The BBC faces legal action following claims that it has been substantially flouting its rights to Noddy, Enid Blyton's much-loved children's character.
The discovery has come to light following the pounds 13m sale of Darrell Waters - the family company which managed the copyrights to Blyton's work - to the London entertainment complex the Trocadero in January. Lawyers combing through 45 years of licences have been astonished to find that the BBC had apparently been hugely exceeding its rights to Noddy, Blyton's most famous character.
They claim that not only did it pay a fraction of the real value for the first two Noddy series, but the corporation made the third without the right to do so. They also claim that the BBC has published dozens of Noddy spin-offs in the form of dolls and picture books despite the fact it only has rights to exploit the two Noddy series, not Noddy in general.
Darrell Waters has now been renamed the Enid Blyton Company by the Trocadero, which is "renegotiating" the BBC contracts and demanding "substantial" retrospective payments. Last year BBC Enterprises - now BBC Worldwide - is understood to have made about pounds 14m from Noddy, including foreign sales of the series, while Darrell Waters made pounds 150,000.
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