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
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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