BBC trying to muzzle the big 'Top Gear' secret

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BBC trying to muzzle the big 'Top Gear' secret

Tue Aug 31, 2010 @ 12:16PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Top-gear-the-stig The BBC is attempting to stop HarperCollins from publishing a book that will unmask the identity of the costumed stunt driver in the successful series "Top Gear."

"Top Gear" is the biggest BBC hit and an international sensation that features a stunt driver known as The Stig alongside famous guests. For years, many have speculated on the identity of The Stig, with British newspapers guessing it might be former Formula Three driver Ben Collins.

A new autobiography by The Stig himself will settle this once and for all -- but not if the BBC has its way.

The network is attempting to get a U.K. court to enjoin distribution of the book, arguing it "breaches agreed contractual and confidentiality obligations relating to the show."

BBC is also asserting that HarperCollins is violating its trademark rights too. The Beeb alleges that the publisher aims to profit from association with its famous marks.

Reality shows are known to guard their secrets carefully, often putting into contracts onerous penalties for those who blab. What happens when a cast-member decides to spill anyway?

Looks like we'll find out soon, though unfortunately, the case will be adjudicated behind closed doors.

"Top Gear" executive producer Andy Wilman writes on the show's blog:

"It’s an issue of trust. Everyone who’s ever worked on Top Gear has kept the Stig thing a secret, and the person who wears the suit has signed confidentiality agreements to do the same. So talk about what you like in your own life, but not the bit you agreed not to. Your word is supposed to mean something."

Meanwhile, in a statement, HarperCollins says it is disappointed that the BBC has "chosen to spend license fee payers' money to suppress this book."

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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