Doctor Who Faces Legal Threat From Son of Tardis Creator

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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Doctor Who Faces Legal Threat From Son of Tardis Creator


The son of the man who created the Tardis of Doctor Who fame is demanding that the BBC pay his family for 35 years of copyright infringement or stop using it.

Even the most casual Doctor Who fan knows about "time and relative dimensions in space," but I suspect that the majority of die-hard aficionados would be hard-pressed to tell you who actually invented the Tardis, the famed phone booth that carries The Doctor along on his adventures. That credit goes to Tony Coburn, the man who wrote "An Unearthly Child," the very first Doctor Who story arc that aired in 1963. According to his son Stef, Coburn was inspired by the "alien sight" of two blue police boxes he saw during a walk on Wimbledon Common in south-west London.

Tony Coburn died in 1977, at which time his son says whatever "informal permission" he'd given to the BBC to use his work came to an end. Copyright on his ideas then went to his widow, who earlier this year passed those rights on to Stef, and he's making a more aggressive claim to ownership than his parents. He says the BBC has been in violation of the copyright since his father's death and he wants it to pay for every use of the Tardis in the show since then or stop using it altogether.

"It is by no means my wish to deprive legions of Doctor Who fans (of whom I was never one) of any aspect of their favorite children's program," Coburn said. "The only ends I wish to accomplish, by whatever lawful means present themselves, involve bringing about the public recognition that should by rights always have been his due, of my father James Anthony Coburn's seminal contribution to Doctor Who, and proper lawful recompense to his surviving estate."

Coburn acknowledged that he is "extremely angry" that a BBC program about the series that's part of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration makes no mention of his father. The BBC said it's looking into the matter but also noted that it registered its own copyright in the 1980s and had received no complaints prior to this one; Coburn said he would have made a claim earlier but didn't hold the rights.

Source: The Independent [http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/who-owns-the-tardis-son-of-man-who-invented-doctor-whos-time-machine-is-challenging-bbc-over-breach-of-copyright-8930947.html]


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Ferisar

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Oct 2, 2010
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I'm sure your dad would look at you and cheer in knowing that you're not only not giving a shit about the spirit of the show, but you're also completely honest about it.

Invent your own damn TARDIS.
 

Neta

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Aug 22, 2013
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Andy Chalk said:
"It is by no means my wish to deprive legions of Doctor Who fans (of whom I was never one)
Explains it all.

How can you even see after your eyeballs have been replaced with giant Pound signs?
 

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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Might have been a good plan... if he were across the pond in the Land of the Lawsuit. In this case, I doubt he has a leg to stand on.
 

Britpoint

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Aug 30, 2013
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"I think it is disgraceful that I am not being given money for my late father's creative work."

Well, I suppose if it were my father and I saw the opportunity for an easy fortune I might do the same thing. But I can't say I'm going to root for the guy. What happens if rulings go in his favour and the BBC refuses to pony up? 9 million weekly viewers lose either their TARDIS or their show, this guy doesn't get a penny and his father's legacy slowly fades into obscurity.

In the event of such an outcome, let me be the first to say: Good job, you greedy entitled ****.
 

Limos

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Jun 15, 2008
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"I would have sued you for infringing on my copyright earlier but I didn't have the copyright."

So what legal grounds do you have for this then? You don't actually have the copyright seeing as they got that thirty years ago. You just sort of assumed you would have it by virtue of your family, even though they probably waved goodbye to any claim they had on it the aforementioned 30 years ago.
 

Battenberg

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Aug 16, 2012
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Is he really going to try and take some kind of moral high ground here? He played no part in the invention of the Tardis, the man who did saw no reason to charge the BBC more for his work, he's basically said he has no interest in the show (and by extension its fans), and the only reason he even has any kind of claim is that it was given to him (by another person who obviously didn't consider the money a priority). If he was simply trying to get his father some recognition for his work this would be fair enough and totally understandable but in reality this is nothing more than a transparent attempt to grab cash for someone else's work.

I know typically the big corporation in a case like this is seen as the 'bad guy' and the underdog gets support as a result but I really hope he doesn't see a penny from this pointless and greedy claim.
 

fix-the-spade

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Feb 25, 2008
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Well this is going to be a short legal battle.

Doctor Who is an original television series commissioned by the BBC, they own the copyright to everything, including the scripts and props. Coburn jr is about to look very silly when the BBC dig up Coburn sr's invoices and pay records for when he wrote the first episodes of Doctor Who for them. Hopefully he spends a lot of money in the process...
 

Mouse_Crouse

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Limos said:
"I would have sued you for infringing on my copyright earlier but I didn't have the copyright."

So what legal grounds do you have for this then? You don't actually have the copyright seeing as they got that thirty years ago. You just sort of assumed you would have it by virtue of your family, even though they probably waved goodbye to any claim they had on it the aforementioned 30 years ago.
Yea this is basically what I was thinking, if the copyright holders choose not to contest it, you cannot obtain the rights later and expect to do so. At least AFAIK at least in US copyright when you don't defend your copyright you lose it. I feel like this will go nowhere fast.
 

WickedFire

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With any luck I wont get moderated for this, but what a ****. Seriously. I takes a truly lecherous human being to sue for the use of TARDIS, effectively shitting on his own father's legacy. If his father and mother had no problem with it, and allowed the BBC to register the copyright, then he has no leg to stand on.
 

The Lunatic

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Jun 3, 2010
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Pretty reasonable to pay a guy for being part of the creation of such a memorable and profitable icon.


Dunno if he's in the right legally, but, morally, he's due something.
 

Roander

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Dec 27, 2009
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Andy Chalk said:
"It is by no means my wish to deprive legions of Doctor Who fans (of whom I was never one) of any aspect of their favorite children's program," Coburn said.
Is this actually considered a children's show in Britain? Most people I know who watch it are well into their 20s or 30s. This guy is doing a lousy job of pretending he's not a complete tool.
 

Andy Chalk

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Nov 12, 2002
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What a shame it is that this poor man didn't get paid a single penny for all the hard work that he didn't do.
 

Headsprouter

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Oct 14, 2020
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Roander said:
Andy Chalk said:
"It is by no means my wish to deprive legions of Doctor Who fans (of whom I was never one) of any aspect of their favorite children's program," Coburn said.
Is this actually considered a children's show in Britain? Most people I know who watch it are well into their 20s or 30s. This guy is doing a lousy job of pretending he's not a complete tool.
It's not considered a children's program, it's considered a family show. And yeah, I don't think this guy really cares about his father's honour.


Yeah. That's all I can see, here.
 

Bvenged

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Sep 4, 2009
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This guy's being a right old muppet. The TARDIS, by design, can shift its appearance to something else. It wouldn't take the writers much to go "Okay, the camouflage is fixed now, it's going to be a red phone box".
 

Soviet Heavy

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Roander said:
Andy Chalk said:
"It is by no means my wish to deprive legions of Doctor Who fans (of whom I was never one) of any aspect of their favorite children's program," Coburn said.
Is this actually considered a children's show in Britain? Most people I know who watch it are well into their 20s or 30s. This guy is doing a lousy job of pretending he's not a complete tool.
It's Kid Friendly, but it's meant for everyone. Tom Baker's 4th Doctor aired all the time on BBC Kids in Canada, despite the fact that most of his episodes were borderline Gothic Horror tales.