Adipose Copyright Battle Escalates

(First posted 9/4/08, updated, 15/5/08): The Adipose began to take over Britain just days after the screening of the opening episode of the fourth season of Doctor Who, Partners in Crime.

The episode saw the Doctor and Donna (Catherine Tate) the villainous Miss Foster, a powerful business woman and alien Nanny (Sarah Lancashire), and her army of alien Adipose.

The cute Adipose – alien children created from excess fat from rotund couch potatoes (Adipose is the scientifiic name for fat tissue or body fat – no hidden meaning there, then) beyond the show, with an online petition demanding the BBC license a plush toy based on them and more.

Fortunately for Adipose fans, there seemed no need to wait until Christmas when such a toy might appear, because the nation’s knitters stepped up to the plate and a lady known only as “Mazzmatazz” delivered a guide to making a woollen alien. Huzzah!

Unfortunately, this fan-created, not for profit pattern was ripped off by pirates who started selling Adipose online, prompting Mazzmatazz to remove the pattern from her site — just as the patterns were also apparently attracting the attention of BBC Worldwide. Shame, but totally understandable. Given that knitter Hannah’s talents extend to providing woollen hats for an Innocent drink ad campaign, perhaps the BBC will get her to come up with some official patterns – she also created designs for a knitted TARDIS, Ood and more.

A BBC News report published 14 May stated the patterns of Ood and Adipose were removed from her website after the BBC’s commercial arm complained that they breached its trademark. “Mazzmatazz” says the corporation was “making an example of her”.

“The patterns I created, inspired by Doctor Who, were never for sale,” she stated on her web site. “They were shared under Creative Commons licenses, to prevent resale, so that other fans could enjoy and share the fun too.

“All I want is for the BBC to be fair. They either need to pursue all parties who have published without authorization instructions for Doctor Who crafts, or, they should permit all parties to publish fan-created instructions so long as they do not threaten the BBC’s intellectual property. To single me out for breach of copyright seems more like an act of making an example than a good faith defense of their copyright.”

BBC Worldwide said it acted because finished figures were being sold by others on auction website eBay.

It also denied threatening legal action and as I hopd, it said it had indeed offered to consider marketing the designs itself.

The case is being publicised by the Open Rights Group, a lobbying organisation which specialises in digital rights issues. (There is a detailed analysis of the issues raised on Technollama by Andres Guadamuz, a member of the ORG and who has seen all the correspondence between the pattern creator and the BBC. The dispute boils down to the grey area of a fan providing a knitting pattern for fans in a not for profit manner and whether that is actually allowed. ORG’s executive director Becky Hogge told BBC News: “[“Mazzmatazz”] doesn’t feel she’s doing anything wrong yet she’s being threatened with legal action.”

“In the offline world, what she’d be doing would be fine. But because she’s doing it online, which is a public space, it causes a problem.”

A BBC Worlwide spokesman countered that it has every right to protect the BBC’s commercial interests. “If you don’t protect your trademark, it’s taken away from you,” he said. “And Doctor Who is massive for the BBC. It’s up to us to earn money from it so we can re-invest it in the BBC,.”

However this all turns out, and whether some flexibility in copyright law can be discovered – both for fans and for the BBC – I don’t think there’s been as big a rush to wool shops since The Clangers first aired in the 1970s…

(The official knitting pattern for the Clangers, by the way, is available from Peter Gregory of G K P Ltd, Springmill House, Baildon, Shipley, West Yorkshire, BD17 6AD. But there’s an unofficial pattern here on the Radio and Space Plasma Physics Knitting Patterns page, if you’re interested. (Amazing what you can find on a site supposedly devoted to a site supposedly about Leicester University’s Co-operative UK Twin Auroral Sounding System…)

Categories: Digital Media, Doctor Who

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