The Stig can be "outed": official

Last week, in "Stig-ment of the imagination?", the IPKat reported on the dispute between the BBC, which holds the rights to the unbelievably popular Top Gear TV series, and publisher HarperCollins over the latter's right to publish a book that reveals the secret but much-discussed identity of The Stig -- a perpetually helmeted driver.

Right: dashing from the court on foot, The Stig hopes to slip away unrecognised ...

Today, in "Stig court case: BBC loses battle over Ben Collins book", the BBC reports its own defeat. According to this news item, in relevant part:
"... The High Court in London refused to grant the BBC an injunction blocking the publication by HarperCollins of an autobiography of former Formula Three driver Ben Collins. The book, called The Man In The White Suit, claims Mr Collins is the mystery driver on the BBC Two show.

The BBC began legal action against HarperCollins last week. It says it won't confirm or deny that Ben Collins either was or remains The Stig. But Top Gear presenter James May, who was a studio guest on BBC London when High Court's decision was announced, made light of the situation. He said: "Obviously I'm now going to have to take some legal action of my own, because I have been the Stig for the past seven years, and I don't know who this bloke is, who's mincing around in the High Court pretending it's him."

The Stig is famous for his racing overalls and dark-visored helmet. His identity has long been a closely-guarded secret on Top Gear .... Several racing drivers have been linked to the role, including former Formula One world champions Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher.

Mr Collins, 33, from Redland, Bristol, was in court for part of Wednesday's hearing. The first Stig, Perry McCarthy, was dropped in 2003 after his identity was uncovered.

During the case this week - which took place behind closed doors - the BBC had argued that the planned book would breach confidentiality obligations. After more than a day of legal submissions before Mr Justice Morgan, HarperCollins lawyers emerged on Wednesday to say the case had concluded in their favour.

Solicitor Robin Shaw said: "The judge has said he is not going to grant an injunction in this case. Reasons are to follow and will be given in a private judgement."

A BBC statement said: "The Top Gear audience has always made it clear that they enjoy the mystery surrounding the identity of The Stig and the BBC felt it important to do all it could to protect that anonymity. The BBC brought this action as we believe it is vital to protect the character of The Stig which ultimately belongs to the licence fee payer. Today's judgement does not prevent the BBC from pursuing this matter to trial and the BBC will not be deterred from protecting such information from attack no matter when or by whom it should arise"...".
The IPKat doesn't see how the BBC could really have won this one, so he's really excited about getting to see the court's judgment in black and white (as it were ...). It can be argued that a legal right to preserve the anonymity of one's public pseudonymous identity would encourage investment in the commercialisation of such a commodity, but there doesn't seem to be such a right on the books at present.

The Man in the White Suit here
The Cat in the White Suit here
The Stig here
The Sting here
The Stig can be "outed": official The Stig can be "outed": official Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, September 01, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. "the unbelievably popular Top Gear TV series" - Not locally! Much of the noisy driving takes place on the perimeter track of a disused wartime aerodrome now called "Dunsfold Park".

  2. So the Stig is the property of the "licence payer" eh. Odd then how the applicant for this (withdrawn) TM below isn't "The Licence Payer" c/o The United Kingdom, as opposed to, er, the BBC.

  3. >>The IPKat doesn't see how the BBC could really have won this one

    Why? If an employee of Coca Cola wrote a book detailing the secret recipe, and Coke attempted to get an injunction for breach of confidentiality, does the Kat think Coke would lose too?

    Interested in why the Kat doesn't see why the breach of confidentiality agreement argument would stand up ...


  4. Yes IP cat do comment soon! Confidence in NDAs is evaporating fast.

    Are there classes of secret information that cannot be protected by a confidentiality agreement? Apart from those excepted by public interest? (Skills of the trade would be one I suppose? - bit that is out of fairness to the employee rather than the type of information.)

    Also encoragement of investment is surely not the only criteria for confidentiality. Patient records, servants revelations ...

    Does this also mean that the identity of "anonymous coward" posters on the internet not protected either?

  5. Has the BBC reported its own defeat so prominently due to a rare fit of journalistic impartiality, or post-colonial self-loathing? Or is it rather that, far from damaging Top Gear, the whole saga has been used to inject some life and interest into an otherwise tired, old programme? There's no such thing as bad publicity, after all..

  6. @David and Anonymous 3pm:

    Don't laugh: I can't respond to your challenge without disclosing information which has been passed to me in confidence! Wait till the full text of the judgment becomes available and you'll see why this isn't the same as the Coca-Cola analogy.

  7. I can hardly wait for that. It must contain something pretty amazing to drive a coach and horses through the law on breach of confidence (with an anonymous helmeted figure n white overalls at the reins, of course).


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