This week Firefly fans from all over the ‘Verse have come into contact with an old foe: 20th Century Fox. A mere ten years after the show’s cancellation. I won’t get too involved in the specifics of this latest corporate take down, it has been covered at length *here*.
But to summarise…many members of the homemade/crafts website Etsy whom knit and sell their own versions of Jayne’s yellow and red hat have had their listings and accounts shut down due to intellectual property law. ThinkGeek had recently began selling a licensed version of this fan favourite, paving the way for cease and desist notices to be sent to dozens of creative fans.
Firefly is not at the top of my list when it comes to Whedon’s work, but I am the proud owner of a Jayne hat, handmade with care by ‘Ma Cobbe’. I even still have the box it arrived in, complete with Alliance postage stamps, straw packaging and a letter from Ma Cobb herself; thus providing me with a more ‘authentic’ experience similar to Jayne’s own, the kind that could only come from someone dedicated to the show.
While such copyright cases are not unknown, and fans must know that they tread a fine line between fair use and infringement, the Jayne hat dispute must be a blow for Browncoats. In addition to Firefly’s premature cancellation all those years ago, the hat does not bear any formal logo or brand determining it as being under ownership. As each unofficial seller must knit the item by hand, no two hats are the same, and are most definitely not equal to the original worn on the show.
Although those who are able to can no doubt continue to make for their own use, the prohibition of their trade online only serves to highlight the relevance of the show’s authoritarian subtext. That the Jayne hat featured on the cover of Done the Impossible: The Fans’ Tale of Firefly & Serenity DVD now codes both items with additional meaning; a decade on heightening the correlation between Alliance and Fox.