For nigh on a decade, Firefly fans have worn their homespun Jayne hats with pride. It seems, though, that those days are numbered.
If you've ever been to a convention, then you know that the easiest way to spot a fellow Browncoat is to keep an eye out for Jayne Cobb's very cunning hat. For the last 10 years, fans of the show have been making (and often selling) their own versions of the hat through sites like Etsy and at conventions, too. On the show, the hat was made by Jayne's mom, and, likewise, there has always been a touch of motherly love to each and every Jayne hat made by fans. No two are quite alike. That's the charm.
Recently, though, Ripple Junction, a company that produces licensed apparel, obtained the rights to mass-produce the Jayne Hat. It instantly became a hit seller on popular nerd sites like ThinkGeek. It seemed that getting a Jayne hat was easier than ever. But that ease came with a price.
Firefly fans are coming out of the woodwork, and they are hopping mad. Why? Turns out in the last few weeks many of them have received cease-and-desist letters or have simply been banned from Etsy for producing DIY Jayne Hats. This communal endeavor, it seems, is coming to a close, and fans of the show are asking themselves why. Isn't the whole point of the Jayne hat that it be homemade? Doesn't it mean anything that the hats are often auctioned off at charity events? After 10 years of nothing, isn't it unfair for Fox to suddenly force lifelong fans to cease production of something they love?
And the answer, for now, is that Fox owns the license and that's that. The fans who are mad that the hat was licensed for mass production are the ones who are closest to hitting the nail on the head. The fact is, Fox now has a legal obligation to its shareholders -- they have to chase down anyone producing and selling a licensed product without permission. Ripple Junction holds the license, the fans do not.
We reached out to both Ripple Junction and ThinkGeek to see what, if any, involvement they had in the sending of C&Ds. Both companies denied involvement.
So does this really mean no more handmade Jayne hats? Well, no. People can still make them, they just can't sell them right now. As to whether you can copyright a simply patterned hat, that argument is ongoing.