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First They Came For The Cunning Hats...
April 10, 2013 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Ten years after cancellation, FOX finally starts caring about Firefly. Well, Fox's lawyers at least, who recently started going after the no doubt lucrative Jayne's Hat cottage industry.
posted by robocop is bleeding (117 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gorram Fox no better than 流口水的婊子和猴子的笨兒子!
posted by leotrotsky at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2013 [33 favorites]


People are weird about directing their anger. How on earth is any of this ThinkGeek's fault?
posted by schmod at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aw, that sucks. It sounds to me like ThinkGeek is genuinely sorry to be a part of it though. It's really not easy to make handknits profitable, even with a relatively simple pattern like this hat which wouldn't take many man-hours to produce, unless you seriously cheap out on the materials. I can't imagine anyone's really living in high style off their hat earnings.

Every time I see a Jayne Cobb hat in the wild I make a point of going up to the person and saying "That's a cunning hat".
posted by padraigin at 8:47 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really don't see how Fox has a leg to stand on. Fashion cannot be trademarked, right? I mean, it's a hat of a particular design, but that's it. It has no logos on it. Obviously they have lawyers and whatnot, but I really don't see how this is actionable in any way.
posted by Slinga at 8:49 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


A hat like that... you know it means business. SERIOUS BUSINESS.
posted by Mezentian at 8:49 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The commodification of geek culture (by places like Think Geek) will probably lead to more and more things like this. The value of the middleman is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:50 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Slinga, that may not be true. See trade dress.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:50 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is the design of the hat that's trademarked? Or were the C&Ds issued because they linked their product to the show?
posted by Lizard at 8:50 AM on April 10, 2013


(Except I really mean that it is up to you and I'm not using that phrase in a snarky way... because I don't really know how I feel about it myself.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:51 AM on April 10, 2013


Firefly itself and the characters are probably trademarked, right? It might be possible to sell it just as a hat, but making references to it being Jayne's Hat is probably enough to make Etsy nervous enough to pull the item from the website.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:51 AM on April 10, 2013


I had the skills to fill a need

"A need." For orange cosplay hats. Yes, that sounds right.

I love the logic. It was okay for Etsy people to sell these hats because the rights holder was not filling a market demand; but later when the rights holder acknowledges that demand and begins producing a licensed product, now the reason Etsy shenanigans are okay is because "each independent hand-knitting seller puts their own spin on it."
posted by cribcage at 8:54 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of the Scrabulous C&D a while back on facebook. Yes, there is this thing which directly contravenes the original copyright, and the copyright holder is perfectly within its rights to have it removed.

That said, the copyright holder was doing nothing in this new marketing context, and if anything, the violating product was only increasing interest in the original product. And rather than come to some sort of accommodation, the response is to shut it down completely, and antagonize the very base which is making you money.

It's the heavyhandedness of the response I object to, the total lack of proportionality of the enforcement, against people who are the copyright holder's biggest friends regarding that copyright.

Plus, it's a goddamn homemade knitted hat.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:55 AM on April 10, 2013 [33 favorites]


HatFury.
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fashion cannot be trademarked, right?

It's not clear exactly what IP claim Fox is making. The C&D letter refers nebulously to "copyright or other intellectual property right[s]" and the unauthorized use of "various trademarks, characters, images, designs and/or other distinctive creative elements."

I have some theories, but they would just be speculation. I honestly wonder if Fox's lawyers have even seriously nailed down their position or if they just sent a blanket C&D.
posted by jedicus at 8:56 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I pretty much am not a fan of fan-culture or cons, but damn, if this image didn't make me smile.
posted by Mezentian at 8:57 AM on April 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Take my love, take Joss' brand
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, signal's still free
You can't take the hat from me.

Take the show and fade to black
Tell them it ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the hat from me.

Leave the cast where they lay
They'll never see another day
Lost my soul, lost my dream
You can't take the hat from me....
posted by zarq at 8:59 AM on April 10, 2013 [58 favorites]


I have a hard time imagining that the actual hat pattern could be all that trademarkable. I mean, yes, that exact pattern, sure, but it's a standard round hat with earflaps and and pompom. Most of the hats probably aren't even the exact same as the pattern on the show anyway, or even the exact same colors, knit density, etc. It would be like trademarking the pattern for the Doctor Who scarf (the directions for which are, basically, "knit a scarf with your remnant yarn. When you run out of one remnant skein, splice in another. Repeat ad nauseam.")

The issue has to be with using the character name.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:00 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


That said, the copyright holder was doing nothing in this new marketing context, and if anything, the violating product was only increasing interest in the original product. And rather than come to some sort of accommodation, the response is to shut it down completely, and antagonize the very base which is making you money.

It's the heavyhandedness of the response I object to, the total lack of proportionality of the enforcement, against people who are the copyright holder's biggest friends regarding that copyright.


Well, I mean, that's how the whole thing works - you see an infringement, you go after it, to protect your copyright. You can't just sort of let it slide if the infringer seems like a cool guy.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:00 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I looked this up. Fireflyhat.com grossed over $20,000 in business. Macobbshats.com is the most popular non-Thinkgeek result on Google, so it probably made more money, and it was plugged into Etsy. Based my experience with web ROI, these two sites probably pulled in around $50,000, and the Jayne hat industry might be in the low six figures.

If you create a dedicated website for your small business, and pull in numbers like this, the intellectual property holder will bug you, even if they're normally all cool.
posted by mobunited at 9:01 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I suddenly need a hat like that.
posted by gauche at 9:02 AM on April 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Knock it off" doesn't strike me as an especially heavy-handed response.

If Etsy took an extra step of banning sellers as opposed to merely cancelling individual sales, that's an Etsy issue.
posted by cribcage at 9:02 AM on April 10, 2013


I suddenly need a hat like that.

Can your mom knit?
posted by Mezentian at 9:04 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


FAMOUS MONSTER: "you see an infringement, you go after it, to protect your copyright. You can't just sort of let it slide if the infringer seems like a cool guy."

Firefly was cancelled in 2003. Buzzfeed puts 2008 as a notable point in the timeline for handmade hats. The C&Ds started coming in 2013.
posted by boo_radley at 9:05 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Karmakaze, you have no freaking idea how particular some people get about their Doctor Who scarves.
posted by rikschell at 9:05 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


On a knitting blog at about the time the hats were first getting going, I saw a comment someone left about an order to her yarn store. (That someone may have in fact been "Ma Cobb," upon reflection.) This knitter was making hats for friends, but was also selling a sort of "DIY kit" where she sent you her own pattern for the hat and sufficient quantities of the yarn. She went to her local store to get some yarn for the kits, but they were running short and had to call in a special order to the company.

When the shop clerk requested a dozen skeins each in the colors "Orange You Glad", "Lemon Drop", and "Red Hot Passion" or whatever, there apparently was a small pause and the yarn company rep responded with, "....You're making those hats, aren't you?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:08 AM on April 10, 2013 [41 favorites]


It would be nice if there was some sort of copyright way to say "I see what you're doing there. Don't be a dick with our IP and we'll all get along fine." that didn't involve spending licensing bucks or legal fees.

"Hi, Hat-Maker!

We see you are making Jayne Hats. We're cool with it, so long as you:

- Always call the Unofficial in your posted descriptions of them.
- Continue to make them by hand only.
- Don't do anything with them to disparage or devalue our IP (i.e. - No Jayne Knitted Condoms)
- Don't use any of our images/logos/screen shots in advertising or packaging them.

Just so you know, we may decide to make hats of our own at some point.

Thanks and sorry again about the airdate ordering,

FOX"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:17 AM on April 10, 2013 [43 favorites]


It would be like trademarking the pattern for the Doctor Who scarf (the directions for which are, basically, "knit a scarf with your remnant yarn. When you run out of one remnant skein, splice in another. Repeat ad nauseam.")

I try not to say this often, and never on MetaFilter, but OMG YOU ARE SO WRONG!

(Okay, I think you are wrong.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:17 AM on April 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I agree with everyone saying the hat if knitted without a pattern is probably not enforceable but a lot of these seem to say Jayne's Hat which probably is and even show pictures of the character etc but IANAL...

My Daughter who at 17 opened her own Etsy knit store did her homework and found that even using a pattern by someone else you need permission BUT making your own pattern etc was fine...

Saying all that the people that are getting the C&Ds are Firefly fans and should EXPECT this from corporations so why don't they use it to their end and actually rebel by Calling them

Homemade Brown Hats

from now on. They could even put in a label that says Official Homemade Brown hats [On preview what Robocop is bleeding said... they should be UNOFFICIAL Brown Hats] on the inside so everyone who wants one can make sure they have the genuine "NON-IP" hate.
posted by mrgroweler at 9:17 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not shiny
posted by Damienmce at 9:18 AM on April 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


It would be like trademarking the pattern for the Doctor Who scarf (the directions for which are, basically, "knit a scarf with your remnant yarn. When you run out of one remnant skein, splice in another. Repeat ad nauseam.")

My mom made me a scarf like that, a million years ago. Will I get sued if I wear it in public?

I saw this "Fox sues over Jayne hats" linked around the last couple of days and never did click through, because I assumed that it was some other, more recent and lucrative "Jayne hat" they were suing over. I mean, I thought "Wait, Firefly Jayne? Nah, that's dumb." Turns out I was right. Dumb.
posted by rtha at 9:20 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like the ultimate internet wrestling gladiatorial match: Whedon, Baldwin, cosplayers, Etsy, Think Geek, Fox, and copyright lawyers.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:26 AM on April 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


"...it's not our bag. "

Bag? What, it it 1969 again and nobody told me?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:27 AM on April 10, 2013


Fox set my brown coat on fire.
posted by inturnaround at 9:31 AM on April 10, 2013


rikschell: "Karmakaze, you have no freaking idea how particular some people get about their Doctor Who scarves."

Yeah, fandom, it's good for that sort of thing. That kind of speaks to my point, though. You could trademark a scarf with the exact color and proportions as was seen on screen, but you couldn't trademark throwing all your remnant skeins together until you're sick of knitting already. Similarly, most of the hats being sold aren't exactly what was seen on screen, but an adaptation of pretty basic hat components in somewhat close colors.

To leave the knitting example, there are whole lot of Thin Mint knockoff recipes available on the net for chocolate wafer cookies enrobed in mint chocolate. Some of them get pretty close to the original product. You can make those knockoff recipes all you like, and you can even sell them. If you started selling them as "Girl Scout Cookies" in a large enough venue that lawyers could find you, though, there might well be an issue.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:34 AM on April 10, 2013


Excellent use of the "curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal" gif.
posted by dry white toast at 9:36 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


So did I totally misread the linked story or did Facebook take down somebody's comments complaining about Fox? That, to me, is actually creepier than the business with the hats.

Just now, I was walking back to work from a work-related errand and noticing some new benches that Large Land Grant has put in, every one of which has a poky metal doohickey every fifteen inches to insure that homeless people will not lie down on them, because while we are loath to provide actual housing to homeless people, and loath to make any kind of health or financial benefits available to them, lord knows we don't want to actually see the poor sons of bitches - let them sleep in the mud somewhere where the cops can't find them to roust them, that's what we say.

And I realized that I hate the society I live in, I really do - the way that everyone with any kind of power is greedy down to the last half cent, the way that we are desperate to isolate, blame and attack individuals, the way that "if something is unjust, let's hide it away" is the order of the day.

We live in an awful, mean, petty society and the hats are not the thin end of the wedge, the hats are the end result.
posted by Frowner at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2013 [48 favorites]


As someone who deals with both sides of these kinds of issues, I have to believe the problem is, as others have noted, not the hat itself but how the sellers are advertising it, using "Firefly" or "Jayne" or what have you. It's pretty crappy that the Etsy notice doesn't require the rightsholder to be more specific - or, if it does, it doesn't convey that specificity to the shop owner. I'd love to see someone push back at Etsy on this, to at least get some clarification.
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:44 AM on April 10, 2013


QFT: I hate the society I live in, I really do - the way that everyone with any kind of power is greedy down to the last half cent, the way that we are desperate to isolate, blame and attack individuals, the way that "if something is unjust, let's hide it away" is the order of the day.

We live in an awful, mean, petty society and the hats are not the thin end of the wedge, the hats are the end result.

posted by theora55 at 9:44 AM on April 10, 2013


Six years and a hat!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:46 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, why not sell these as "Browncoat Hats." Everyone will know what you mean, and "Browncoat" is a fan name, not IP. "Inspired by Firefly."
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


What really bugs me, and of course is not relevant to the FOX lawyers in the least, is that the Jayne hat wouldn't be A Thing if it wasn't for fans. Hell, Firefly wouldn't still be A Thing is it wasn't for the fans.

There wouldn't be a market for this product, based on one prop from one episode of a quickly cancelled TV show, without all the knitters and fans who cared and got involved and made all this stuff into A Thing.

FOX didn't give a shit about the show, they barely merchandised the show, and now...ugh.

The recent rise in commodificatiion of geek/nerd culture really gives me a headache. Who knew I would ever just wince in pain upon seeing Doctor Who on the cover of Entertainment Weekly? Who knew that the prospect of a fan-funded Veronica Mars movie would actually just make me crabby about exploitation? And now Jayne hats are just gonna make me frown instead of smiling indulgently.

Whatever. I'm rambling.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:52 AM on April 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


> It would be nice if there was some sort of copyright way to say "I see what you're doing there. Don't be a dick with our IP and we'll all get along fine." that didn't involve spending licensing bucks or legal fees.

Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike
posted by ardgedee at 9:54 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


And still no love for pretty floral bonnets.
posted by Tacodog at 9:55 AM on April 10, 2013 [19 favorites]


Hell, Firefly wouldn't still be A Thing is it wasn't for the fans.

(I mean really though nothing is A Thing without the fans.)
posted by incessant at 9:58 AM on April 10, 2013


"Knock it off" doesn't strike me as an especially heavy-handed response.

Especially since that's just what those knitters are doing in the first place.

Firefly was cancelled in 2003. Buzzfeed puts 2008 as a notable point in the timeline for handmade hats. The C&Ds started coming in 2013.

And the animated remake is scheduled for mid-2014.
posted by jamjam at 9:58 AM on April 10, 2013


Compare this story with Christian Louboutin vs Zara. After this failed lawsuit, it seems anbody can sell shoes with red soles (a Louboutin trademark) in France. Keep on knitting, just change the name.
posted by iviken at 10:08 AM on April 10, 2013


See trade dress.
Trade dress protection is intended to protect consumers from packaging or appearance of products that are designed to imitate other products; to prevent a consumer from buying one product under the belief that it is another. For example, the shape, color, and arrangement of the materials of a children's line of clothing can be protectable trade dress (though, the design of the garments themselves is not protected), as can the design of a magazine cover, the appearance and décor of a chain of Mexican-style restaurants, and a method of displaying wine bottles in a wine shop.
In short, if you can be easily fooled that Product B is the same as Product A, Product B is infringing on the intellectual property rights of Product A.

But if you mass-produced some nice knit caps in orange, red, and dark red, or further varied the color of the product, calling them something unrelated to Firefly (or general enough, like "Unofficial Brown Hats"), you're A-OK.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:10 AM on April 10, 2013


And the animated remake is scheduled for mid-2014.

Oh god you're not kidding. I have a bad feeling about this.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:10 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know what. Fuck Fox and fuck Firefly. For years I been carrying on the fight, bringing up up Firefly with the least provocation in order to spread awareness. I don't know how many times I've been told give it a rest, or shut up about that stupid spaceship show. After all we've put up with this is the final insult. I am officially no longer a Firefly fan.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:13 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I mean really though nothing is A Thing without the fans.)

Eh, not really. There are huge mainstream money-making franchises that aren't A Thing because of fans in the fandom sense.

NCIS is not the top-rated TV show in the US because of fandom.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:19 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


At the July 2012 San Diego at Comic-Con
Whedon also told the audience that more "Firefly" comic books are on the way and ... he's not into doing an animated series....
Then at the New York Comic-Con in October 2012
Fillion then teased, “If we’re dreaming, tell me what you think about this: Firefly the animated series.” After the panel, Fillion’s Firefly co-star, Sean Maher (Simon Tam), said, “I know somebody who is actually trying to get that done, who has approached Joss [Whedon, the creator] about it. He used to work with Guillermo del Toro.”
That's all I've found on a possible animated series. There was a lot of "what if" articles after Fillion mentioned an animated series, and that's the most recent "news" I see on the topic. Please tell me where you see more, because I want to know if I should glower or squee.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:19 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


nothing is A Thing without the fans

There is still cellular activity in these burned remains. They're not dead yet!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:20 AM on April 10, 2013


After all we've put up with this is the final insult. I am officially no longer a Firefly fan.

Huh? It's a TV show, not identity politics
posted by Think_Long at 10:20 AM on April 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


So Fox is going to come out with animated hats next year along with the cartoon?
posted by hank at 10:20 AM on April 10, 2013


jamjam: "And the animated remake is scheduled for mid-2014."

he said, hopefully.
posted by boo_radley at 10:20 AM on April 10, 2013


Well, my days of not liking Fox for cancelling Firefly are certainly coming to a middle.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:24 AM on April 10, 2013 [37 favorites]


It's pretty spry for a dead series.

(Sudden need to make a gorram Jayne hat. I hope there is a crochet version.)
posted by cmyk at 10:26 AM on April 10, 2013


Thinkgeek is going to donate proceeds from the hat to a Browncoat charity.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


In other news ... there's a Browncoat charity?
posted by gauche at 10:30 AM on April 10, 2013


After all we've put up with this is the final insult. I am officially no longer a Firefly fan.

You certainly showed them
posted by kokaku at 10:33 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's called Mudders Against Drunk Driving...
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Eh. People keep watching shows on FOX. Nothing changes from this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2013


Dang, ThinkGeek is bending over backwards to be nice about this.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:37 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


In other news ... there's a Browncoat charity?

Equality Now. I've been to Serenity screenings there were benefits for it Browncoats support it because of Joss's involvement with the charity (I think.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh? It's a TV show, not identity politics

I'm either miscalibrated or MetaFilter is extra serious today.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:41 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Please, no one tell NBC about my line of Gordon Gartrelle shirts.
posted by Knappster at 10:48 AM on April 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


At least my Jayne hat was knitted by my best friend's mom waaaaaay before this kerfuffle. (I think she made it for me the Christmas after Firefly left the air.)

I rarely wear it, however, which is ironic given where I live now and what winters are like and how effing warm it is.
posted by Kitteh at 10:49 AM on April 10, 2013


"Macobbshats.com"

I can't be the only one who parsed that wrong, can I?

something something browncoats
posted by zippy at 10:52 AM on April 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


NCIS is not the top-rated TV show in the US because of fandom.

You don't think there are NCIS fans? You're wrong. There are millions of them.
posted by incessant at 10:52 AM on April 10, 2013


incessant, that's not what I said. I said it's not A Thing because of fandom.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:58 AM on April 10, 2013


Well, there goes my lucrative "Automan" prop replica business.

DAMN YOU DESI ARNEZ JR!
posted by entropicamericana at 10:58 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Well, I mean, that's how the whole thing works - you see an infringement, you go after it, to protect your copyright. You can't just sort of let it slide if the infringer seems like a cool guy.

It would be nice if there was some sort of copyright way to say "I see what you're doing there. Don't be a dick with our IP and we'll all get along fine."


I don't do any copyright work, so I could very well be missing something here, but I think it would be easy for Fox to allow this kind of thing without losing the right to change its mind in the future.

There are two "use it or lose it" doctrines here that I know of. One is trademark dilution, which most people are probably familiar with -- if you let people use your trademark as though it wasn't your trademark, it stops being associated with your product and stops working as a trademark. The other is "laches" -- if you know someone is infringing your trademark or copyright and you let them keep investing their own resources on that project, you can't necessarily come along later and deprive them of the benefits of their investment.

Fun example of trademark laches: this case from February regarding trademarks on novelty fraternity and sorority paddles. (This should be its own FPP.) The laches defense worked retrospectively but not prospectively.

Fun example of copyright laches: This case from September where MGM successfully asserted a retrospective and prospective laches defense for the film Raging Bull, in part because of its investments promoting and creating an ongoing market for the film. (Whether a similar argument would work here is anyone's guess.)

In this case I'm pretty sure Fox could easily protect all of its rights, including trademark dilution and laches, by sending a letter along the lines of, "Hey, the Jayne hat is our IP. We hereby grant you a revocable, non-exclusive license to sell hats you personally knit yourself directly to wearers, but you must include a message in all your materials telling people that the Jayne hat is our IP. We reserve the right to revoke this permission at any time, at which point we will consider the sale of any additional hats to be a violation of the laws of god and man and act accordingly."

All they'd be giving up, legally speaking, would be the right to claim any damages incurred prior to revoking the license. Whether it would be workable for them in practice, or acceptable to the people who are paying for merchandising rights, is another question. I bet it would pay off in the long run for them, though.
posted by jhc at 11:05 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


You don't think there are NCIS fans? You're wrong. There are millions of them.

This is sadly true. The precise reason you never hear about crazy-go-nuts CBS-boring-procedural-drama fans is because they're everywhere and they're everyone. Since they lack the isolation of cult-genre fans, they don't have to organize huge conventions or come up with elaborate fan-signs (catchphrases, in-jokes, cosplay, etc.) in order to find and recognize each other. The entire mundane world is one huge NCIS convention, and we're stuck in the t-shirt line.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:06 AM on April 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


Please, no one tell NBC about my line of Gordon Gartrelle shirts.

"The Cosby Show" is so ingrained in people's hearts -- what Theo moments do fans reference the most?

"There are a lot. The two that I get all the time ... well, Gordon Gartrelle references are big. Even if I'm somewhere and I have a nice shirt on, people say, "Hey, is that a Gordon Gartrelle?" [Laughs.] The last couple of Halloweens, I've been getting cell phone pictures from my friends of guys who are dressed as Theo in the Gordon Gartrelle shirt."

A Shirt Story recap, on Metafilter's Own Huxtable Hotness.


In non-Cosby derail news... I kind of want to start a Jayne hat business of my own now, but I never got around to making one for myself--although I did buy the necessary yarn. Years and years ago.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:09 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Macobbshats.com ... I can't be the only one who parsed that wrong, can I?

I don't know what Macobb had for lunch but I'm sure I don't want to buy any afterwards.

You don't think there are NCIS fans?

Oh, NCIS. I am certain you were made just to rocket to the top of my worst ever list.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:13 AM on April 10, 2013


NCIS is the epitome of an easy-watching show for dudes. Like, it's a total formula that's self-aware enough to make fun of its own formula, and is just full of goofy, improbable ridiculousness. I forget who got me into that show, but it's become one of those things that's just brain candy.
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 AM on April 10, 2013


There is actually a large fandom presence for NCIS (a quick unscientific search on AO3 shows about 5k fics for NCIS, compared to around 4k for Firefly and 13k for Buffy) but yeah, fandom is not what keeps the show in the Top 10 every damn week. Funnily enough all the fandom people I know who used to write NCIS don't even watch the show anymore.
posted by kmz at 11:16 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have made several orange, yellow and red earflap hats. I can make them in no time, they're perfect for knitting in class and I have a ton of yarn left over. If any Mefites seriously want one and have no way of getting one made with love, let me know.
posted by MaritaCov at 11:18 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There wouldn't be a market for this product, based on one prop from one episode of a quickly cancelled TV show, without all the knitters and fans who cared and got involved and made all this stuff into A Thing.

Yeah. And even moreso because, as someone in one of the articles I read pointed out, that this was from an episode that Fox never even aired. So the fans took a throwaway prop from an episode that Fox didn't even want and made it a whole cultural thing. And it just feels like Fox is really stepping on that.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:19 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since they lack the isolation of cult-genre fans, they don't have to organize huge conventions or come up with elaborate fan-signs (catchphrases, in-jokes, cosplay, etc.) in order to find and recognize each other.

However, this kind of "mutual fan recognition" thing isn't the only reason people do cosplay or catchphrases or make any kind of fandom stuff. I know of many, many people who've made their own "Music Videos" celebrating their fervent wish that two of the NCIS characters hook up, usually comprised of clips from the show set to one or another love song.

One of the cast is my one "I knew her before she got famous" story, and a song from the play we worked on together is a frequent fan song choice. It's WEIRD to see.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on April 10, 2013


NCIS isn't highly rated because of fandom. It's highly rated because people actually watch it. Which would seem to be a relevant metric for a television show—Firefly included.
posted by cribcage at 11:24 AM on April 10, 2013


It would be nice if there was some sort of copyright way to say "I see what you're doing there. Don't be a dick with our IP and we'll all get along fine." that didn't involve spending licensing bucks or legal fees.

Not quite the same, but Jack Daniel's counsel is downright folksy.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:25 AM on April 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I know of many, many people who've made their own "Music Videos" celebrating their fervent wish that two of the NCIS characters hook up, usually comprised of clips from the show set to one or another love song.

I'm guessing 80% of these are Gibbs/DiNozzo and mostly involve Jethro headslapping Tony?
posted by kmz at 11:25 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Label them " a hat similar to the one worn by Jayne". I would hazard that is specific/ambiguous to reach those that want to find it and avoid actual legal trouble.
posted by edgeways at 11:27 AM on April 10, 2013


The recent rise in commodificatiion of geek/nerd culture really gives me a headache.

Me too. Now I want a "No Solicitors" sign.

Hanging on the front door of the TARDIS.

On a T-shirt.

Those greedy bastards.

Damnit.

posted by Celsius1414 at 11:31 AM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


- Don't do anything with them to disparage or devalue our IP (i.e. - No Jayne Knitted Condoms)

Oh god I want. ("And that's why I never kiss 'em on the lips.")
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:38 AM on April 10, 2013


I'm guessing 80% of these are Gibbs/DiNozzo and mostly involve Jethro headslapping Tony?

....No, but I'd actually really enjoy that.

Tons of Ziva/Tony fans out there. TONS.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on April 10, 2013


The recent rise in commodificatiion of geek/nerd culture really gives me a headache.

To be fair, this sort of thing (both the marketing of geek toys and the stern warnings from legal departments) has been going on for decades -- a few minutes' browsing in the archives of the classifieds of Starlog (per my FPP from last week) will doubtless turn up all sorts of ads for "laser swords" and models of "Federation class starships" and such. But yeah, when it is homemade knit caps that are made to resemble something from an unaired episode of a show cancelled more than a decade ago, it seems quite petty.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:48 AM on April 10, 2013


Ha ha! Wow. So, I did this for a while. This would have been... 2005-ish. I studied the DVD carefully and put together a pattern that I still think is the best. (I have posted it for free both on my website and through Ravelry.)

I knit them and sold them on eBay. If you bought a Jayne hat on eBay around that time, there's a very good chance that you bought it from me.

It was a nice source of extra income at a time when I desperately needed it. (I charged $30 for a hat which took me 3 hours to make and about $1 in materials cost. Many knitters can attest, being able to charge $10/hour for knitting is like hitting the jackpot. Knitting is not a lucrative business, as a rule.)

As a Firefly fan, I enjoyed spreading the love. It's probably the most rewarding thing I have ever sold - buyers would frequently send me pictures of themselves in their hats, looking deliriously happy. I liked spreading a little joy in the world, you know?

There are two reasons I got out of the biz. First, the market overwhelmed me. I knit and sold over 300 hats in a year. It got to the point where I would rather have the time to knit things for myself, than have the extra money.

The second was that I was starting to get nervous about Fox's lawyers. Fox has always been notoriously anti-fan. Fellow geeks who were involved in the internet in the mid-90s may remember Fox's draconian take-down policies regarding X-Files and Simpsons fan sites. I guess I was right about the Jayne Hat crack-down, even though it happened six years later than I thought it would.

I came to the point where I would either have to expand my operations (hire people to help; work cons) or give it up. By that point I had a pretty decent job with benefits and everything, and I didn't want to risk everything on what amounted to trademark infringement. So I chose to give it up.
posted by ErikaB at 12:00 PM on April 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


I worked at a company that sold Halloween costumes online. We had a nice in house lawyer that was basically there to help us skirt around IP issues just like this. Not because they didn't want to pay licensing fees, but because there wasn't often a licensed product and there wasn't enough time before Halloween to get one. So there were a lot of "Moody Teen Vampire Wig" and "Dragon Princess" costumes. It was a weird area, because on the one hand, the company was making money on the IP of other companies and not paying, but on the other hand, it was things that consumers really wanted but we couldn't license for whatever reason.

I don't have an answer, but it irritated me that we had to dance around what the product was supposed to be. We got takedown for a She-Ra like costume but the company had no interest in licensing it so we're left unable to offer something people wanted. (yeah, I had no idea why it was a popular costume, it just was. )
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:05 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having read through the thread, two things:

1. I did feel a bit bad about contributing to the increasing commodification of science fiction fandom. It wasn't the first, second, or even third reason that I quit. But it was definitely a factor.

2. Some people are making the comparison with Dr. Who scarves, apparently under the impression that the BBC doesn't care about Dr. Who scarf patterns. This is incorrect.

In fact, the BBC has been notoriously vigorous in policing its Dr. Who copyright w/r/t knitting patterns since the earliest days of the internet. Many a Dr. Who scarf pattern has been forced offline over the years.

As well as anything else the BBC deems copyright-worthy, such as a particularly adorable pattern for the Adipose as a knit soft toy.
posted by ErikaB at 12:13 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually have one of those hats, that I knitted myself, in pre-Etsy days.

Firefly had just gotten cancelled, Browncoats (and fellow geeks) were freaking out, and some people wanted Jayne's Hat. And I was taking a knitting class at the time. I don't remember where I found the hat kit, but I remember it distinctly - when I ordered it, what came was a bag filled with yarn of different colors and lengths, and an extremely precise knitting pattern. Basically, they sold you the goods, but you had to knit the hat yourself.

Which I did. And because I'm horrible at knitting (and soon gave it up after that class), my hat feels 'authentic' - just like Ma Cobb used to make. (I can picture her worrying about her son in space, and deciding to do something about it, by breaking out those old knitting needles that hadn't seen action since the Unification War ended, and just throwing together what scraps of yarn she had. Because she loved her boy, and he was going to have a warm head for winter.)
posted by spinifex23 at 12:28 PM on April 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I actually made a Jayne hat myself for a roommate - she really wanted one, but most of the ones she saw on Etsy were wool and she was allergic. So I provided the hypoallergenic cotton version.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:30 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


ErikaB: "2. Some people are making the comparison with Dr. Who scarves, apparently under the impression that the BBC doesn't care about Dr. Who scarf patterns. This is incorrect.
"

That was not at all my point. I expect that the BBC doesn't care if someone makes a remnant scarf and sells it as a long multi-colored scarf. And while I'm not as familiar with British law as with American, I'm pretty sure they'd have no legal leg to stand on. They care if someone sells it as a scarf as seen on Doctor Who and make a point of the stripes being a match to one of the several actual prop scarves.

Similarly, an orange striped knit hat with a pompom and earflaps is a fairly generic object. Selling it as "Jayne's hat" is where the issue comes in.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:36 PM on April 10, 2013


Props to Buzzfeed for doing something really interesting online. This article was perfectly formatted for internet comprehension, with screenshots and links and large text for important things and small text for filling in details. Buzzfeed gets the internet and it's kind of amazing to see.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:13 PM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some people take TV waaaaay too seriously.
posted by signal at 2:59 PM on April 10, 2013


How do you license hats? I don't think FOX invented hats. Maybe just call them Enyaj hats from Erifylf. — Nathan Fillion (@NathanFillion) April 10, 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 3:45 PM on April 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yep, this confirms it. Fox is the Alliance. Damn purple-bellies.
posted by platinum at 4:36 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man so many of the lines from Firefly (including the first episode "Curse your sudden by inevitable betrayal") are so apropos that you wonder whether Josh was expecting Fox's screw over.
posted by Mitheral at 5:31 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Controversial Hat with a backstory
posted by homunculus at 9:27 PM on April 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have made four Jayne hats, which I gave away or sold years ago because I look terrible in a Jayne hat* and some were special requests. I have also made an "Amigurumi Fat Baby" because it avoided the Doctor Who loophole issue. I was willing to buy the actual toy, but it took me years to find one IRL and when I finally did, I choked at the price and was glad I'd DIY'd.

I hope all of these people can somehow get around this stupid crap by changing the name. I almost want to go make another damn hat out of spite, but I suspect that Ravelry and the like have probably been scoured of all hat patterns by now. (I'm afraid to check.) I gotta give huge props to the Controversial Hat story, though.

"We got takedown for a She-Ra like costume but the company had no interest in licensing it so we're left unable to offer something people wanted."


This is what drives me crazy about this "licensing" and "exclusivity" shit. People will buy a product if you make it and it's a reasonable price. It annoys the shit out of me that when there is clearly an audience to buy something, those in charge of it won't allow it whatsoever. "You can't infringe on MY DOMAIN!" "Okay, well, can you sell some of these instead?" "No, we don't wanna. Just shove it and don't have any." Which makes me want to send another mental cheer at the Veronica Mars movie folks for getting around that.

I am sorry for ThinkGeek that they pretty much put a ton of Etsy sellers out of business. They sound sorry too--too bad there really isn't a way of putting those worms back in the can now, for them or anyone.

Fucking party poopers.

* To answer your inevitable question of, "Who looks good in a Jayne hat?"...uh, Jayne? Especially when he's posing with a big Lego gun there, I guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:22 PM on April 10, 2013


For some reason Firefly seems to be making a comeback in 2013 - Joss is trying to revive it and MWP has got the license to do a Firefly RPG (they had the old Serenity license until it expired but have got a lot better at making RPGs in the past few years).
posted by Francis at 3:41 AM on April 11, 2013


Joss is trying to revive it

Reading the text of the article, it sounds more like Joss being nostalgic than actively attempting a Firefly revival. The man's plate is pretty much full as it is, now that he's become one of the linchpin creatives for the Marvel movie-and-TV-verse. I was one of the original Firefly fans during its run on Fox and even supported the postcard campaign after it was cancelled, but I just don't see a full-on revival in the cards. I think the show wrapped itself up nicely (if not altogether cleanly) with the Serenity movie, and I get the sense that Joss and most of the cast feel the same way. The show was lightning in a bottle, and so much of its potential was wrapped up in the characters (including the ones who got written out/killed off in Serenity) that I can't imagine any kind of continuation without those variables in place.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:19 AM on April 11, 2013


Strange Interlude, you can't honestly believe that Nathan Fillion wouldn't jump at the chance to do Firefly again, or that his enthusiasm wouldn't be so infectious to bring back the rest of the cast.

(Also. Wash isn't dead. 'cuz I said so.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:28 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Controversial Hat with a backstory

Okay, I think the things FOX is doing are shitty too, but...wow.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:42 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


jenfullmoon: "I almost want to go make another damn hat out of spite, but I suspect that Ravelry and the like have probably been scoured of all hat patterns by now."

ErikaB
's pattern is still up as of yesterday and it looks pretty good too.
posted by Mitheral at 5:58 AM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know what you mean, [insert clever name here] -- Fillion's enthusiasm for Firefly knows no bounds -- but I just don't see how they could start the show back up 10 years after the fact, regardless of whether the cast is up for it. In an ideal world, Firefly would have run for 5+ seasons and had the natural cast ebb-and-flow that all of Joss's other series had, but because the show died halfway into Season 1, the makeup of the crew is effectively frozen in amber. One of the charms of the series was that it wasn't Starfleet, where the same damn folks stay on the same damn ship for years and years and years. The Serenity crew wouldn't still be out there running the same kind of smuggling missions and bank heists 10 years on, and they wouldn't all still be alive and working together. Impermanence is built into the show's living-on-the-raggedy-edge premise, but in order for that to work the audience has to see the changes happen.

That said, I'm surprised that no publisher besides Dark Horse Comics seems interested in doing novels or short stories in the Firefly/Serenity universe. I read Stephen Brust's unpublished Firefly novel (which he had posted as fanfic) a year or two ago, and it was pretty great.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:58 AM on April 11, 2013


Oh, I just had an idea I'm gonna go with - I've resolved to do a bit of knitting-for-charity this year (partly to get through my backlog of yarn), and will be making a stack of hats for the Christmas At Sea charity for merchant mariners and sailors.

Now, I won't be able to put the earflaps or the pompom on - they discourage that - but I'm sure that if I make one hat in those specific colors, some sailor is gonna recognize what I'm trying to do and would probably be tickled. (And the Serenity is all about cargo runs itself, so there's some symmetry there....)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on April 11, 2013


There are two pages of Jayne hats on Ravelry right this very moment.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:34 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Serenity crew wouldn't still be out there running the same kind of smuggling missions and bank heists 10 years on, and they wouldn't all still be alive and working together.

Yes, and movies or TV have never done "oh, a crisis causes the old crew to reunite." ploy. Maybe it's to rescue Wash from an alternate universe where he isn't dead (because he's not.) Or from the Alliance prison camp because he was replaced with a clone to spy on River's progress. Because Wash isn't dead. I need him not to be, okay? I've never felt the same punch in the gut from a fictional character death, and I'm not sure I've forgiven Joss. I can't believe I'm still upset over that; I can't even rewatch Serenity because it's too painful. Shit, I'm even tearing up now.

Actually I agree with you, I just don't want to. One of my great sadnesses recently was realizing that Firefly had enough of a fan base that it probably will come back, ala Star Trek. But also like Star Trek, it will probably be a different cast. And that will be good to, because the universe was fun and I think everything I love about firefly could exist someplace else in that universe, especially in the hands of Joss Whedon. But it will break my heart a little bit to not have it be the original cast.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:58 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


rescue Wash from an alternate universe

You mean like science fiction?
posted by Artw at 10:16 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's to rescue Wash from an alternate universe where he isn't dead (because he's not.)

Why didn't they apply the pulmonary stimulators and the cortical electrodes?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:33 AM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I dunno, so far nothing Whedon has been remade yet, even the original Buffy movie. So I have hope.

It also gives me hope that Ravelry hasn't been scoured yet--I saved a bunch of patterns in my library just in case.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:48 PM on April 12, 2013


Interesting that the same issue hasn't come up with the Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf, which I've seen offered on Etsy for $100-$200 while ThinkGeek also sells an officially licensed version in the $50 range. Unlike the Jayne hat, though, there's an economy of scale factor; ~50,000 stitches for the long season 12 version requires a lot of yarn and a lot of labor and the BBC can sell it for almost what it would cost to buy the yarn. Hell, having done one, I'd almost be willing to pay $50 to avoid having to weave in ends, much less 50,000 purl stitches.
Then again, the ThinkGeek officially licensed version prolly isn't handmade with love.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:49 PM on April 12, 2013


sarcasticah: "There are two pages of Jayne hats on Ravelry right this very moment."

Even after narrowing down to just the patterns for adult human heads, it's hard to pick one. Does anyone have a particular recommendation?

This Doctor Who Jayne Hat pattern is hilarious. I suppose it's ideal for someone who's pressed for time and wants to taunt both Fox and the BBC at the same time.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:01 AM on April 13, 2013


I certainly hope that Fox does nothing to stop this woman.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:08 AM on April 13, 2013


The Jayne Bra

Warning: boobs.
posted by homunculus at 1:32 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


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