The BBC has a history of having heavy-handed lawyers on the payroll, so it wasn’t surprising when they threatened to sue a website featuring Doctor Who knitting patterns. I’m old enough to remember the Teletubbies,* and the way the BBC responded to websites that poked fun at them: send in the lawyers. What’s the most important thing about Doctor Who, after all? Inspiring kids to be amazed at things, and look at the world in a different way? Hiding behind the sofa? No, silly, the important thing is to generate lots and lots of merchandising money for BBC Commercial. Where would we be if everyone started knitting things for their children instead of going down the shops? If you start spending time and care on things like that, when are you going to find the time to watch more TV? What’s going to happen to all those traditional Chinese peasant plastic-mould farms? And never mind that, what on earth do you think you’re doing to the economy, going out and making things instead of buying them? Where do you think you are, Cuba?
Seriously: I’m sometimes in two minds about fan-created stuff, largely because of the effect fan fiction has on me. It makes me want to run away and scream, partly because of the smug little disclaimers that fanfic writers always seem to put at the top of their stories. “These characters aren’t mine, I’m only borrowing them.” Did you ask, first?
Fan art, though – which includes fan crafting, in this case – is a different matter. It does, to my mind, at least, imply a lot more creativity than most fanfic. But I can’t draw a rational line between the two, or explain why one seems acceptable to me when the other doesn’t. Maybe that in most cases fan art seems to add something to a world, where fan fiction seems to take it away. That, though, isn’t something you can exactly quantify. And it’s not an excuse that would go down well with a lawyer, either.
* I was just the right age to appreciate them when they appeared – about 19 or so.