Well, they may not be able to take the sky from the Firefly fans, but Fox has definitely yanked the rug from underneath some Etsy sellers this past week. A list of Etsy sellers who make the popular “Jayne hats” received cease and desist letters this week. Some of you may ask, why now? Firefly hasn’t been on the air for 11 years. Didn’t Fox cancel it after the first season? Well, yes.
For the last 11 years, Firefly fans, or Browncoats if you will, have been able to make, give, gift, and sell their versions of the Jayne hat with Fox turning a blind eye. Because really, why do they care? But for those of you familiar with ThinkGeek, they co-opted with the owners of the license for the Jayne hat, RippleJunction, and began to produce those for their site. Once that happened, Etsy sellers began to get the C&D letters.
Blastr reached out to both ThinkGeek and Ripple Junction who both claimed to have no part in instigating the cease and desist notices. Blastr states,“Ripple Junction, a company which produces licensed apparel, obtained the rights to mass produce the Jayne Hat. It instantly became a hit seller on popular nerd sites like Think Geek. It seemed that getting a Jayne hat was easier than ever. But that ease came with a price.”
ThinkGeek made an official statement on their site, stating their innocence in the entire process.
Our dear Browncoats,
We’ve heard the news that FOX, the licensors of Firefly merch, is sending out cease and desist notices to Etsy sellers who carry their own cunning hats.
We just wanted you to know that ThinkGeek has nothing to do with the C&D notices. The hat is licensed by a vendor with whom we have a relationship and while the hat is not an exclusive to ThinkGeek, we did have a hand in its development and answered the difficult questions like, “Are the earflaps long enough?” and “Is that man afraid of anything?” (Yes and no, respectively.)
Would the C&D have happened if we did not carry the hat on our site? We’re not sure; we’ll leave that question to sharper legal minds than ours. We’re here to carry the shiniest of goods from ’round the ‘verse, even maybe makin’ them ourselves. We just want y’all to know that while we might not always aim to misbehave, we’ll always be sure to get you the best stuff this side of the Eavesdown Docks.
The way we see it, if people want to make their own, shiny. For those out there who can’t knit to save their gorram lives, we can help.
Here are all the interesting facts concerning the Jayne hats. The hat was featured in one episode of the fourteen episodes of Firefly. In that episode, Jayne receives a package from his mother that included a letter, and the hat in question. Even though it was only in the show for a few minutes, the hat has become by and large a symbol of the Firefly fandom. The hat is a handmade, knitted cap with ear flaps. For anyone who has ever made anything by hand, you know it’s almost impossible to make them identical. There was no pattern that ever existed for a Jayne hat. Fans who love the show created their own unique patterns and made them with love and care.
We can’t really be mad at ThinkGeek for giving us Firefly merch, can we? They have supported and loved the show right along with the rest of the Browncoats. Does it suck that the Etsy sellers can no longer sell their handmade, personal Jayne hats? Absolutely, it does.
Ma Cobb’s Shoppe, one of the most prominent Etsy Jayne hat sellers, is probably more upset than anyone about the situation. Angela says,”I’ve seen some copyright infringement on Etsy, but I always thought that the hat was something of my own. Yes, it’s inspired by a hat worn by a character in a show that is the intellectual property of Fox, but each independent hand-knitting seller puts their own spin on it. They write up their own patterns with subtle shifts in color and design to appeal to everyone.” “The irony of it is that it’s the fans of the show who have propelled the hat into the iconic symbol that it is. The hat itself had only a few measly minutes of screen time in one episode— an episode that Fox didn’t even air.”
While Fox is well within its rights to protect their investment and send out the cease and desist letters to those selling their products without a license to do so, it still doesn’t set well with Browncoats around the world. Most feel the show has long since been forgotten by Fox, and the only reason that it is still relevant today is because of the fandom that has kept it that way.
One fans thoughts are this…”It needs to be stated that legally, morally, and ethically, Fox has every right to insist upon only licensed versions of its property.” “Really, it has something of a fiduciary obligation to its shareholders to protect anything it owns that could make them money, as that’s a corporation’s job.”
"However, notwithstanding the legal, moral, and ethical ground upon which Fox Legal is standing, culturally speaking the move is almost complete ass. They can be legally, morally, and ethically in the right and still have this stink to high heaven."
And fittingly, I’ll end this with an ever popular Firefly quote, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”