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   Legal Archives / First NG Battle - NG vs. BBC

The first part of Newgrounds to be done in Flash was also the first part of newgrounds to receive a serious legal threat. This letter was sent to my mailbox, complete with BBC letterhead:

Tom Fulp
P.O. Box 7231

3 August 1999

Dear Mr Fulp

Telebubby website

I am the brand protection manager at BBC Worldwide, the Commercial arm of the BBC. BBC Worldwide is the exclusive licensee of various intellectual property rights owned by Ragdoll Productions in the characters known as TELETUBBIES. These rights include copyright and trade mark rights amongst others.

BBC Worldwide licenses these rights internationally and co-ordinates litigation against infringers.

It has been brought to my attention that you are running a website at which features various violent images in which copies of characters from the show TELETUBBIES can be blown apart and other images showing characters which mimic the TELETUBBIES taking drugs and indulging in various sexual practices.

This site infringes our and Ragdoll’s intellectual property rights. Furthermore, we consider it wholly inappropriate that a website of this nature should be on the internet. Although you claim on your BBC page that your site would not be found by children, since it features the name TELETUBBIES (see for instance “The BBC is the huge British Corporation…they also own Teletubbies”) your pages could be accessed by them.

You state incorrectly on your site that by changing the name to Telebubbies and by redrawing the TELETUBBIES images you have managed to avoid infringing our intellectual property rights. This is incorrect. Copyright law will be infringed if first, you have copied the Teletubbies (which your website admits you have) and secondly the images are considered close enough to the original copyright material. In my view there is no doubt that these would be close enough to infringe Ragdoll and the BBC’s copyright.

Moreover, there is also the question of trade mark rights. Ragdoll owns numerous trade marks for the mark TELETUBBIES and also for the images of the various characters known as the TELETUBBIES. These trademarks will be infringed in various countries if the mark “Telebubbies” and the images of the so called Telebubbies are considered to be close enough to be confusingly similar. In my view there is no doubt that the court would find these confusingly similar given the very close similarity between our product and your copy. I also think that the nature of your site means it is highly unlikely that a court would have much sympathy for your argument.

Given that you are infringing our rights in the manner set out above, we now require you within the next seven days

1. To remove from your website:

  • any images of the characters known as THE TELETUBBIES, NOO NOO, or the Sun Baby or any similar images thereto;
  • any references to the TELETUBBIES, or any name similar thereto including but not limited to Telebubbies;
  • any reference to Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa, Po or Dipsy or any names similar thereto including but not limited to Dinky Winky, Lah Lah, Poe or Dipshit.

2. To provide us with written undertakings concerning any future use of the materials referred to above at 1.

Should you fail to comply with these requirements, I will be recommending to Ragdoll that we consider taking legal action against you for your infringement of our intellectual property rights.

If you are in any doubt as to the contents of this letter I suggest that you consult an attorney.

Yours sincerely

Susan Davey
Brand Protection Manager
BBC Worldwide

I got ahold of Susan Davey on the phone, at which point she pretty much scolded me for having such content on the web. Because FAIR USE laws differ between the US and UK, I removed the Telebubby site while I searched for answers. Everyone pretty much said the same thing - I had every right to do a parody.

Soooo... I put the site back up. To this day, the BBC is still contacted by journalists doing pieces on newgrounds. Their response is that they are "investigating the matter", but I haven't had any problems since. I'd say that I don't have any hard feelings, but wouldn't be as fun, so I'd rather make fun of them any chance I get. Still, I appreciate that they have let me sleep at night, unlike those bastard PEANUTS lawyers.