Life will never be quite the same! For years we speculated – could it be Schumacher (he did once emerge from under the helmet, but it clearly was a guest appearance), was the name a silly play on ‘The Gits’, and were the three men with the best jobs in the world, Clarkson, Hammond and May, simply taking turns at dressing up and throwing high-powered cars around a track? But now The Stig of Top Gear has an identity, it’s Ben Collins. It’s a bit like finding out that there isn’t really an Easter Bunny (hope that hasn’t ruined anyone’s day!).
Anyway, the BBC was unable to stop Collins from spilling the beans in his biography. At issue was the oft-overlooked IP right of confidential information. A relationship of confidentiality can be imposed by circumstances, but it’s much better to put it in a contract. A typical example might be where someone who’s high on creativity but low on capital takes their bright idea to an organisation that’s dull of mind but deep of pocket, and asks the organisation to agree in writing that not only will it be thankful for what it is about to receive, but that it will also keep it confidential in the event that no deal is done. There are of course limits – you can’t require someone to treat as confidential information they already had, or information that’s in the public domain, and you can’t blame them if the information you reveal becomes public through no fault of their own.
These issues came up in the case brought by the BBC. The judge accepted that, irrespective of any contract, the relationship was one that imposed a duty of confidence. But the reality was that all the newspapers had already published Collins’ name before the court hearing, so an injunction would have been meaningless. There was also a relationship of confidence created by contract but, believe it or not, the Beeb fluffed its lines - it signed a contract with Collins’ company and not with him personally, so the obligation not to reveal identity related to the company and not him. It is amazing how sometimes the smallest details trip up the largest organisations.
Confidential information is iffy, but it’s often the only protection available, especially as there is no patent protection for business methods. So every thinking person should have a simple Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement that can be whipped out at a moment’s notice. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if any other mystery characters will be emboldened by the BBC decision. Can we look forward to Father Christmas: My Story - Why I don’t really like children, Why reindeers need to be whipped, and Why I’m so over Lapland and more than ready to return to Polokwane.
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