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April 10 2013

ThinkGeek to donate profits from licensed Jayne hats to Can't Stop the Serenity. Even though ThinkGeek has nothing to do with the cease and desist notices, some fans have associated the company with the Fox crackdown on Etsy sellers. ThinkGeek's website says "we'll continue making that donation until we run out of stock of Jayne Hats."

Sigh. It's nice for Equality Now, but if no one can license Firefly products and make money, it's just one more reason another Firefly movie will never be made.
My thoughts when this happened were: 1. I should tell the Whedonesque mods! 2. Oh, wait, no, I should update my story first.

I think this is a good PR move on their part.
I feel bad for Think Geek. I think they really wanted to be able to sell Jayne's Hat to Firefly fans but knew they couldn't just do it the same way those that make the hats for fans do it. I think this shows that they do care & didn't realize FOX was going to do what they did.
Great PR move and great cause. Score. And the amount of money to be made off Jayne Hats is far less than a Firefly movie, so I wouldn't link the two (the fact everybody is gloriously busy is a bigger roadblock, for example).
Does the "until we run out of stock" mean they're not going to sell the hats long term? That would be a shame.
My guess is since they're probably losing money from this endeavor now, they're writing it off.
Yeah, ok, so I'm not reading that wrong then. That's really too bad. They didn't do anything wrong and they were reaching mainstream geeks who wouldn't think to look for Firefly stuff on sites like Etsy. Everybody loses in this scenario.
So...there should be some way for Etsy sellers to team up with ThinkGeek to keep them in Jayne hats.

Since it's going to charity, is there a way the sellers could get a tax write-off? I know yarn isn't cheap, and neither is their time, but there's got to be a win-win situation here somewhere.

We're Whedonites! Can't we put our squishy grey frontal lobes together ("Raise your hand if 'ew'!") and come up with a way for everyone to be happy?

Like...totally dreaming here, but...say someone contacts Red Heart (or a better-quality yarn brand, but that's the first that comes to mind) and tells them what's going on, and asks if they could get some kind of donation, for example of yarn that's not quite the color the dye lot was supposed to come out (the more you use a dye bath the lighter the color ends up). So Red Heart donates the yarn to the Etsy sellers, who in turn knit up the hats and donate them to ThinkGeek. ThinkGeek sells them to the Firefly fans, and the money goes to CSTS. Lawyers can't get cranky because the only one profiting is a charity.

Getting that past Fox's legal department = fun, ShadowQuest.
Feel bad for Think Geek for getting stuck in the middle. Still not going to buy a Jayne hat though. Hats make me look like E.T. (True story.)
gossi I thought the problem FOX's legal department had w/the Etsy sellers was that they were profiting from selling the hats? Or is it a combination of them making a profit from the hats, and FOX thinking they own the rights to that hat design? ('cause...sorry, FOX, but no. That design's been around since people started knitting hats. It's basically a knit beanie with flaps and a pom. Maybe they've got a case for the color combination, but...well, I'm not a lawyer.)

And, from ThinkGeek's page, it seems they already have someone with the license:

"We found a vendor with the Firefly license who agreed to make the officially-licensed version of the Jayne hat. Only problem was, they weren't huge fans. Not like us. They knew of the hat, but didn't know the details. So we got to play adviser on this, giving them specs for different parts and picking the colors."

So then never mind my previous post. In can go bye-bye. And so can this one.
A charity hat model would be challenging to pull off. Just in terms of securing appropriate permission, even before you start thinking logistical challenges. But so was a charity movie screening. I would be happy to buy a Jayne hat at a CSTS event if the money went to Equality Now, for example.
The fact that the only profits would be going to charity is irrelevant. The one who holds the license to the property is the one who has the right to make a profit from it, and in this case, the party with the license to sell the "Jayne Hat" is Ripple Junction. They have a deal with Think Geek to sell the hats to the public, and *Think Geek* is going to donate their own share of the profits from the sale to the public to charity, but Think Geek can't make Ripple Junction donate it's own share of those profits to charity. I think that's why you see the "until we run out of hats" qualifier on their announcement about the donation. Sounds like they may have decided that whatever they made off the sales wasn't worth the cost of pissing off the whole Firefly fandom and they may not sell the hats at all after they've burned off their current stock.

Which would be sad, because the world is full of people who love Jayne Hats, and not all of those people can knit and instead need to buy them from other Jayne Hat Lovers who can knit.

Looks like now instead of Black Market Beagles, we're going to have to have Orange Market Jayne Hats.

[ edited by BrewBunny on 2013-04-10 20:32 ]
Ah. BrewBunny for the win. That makes sense.
Can't Ripple Junction simply find another vendor?
I love Think Geek and don't think they did anything wrong. I would buy a Jayne hat from Think Geek if it was decent enough to wear during cold weather. I like the one I have from Etsy, but it's thin and while knitted well, it's just not at all useful to wear in order to keep warm.

ETA: I finally read the Buzzfeed piece, along with the facebook entries from longtime Etsy sellers, and what I don't understand is how some of them feel a sense of betrayal.

I don't think ThinkGeek had any obligation to think of Etsy sellers before offering a Jayne hat on its website. If Think Geek elected not to have an official Jayne hat because of all the Etsy sellers, what else shouldn't they make? T-shirts? Posters? What other fandoms should they not participate in because the fans have created a market for it by themselves?

[ edited by the ninja report on 2013-04-10 21:07 ]
IrrationaliTV, I imagine that it depends on whatever deal Ripple Junction and Think Geek negotiated in the distribution contract. But even if Ripple Junction does have the right to sell the hats through whatever retailer they choose, does anyone think that other Firefly fandom retailers are going to line up to sell the very same hats that angered so many Browncoats?

ninja report, I'm also a little baffled at the anger at Think Geek over offering the officially licensed hat in the first place.
My point is if Ripple Junction holds the license to make Jayne hats, and not Think Geek then they could easily find another outlet for them like TFAW or Hot Topic. I don't think Hot Topic would even register this tempest in a teapot.
Not sure people were upset with Think Geek for offering officially licensed hats as they were thinking it was them that were getting handmade ones booted from Etsy.
The hats ThinkGeek got Ripple Junction to make are not exclusive to ThinkGeek. Ripple can sell them wherever they want, as I understand it.
I find these license/copyright holder vs fan creation issues completely confounding. On the one hand the Etsy sellers were using a design that they did not create, on the other hand they didn't make much money and many hats were knitted out of geekdom love.

So I've always wanted to buy one. Do I follow the law and buy Think Geek's partially charitable hat or seek out a black market Cunning hat that gives a bit to a fellow fan?

I'm stuck in a geek ethics mind rut.

[ edited by hann23 on 2013-04-10 23:02 ]
Right now I'm kicking myself for not ordering the mini-Jayne hat keychain they show on the Buzzfeed article. I saw it on Etsy a while back and meant to pick it up but forgot to. Now I can't have it at all. :-(

There is always a boatload of unlicensed Firefly stuff on Etsy at any given time, and right now there are plenty of things that very clearly infringe on FOX's intellectual property (e.g., straight copies of the Firefly logo or other FOX promotional images from the TV show printed on other things without even the smallest amount of alteration). The fact that all of that stuff is still untouched and only the Jayne hats are an issue just makes them look petty and capricious.
BrewBunny it just makes it obvious that the Jayne Hat was the only item specifically requested of 20th by the licensee to be shut down. Not capricious. Specific. Obviously 20th lawyers are not scouring Etsy for infringing items or a lot more sellers would be shut down. This is in response to a specific request most likely made by Ripple Junction to protect the license they are paying for.
Please think about this, ThinkGeek went looking for a way to sell these, so why do they think they are not to blame?
IrrationaliTV, That's what I figure too, but it still does look lame to only go after one kind of product offering on Etsy when there are a ton of other Firefly/Serenity things on there right now that are totally out of bounds. For instance, there is a t-shirt printed with nothing on it but the "Firefly" logo on the front just like you'd find at Cafe Press or Zazzle. One couldn't even make a straight-faced claim to "fair use" for something like that. On the other hand, some of the banned "Jayne Hat" offerings might have constituted "fair use," particularly where the artwork was totally original and included interpretive elements, like the stylized drawing of a dog with a Jayne Hat. When you get aggressive with some harder infringement claims while totally ignoring the really easy obvious claims, you communicate the the market that sometimes you care about your IP rights and sometimes you don't. That's what I found capricious.

fillygirl, What exactly is wrong about ThinkGeek trying to sell a product that people want in a manner that respects the intellectual property rights of FOX and its licensees? I love all the unlicensed stuff available on Etsy, but the fact is that there is an awful lot of it that most definitely infringes on other people's intellectual property rights. The fact that many people get away with it doesn't make it legal.
fillygirl, I don't see why Think Geek has the responsibility for what happens to Etsy sellers. Think Geek isn't out to ruin people's lives. It's just a company that sells geek things and items relevant to pop culture. Yeah, they sought to produce an official hat. The side effect is that Etsy sellers are being asked to stop. It's unfortunate for them, and I understand why they're upset, but this isn't Think Geek's fault. Seriously, they're doing what they're supposed to do - sell officially licensed products. I don't see how their business decisions should be dictated by what is already on Etsy when most of it isn't actually supposed to be sold for profit anyway.
There is no way 20th could hire enough lawyers to find every infringing Simpsons, Family Guy, Buffy, Firefly, Bones, X-Men, Alien, Avatar (and on and on and on) item on the interwebs. So they only go after the stuff the are specifically requested to shut down. Most of the time they simply can't be bothered which only makes sense.

No way this whole thing was instigated by the mean mean lawyers at 20th. It had to be an outside request that they simply followed up on. Of course that reality infringes on the oh so fun let's bash on Fox knee jerk reaction enjoyed by so many. :)
I think it's fantastic that Think Geek are responding so classily. As far as I'm aware, they got the ball rolling by suggesting to Ripple Juction that they produce a Jayne Hat - because lots of fans want it, there just aren't enough hobby knitters to meet demand, and not everyone cares if it's been handmade or not. And then, once Ripple Junction took on the task and got it made, Think Geek became just another reseller in this scenario.

It's not exclusive to Think Geek. The Jayne Hat(R) is also being sold by Stylin Online, Entertainment Earth, Amazon and any other retailer who can get their stock from Ripple Junction.
ThinkGeek = total class act. They were just trying to sell something the fans want, and they got caught in the studio/fan/Etsy et al. crossfire.

While Fox is obviously entitled to try & protect what they consider to be their IP (since costuming/fashion/clothing IP protection is limited & tricky-tricky, and the bane of many designer's existence), it was *obviously* the fan's making & selling & promoting them that made the hats a popular & viable product, which makes their move nonetheless, as b!X said, "almost complete ass."

Incidentally, I bought an Orange Cunning Hat from someone recently, and if she's making any money off it, I'll eat my hat. ; ] It came packaged like the hat in "The Messenger", w/ straw & letter from Ma Cobb, and there were extras, like a button, and a bookmark, and more. Seriously, her profit must be almost non-existent.

She made & sold 'em for love.
This hat has come to represent a fans stand against a corporate giant that shut down their show. It is our flag and our uniform, not just a hat! Fox didn't even air the episode that the hat was featured in. They cancelled the show too fast in favor of reality tv because they could make more money selling crap than quality.

It is no wonder there has been such a backlash against Thinkgeek. They got a company to license and mass market our home made geek uniform that can hardly even be called IP. If they get to license a hat, does every piece of clothing on any tv show become IP if the studio slaps their name on it.

This is not a closed case and no law was broken. It is just a cease and desist order. Makers might still get to sell their hat. Etsy just took the cowards way out and removed the items to avoid legal issues. I really do not see how you can call a nit hat with no symbols or words IP. The geeks made it an icon, not Fox!
They cancelled the show too fast in favor of reality tv because they could make more money selling crap than quality.

They did? Nobody watched Firefly, that's why it got cancelled.
My statement is still true Simon. They could make more money selling crap reality TV than quality firefly. We all know they botched the release of firefly which is why nobody watched it.

I do believe Fox's plan to invest heavily in reality shows had something to do with the lack of marketing for firefly. The following spring was the first major rollout of prime time reality shows in the US. Fox had the most. It is where all their money went.

[ edited by Jayne's Hat on 2013-04-11 09:35 ]
If that was the case then they would have put a reality show in Firefly's timeslot. But they didn't, we got the instantly forgettable Fastlane instead.

At the end of the day, Fox invested a lot of money in Firefly, botched the release, no one watched it (thought these days networks would kill for those ratings) and so Fox cut their losses. Otherwise future ad revenue was at stake.

Fans can jump and down and say "damn you Fox" till the cows come home but the network did greenlight the show. Would it get greenlit by a primetime network these days? Probably not.
No one watched Seinfeld or Cheers, either, but NBC kept them on the air until they caught on, and gave them fairly prominent time slots. Those were the days.
Would it get greenlit by a primetime network these days? Probably not.

From Joss "The Avengers" Whedon comes a new television show...
No one watched Seinfeld or Cheers, either, but NBC kept them on the air until they caught on, and gave them fairly prominent time slots. Those were the days.
For every Seinfeld and Cheers there are a thousand shows that languish, never catch on, and are forgotten failures.

I applauded Fox for keeping Fringe on for as long as it did, and giving it such a long leash to do so many weird things despite low ratings. That show cost Fox a ton of money to make. Most shows are not going to get that kind of investment.

Etsy just took the cowards way out and removed the items to avoid legal issues. I really do not see how you can call a nit hat with no symbols or words IP. The geeks made it an icon, not Fox!
I thought the issue was that the product descriptions made direct reference to Firefly. If someone was just selling colorblocked hats and one of the color combos you could choose was yellow and orange with red ear flaps, I don't think Fox would send that person a letter. But say it's from Firefly, or make refernece to its origins, then you're talking about the property rights.
After all is said and done, I highly doubt that Jayne hats will be unavailable at CSTS screenings in the future. Locals are still going to make them and we're still going to buy them at the events. We'll just be more cunning about it. It is what it is.
Exactly madmolly: the red flag was always the Firefly advertising on Etsy, but fans getting paid for making a hat for another fan would be impossible to prosecute. So fans just have to search through fan sites (like, or at fan events (like CSTS), or talk their Grandma into knitting one for them.

I do not blame ThinkGeek, they have a lovely website with lots of cool stuff for sale, and I don't blame Etsy (they would probably be the ones sued if Fox tried to take it to court). I do feel free to blame Fox because I still do not believe for one second that you can copyright a knit hat.
They did? Nobody watched Firefly, that's why it got cancelled.

I watched Firefly as it was being broadcast. But since I live in Canada, I suppose I do count as "nobody".

I don't blame ThinkGeek either, it's a shame this has turned into such a brouhaha.
I do feel free to blame Fox because I still do not believe for one second that you can copyright a knit hat.
And 20th hasn't claimed copyright in a knit hat, anywhere that I'm aware of. But they have claimed "designs, symbols, language, images, or photographs that infringe upon the concerned party’s copyright or other intellectual property right" and that "use of various trademarks, characters, images, designs and/or other distinctive creative elements is not authorized".

I think language, trademarks, and characters likely covers promoting one's knitted hat with the words Firefly, Jayne Cobb, and other direct references to 20th's intellectual property.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2013-04-11 18:40 ]
Don't harsh the righteous indignation with facts, b!X. :)
I'm really enjoying the new crop of descriptions for the Jayne hats --oops, sorry, the "controversial headgear from that TV show that was cancelled." Fans are a resourceful bunch. I'm glad they've made funnies out of the situation.

That said...does anyone know of a particular seller (Think Geek or otherwise) who makes a Jayne hat that is actually worth wearing in the winter? You know, for warmth?
I just hope the lady in the office who knitted the first couple got something out of all this.
Blastr has also now collected the responses from Nathan, Adam and Shawna Trpcic in a follow-up blog post on this. (They seem to have missed Nathan's other tweets on the topic, including his expresion of approval at Think Geek's decision to donate the profits.)

This tweet from Nathan is by far my favorite, illustrating the parallels between this sitch and the show perfectly...

[ edited by counti8 on 2013-04-11 23:09 ]
Blastr didn't miss those tweets so much as they happened today, whereas the blog post was yesterday.
I don't actually like the hat that Ripple Junction has come up with. The colours are too bright and artificial, I feel. Jayne's hat looks as though it was made with wool, not acrylics and possibly from wool that had been used before for something else.

But I applaud ThinkGeek's decision to donate their profits to Equality Now through Can't Stop The Serenity. It is a classy thing to do . And this brou-ha-ha as bad as it is for the fans, may have raised the profile of Can't Stop The Serenity and that is a good thing.
In discussions with Organizers of CSTS screenings and affiliate events, it has become clear how many Browncoats have never heard of CSTS.

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