own loveable Who-related terrors.

Guadamuz covers the legal ground, and suggests that, like many rightsholders, the BBC has less power to stop fans from creating their own transformative works than they might think. Sadly, that's not enough to save the woolly Ood designs which were taken down out of concern for just the threat of legal action.

As Guadamuz notes, the BBC and Dr Who production staff should know better than to pursue a campaign of online threats against their own fans. These are the people that kept the BBC's now-lucrative Who franchise going during years of neglect by its owners; these are the people who actively promote the current series; and, in the UK at least, these are the people who pay the bulk of BBC's salaries.

Like Dr Who's Ood, fans are happy to serve their favorite franchises when treated well. But if the BBC starts treating them like this, they can all too easily rise up and attack the very brand value the BBC is overzealously seeking to protect.


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