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Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double Bass 337

Slate has a piece about Harry Potter and copyright worldwide that is a disguised call for copyright reform. Well written, well argued, extremely good argument, won't be picked up anywhere else.
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Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double Bass

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  • And aren't parodies are a protected form of speech?
    • by aheath ( 628369 ) <adam.heath@comca ... net minus distro> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:29AM (#6318532)
      There's a thin line between knock-off and parody. National Lampoon's "Bored of the Rings" and "Doon" were obvious Parodies of "Lord of the Rings" and "Dune." (Second part of sentence gratuitously inserted for the caffeine deprived.) "Harry Potter and Leopard Walk-Up-toDragon" appears to create sufficient confusion by mixing Harry Potter characters and Tolkien characters without permission. This should not be allowed unless it is clearly sold as a satire. "Tanya Grotter" is clearly trying to ride the coat tails of the Harry Potter hype. Tanya Grotter appears to be somewhat derivative of Harry Potter. However, most "grown-up" reviews of Harry Potter point out that J.K. Rowling's work borrows ideas from all sorts of other previous works. Derivation, in and of itself, is the way that literature advances. It is not a reason to use copyright law to suppress a work.
      • by axxackall ( 579006 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @06:40AM (#6318774) Homepage Journal
        Tanya Grotter appears to be somewhat derivative of Harry Potter.

        Did you read it or you just repeat after others?

        Tanya Grotter is completely based on Russian folklor fantasy story tails, which I heard more than 3 decades ago from my grandmother. And I won't be surprised to find out that Harry Potters stories are based on west-europen folklor. So, who is stealing what?

        • by Marnhinn ( 310256 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @09:58AM (#6319318) Homepage Journal
          I've read the book series about Tanya Grotter (there is more than one) while I was in Russia not too long ago.

          Let me say this about the book. It is not the same as Harry Potter in anyway shape or form. It simply uses similar names and items. The storyline itself is different enough that I would not consider it a copyright violation.

          What Tanya and her friends are doing - is trying to capitalize on the market potential of Harry Potter. A Harry Potter Book in Kazan, Russia costs about 140 Rubles (4 dollars) while you can buy a Tanya Grotter for slightly cheaper - 100 Rubles (3 dollars). Since the names are somewhat similar and the covers (of the Harry Potter Books and Tanya Grotter Books) both have the same style of artwork, a good many people buy the Tanya Grotter book as it is cheaper (and written by a Russian, meaning understandable, FYI - the Harry Potter books don't transalate well at all, Just how do you say muggle in a foreign language?)

          This of course ticks off the Harry Potter People, but I don't think you can Tanya Grotter for blatant copyright violations (other than similar names)...
        • Whether or not Tanya Grotter existed before, in her current state, it is a derivative of Harry Potter. Even the author admits to it.

          In an interview with journalist Steve Gutterman, author Dmitry Yemets called her "a sort of Russian answer to Harry Potter," and described his books as "cultural competition" for the original.

          That's taken from the article. At no point does Yemets claim that her Tanya Grotter was an original, or independent from Harry Potter, but rather an answer (which, if I'm not mistaken,
        • The issue is, ancient folklore is in the public domain, but the Harry Potter and Tolkien series are not in the public domain. Considering the ongoing extensions to copyright laws that have been going on over the past century, and more notably with the 'Sonny Bono' law in recent years, these works may never become public domain anyway.

          Copyright is a legal monopoly, plain and simple (as are patents, as well). Copyright law [] as set down by the U.S. Government states, among other things:

          102 states:
          (b) In
      • by spirality ( 188417 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:15AM (#6319392) Homepage
        Do you think Tolkein didn't copy mythical monsters from the oldest legends? Everyone borrows from everyone else. This is a fact of life.

        You are correct though, derivation is the way literature advances. A derivative work could be itself more innovative than the original. Certainly Weird Al does a better job on some songs than the original artists did. :)

        The larger question though is, is copyright and patent law broken. Of course I know that will get a resounding yes on Slashdot, but what can be done to fix it?

        It seems no matter what limits are put on an author's monopoly of their work it will be arbitary, but many of the kids reading Harry Potter today will never see the day they can legally create derivative works. This is a total disservice to the culture for the benefit of a very small group of people. The temporary monopoly of copyright was given as an incentive to create. When it becomes something that discourages innovation and creativity it has gone too far.

        The whole concept of intellectual property in this country has gone too far. It's unfortunate though, that I don't see anyone fixing it. The people who could fix it (the senators etc...) have too many hands in their pockets to come up with something fair for the public. Moreover, I don't believe they really understand technology that well to begin with, and techonology is a large part of why intellectual property laws are so screwed up. I don't know what it's going to take to get these people to open their eyes.

        More piracy could have many effects, one could be a huge clamp down and further extension of ridiculous copyright and patent laws. It could also have the opposite effect, but that is unlikely. I wonder what kind of activism could be used successfully to make the powers that be realize this particular branch of law is entirely broken?

        [sigh] We're in for a ride the next 20 or so years.
      • Although copyright law does ban derivative works, it shouldn't. Abolishing this ban is a desparately needed copyright reform. Any chimpanzee can tell the difference between J.K. Rowling's official Harry Potter books, and immitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Knock-offs have always been around, and always will be. Big deal. No one is going to think less of Rowling, or her charachter, because of an immitation. This whole thing reminds me of overzealous copyright lawyers laying the smack down on fanfic
    • But they aren't parodies at all, as the article clearly states, even though it's antithetical to it's own arguments.
    • by Babbster ( 107076 ) <aaronbabb AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:53AM (#6318682) Homepage
      That's not at all the point the author is making, though you're right about parodies/satire being permitted as "fair use" under US copyright law.

      The article isn't an argument to apply carefully current copyright law (which allows satire, use of excerpts in criticism, etc.). Rather, it's an argument that copyright laws are not being used to protect the rights of an author to profit from their own work but instead are diminishing the ability of others to make new product that might be loosely, or even directly, based on the original work. While this might sound like the author doesn't like copyright at all, rather she seems to be saying that copyright should be more literal and only prevent TRUE copying of material. In her example, she's advocating the ability to publish a book where Harry Potter meets Gandalf while still being against someone simply selling bootleg versions of "Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone."

      • Is that a good thing?

        There's only one small step from a book where Harry meets Gandalf to one where Gandalf sexually abuses Harry, and while the libertarians here will doubtless fight to the death for peoples' rights to produce books like that, I can't help
        feeling that an author deserves some (limited, temporary) right to protect what happens to her characters. Art is not like business; few authors write only for profit.
    • by dimss ( 457848 )

      Tanya Grotter is just a parody.

      Another nice example of parody is russian "translation" [] of "Two Towers" movie made by Goblin. In fact, it is mostly new text, which looks like typical russian criminal story. All characters became criminals or soldiers from Russia and nearby countries. Original soundtrack is partially replaced by popular russian and other (Rammstein, Deep Purple etc.) songs.

      We (Russians) find it really funny. Virtually everybody likes this "translation", although few of us have seen

  • Sad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Goldberg's Pants ( 139800 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:17AM (#6318499) Journal
    It's pretty sad. Rowling always said she would NEVER sell the rights to Harry Potter. Now if you look at he books, there's a small message on the copyright page saying that Time Warner own the rights to all the character names and likenesses.

    The fact she's an unmitigated sellout aside, Rowling (I have no problem with people making money from their creations, but do NOT take the moral high ground and say you'll never sell the rights, then in the same breath be a media whore who gives their soul to the nearest media behemoth), along with Time-Warner, are becoming cease-and-desist junkies of the highest order. MANY fansites are being shut down.
    • Re:Sad (Score:2, Insightful)

      by darien ( 180561 )
      The fact she's an unmitigated sellout...

      I take your point, but I think 'unmititgated' is a bit strong. I bet she's kept a lot of artistic control. If she'd sold Time Warner the right of approval over the final two Harry Potter works, while allowing them to independently produce their own, then perhaps you could call her an unmitigated sell-out. But so far as I can tell, all she's done is permit Time Warner to sell figurines and other film merchandise. Which seems reasonable enough, considering they've mad
    • Re:Sad (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gunix ( 547717 )
      Well, I can't understand what is the problem with fansites. If I had created Harry Potter I think that I would not have had any problems with people doing free advertising for my books. After all, its those people that buy my book.

      I think much of the problem with patents, copyright, IP-laws etc, is that the monopoly, that is created due to those laws, is based on the situation that was before the IT revolution. Charles Dickens stories was successful due to their own merits. Today Dickens would only have be
      • Well, I can't understand what is the problem with fansites. If I had created Harry Potter I think that I would not have had any problems with people doing free advertising for my books. After all, its those people that buy my book.

        Erm...have you seen some of the Harry Potter fansites? A lot of them are respectable, but the rest - well, that's one whole other hornet's nest.
      • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @06:39AM (#6318773) Journal
        The fact is, this sort of "artistic dictatorship" is a relatively recent invention. I don't know of any art that doesn't derive from other art, do you ?

        Begin rant :
        The common theme behind excessive and restrictive patents and lengthly and restrictive copyrights is what has me disgusted. Our progress, both technological and cultural, relies heavily on derived work. Inventors and artists alike borrow ideas and add their own to create new technology and works, and the thing we find most appaling is that some people would slow this progress, stop it entirely if possible, to reap more than their fair share of rewards. Sure your invention was great, it will help people and make us happy, but the next guy's invention will be even better, so get the hell out of his way.

        I think copyright is neccesary, but why must it be so long ? And why cover derivative works at all ? I think patents are neccesary, but how can they be so broad ? Why should one person stop all others from persuing an entire area of innovation ?

        Money money money money money. Bastards.
        • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gunix ( 547717 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @07:02AM (#6318817)
          Yes, everything is derivative work.
          Or as a famous scientist (Newton?) said, "If I have seen further, it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants".

          Too bad that a very long perspective in economics is non-existent.
        • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Lysol ( 11150 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @09:19AM (#6319185)
          And this is how the machine feeds..

          This is a hugely daunting and depressing topic since when you think about it, those in power - the rich and their corporations - have not only put their fist down in the U.S., but also abroad with the WTO. It is quite useless to argue this point to all the copyright and patent holders since to them, the issue is very cut and dry - it all, 100%, comes down to profit.

          They will not recognize the fact that yes, like Newton, we all stand on the shoulders of giants before us - this is only useful to those willing to 'share' and those who don't have anything. But how does that affect the members of a board - who usually sit on other boards - when they go home every night to their nice little private castles, shutting out the world? Why, it takes away what is theirs, which of course, threatens their existence, their comfortable life. This is so obvious with the current administation, btw. So obvious.

          This is all possible, obviously, because of money. These people who run these corporations who lobby our government - and who stock it - have truck loads of it. I have many talks with my close friends about this and we all agree indeed that this is the Matrix. Not the sci-fi version, but the version of control. Not to turn us into a battery, but to turn us into a mindless follower willing to die or buy for the top percent who can afford pretty much anything.

          Look at other examples:
          DMCA - control of your sewing patterns you dig out of the trash; control of the xbox that you purchased.
          Palladium - control of the computer that you purchased
          DRM - control of the information that you purchased
          EULAs - not only control of the software you bought (lawyers like to call it 'the license you bought' which of course, can be revoked at any time), but the ability to not be responsible for anything negative that might come of its use. Think viruses, crashes, etc...

          There are probably only a very few ways out of this. Maybe you can play the game and become one of the haves and then make the same rules and propagate the same sort of attitude as the people in charge do now - some call these 'society's rules'.

          Or maybe you'll become well to do and fight those rules and pursue the ideas of fairness and liberty for all. Ideas that exist in all cultures and in most religious texts, i.e., common sense.

          Or maybe you'll scrape by and fight for those ideas of fairness and liberty, yet hold a grudge forever knowing you're on the short end of the stick and you probably won't have a 'comfortable life'.

          Or, maybe you'll just be one of those who doesn't care and just goes with the flow. Not really content, but not caring enough to stir things up. Contributing to causality without know anything of it.

          Regardless of what path you take, it will take the voices of many to 'wake up' and realize that these laws will only benefit a few - the few who can continue to afford it. They have nothing to do with fairness and justness for the whole and everything to do with greed and control by the few. Only when everyone, like the founding fathers and mothers and all other revolutionaries around the world, stands together can we make an impact. When divided, we fall.

          It may not seem like it, but this really is what the people and corps who push these laws count on. In smaller numbers, all are more easily controlled. Which is the ultimate goal for them as the Slate story shows. Free your mind...
          • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @12:19PM (#6319949) Homepage Journal
            Speaking as one of the Older Generation around here [g] I've noticed a general downslide in both creative and manufacturing quality over the past two decades, and I think it is largely attributable to the corporate control of which you rant. There is no incentive toward quality when the consuming masses will consume it regardless, either thru lifeling training (most kids now have never *seen* real quality in many goods and services, so don't know what they're missing) or thru lack of alternatives.

            Or as I describe the roots of the often piss-poor service and quality of goods around Los Angeles: It doesn't matter if there are 6 million people who know it's Crud. There are 6 million more who don't know any better or can't tell the difference, and will buy it anyway. So why spend the extra dollar or go the extra mile to make your goods and services better than the next guy's?? Who cares, since you can sell it anyway, and can make more profit by cutting corners. So now instead of a clear market dichotomy between original quality (which many people are willing to pay for) and cheap knockoffs (which was once a separate market), the entire market has become cheap knockoffs, with no better choices available even if you want them.

            The fact that corporations and individuals can now so readily clamp broad controls against would-be competition only makes matters worse.

            For all we know, maybe one of these Harry Potter lookalikes would be the start of something great and unique, if only it were allowed to grow in its own way.

    • A few points. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:25AM (#6318631) Homepage Journal
      1) Read the copywrite page again.
      The images and characters are owned by warner brothers (which in turn are a subsidiary of Time-Warner, but saying that Time-Warner owns it is still imprecise), but the books are publishing rights are owned by the publishing company.

      2) Where would we be without the Shannara books? Tolkien didn't publish enough for the voracious readers and we wanted more in the same genre that was invented by those books!

      The same can be said for the original sword & sorcery books created by the Conan the Barbarian series (which actually generously allowed many authors to write books on it), and the spy novels that started with the James Bond books (yes, they were books first).

      Do you think that this is any different? People want more than seven books! Sure, those seven will be revered and treasured, but we want MORE books about ordinary kids doing magic.

      Killing off the "copies" will obviously be doing the world a great disservice.

      Well...mostly. I'm sure that there are some porn-related Harry Potter knock-offs that don't exactly scream good literature.
    • Re:Sad (Score:4, Informative)

      by Teddeh ( 685247 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:29AM (#6318638)
      She may have sold the rights, but she hasn't sold artistic control. JK has a lot of control over how the films are handled. She also has a hell of a lot of control over the merchandising. In a recent interview, she said she was horrified at some of the merchandising ideas presented to her and she vetoed them. I do agree about Time-Warner's legal dept tho. Cease and desists to some 11yr old's fan site are not a good PR move.
    • Overreacting (Score:5, Informative)

      by Llywelyn ( 531070 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:31AM (#6318642) Homepage
      "It's pretty sad. Rowling always said she would NEVER sell the rights to Harry Potter. Now if you look at he books, there's a small message on the copyright page saying that Time Warner own the rights to all the character names and likenesses."

      She didn't sell the rights to the books (IIRC), only to the "names and likenesses," which was probably a mandatory step moving it into the movie industry, having action figures, &c. She probably didn't want to deal with all of the paperwork of subcontracting each individual entity for these things (a company to make toys, &c) and it may have been a mandatory, and not terribly offensive part of the deal for her.

      Looking at my copy of Book 4 (I don't have book 5 on hand) it says, in the jacket:
      "Text copyright © 2000 by J.K. Rowling"

      Thus, I would say calling her an "unmitigated sellout" is probably a bit harsh.
      • Looking at my copy of Book 4 (I don't have book 5 on hand) it says, in the jacket:
        "Text copyright © 2000 by J.K. Rowling"

        Still, that won't prevent SCO from suing her and WB and everyone else eventually.

      • Re:Overreacting (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mst76 ( 629405 )
        Thus, I would say calling her an "unmitigated sellout" is probably a bit harsh.
        Why make the movies at all?
        • Re:Overreacting (Score:5, Insightful)

          by drix ( 4602 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @07:21AM (#6318853) Homepage
          You can say that if you want, fine. But then next time someone offers you a couple hundred million dollars to simply sign your name on a piece of paper, either refuse or you are an unmitigated hypocrite. I know what I would do, and I have a pretty good idea what you would, too.
          • Re:Overreacting (Score:3, Insightful)

            That's a bit harsh yourself.

            Contracts and though you haven't said it, court battles, occur all the time. It's not all out of malice. A contract to make a movie may not necessarily protect her and HER rights, but the movie maker and THEIR rights. Unless you've seen what was in the contract, it could say anything from:

            "I release license of 'Harry Potter' for 7 movies only, which are all under MY approval. This is not a transfer of rights. All production must pass my approval first"


            "I'm a consumer
            • Are you saying that they are actually going to make 7 of these movies. I mean, I liked the first two movies myself, but I think this whole thing is going to get a little tired after movie 4 or 5. Seems to me like Time Warner took her for a ride by saying they could make 7 movies off the books. I think that's about the most they ever could make, any more would just be stupid. Put simply, Time warner has pretty much bought rights to all the Harry Potter movies that are ever going to be made.
      • The whole case seems more centered around the names and likenesses. IANAL, but isn't that more a matter of trademarks than of copyrights?
      • She [Rowling] probably didn't want to deal with all of the paperwork of subcontracting each individual entity for these things (a company to make toys, &c) and it may have been a mandatory, and not terribly offensive part of the deal for her.

        I think Rowling chose AOL Time Warner because the Time-Warner side of AOLTW has a famous legacy of intellectual property licensing and protection, thanks to the former Licensing Corporation of America, a division inside then-Warner Communications. This former divi
    • Re:Sad (Score:5, Informative)

      by sebi ( 152185 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @06:15AM (#6318730)
      MANY fansites are being shut down.

      On the other hand J.K.R. doesn't seem to have any problems with fan fiction. There [] are [] quite [] a few web-sites out there who specialised in publishing Harry Potter fan fiction. I think J.K.R. doesn't want others to profit from her creation and AOL-TW might not like the use of copyrighted material on fan-sites, but they both let people take the characters and settings and try something new with them.
  • hehe (Score:5, Funny)

    by Graspee_Leemoor ( 302316 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:17AM (#6318500) Homepage Journal
    " In something of a departure, Harry's Belarussian clone wields a grenade launcher and re-fights the White Russian wars"

    Now that's a Harry Potter I can identify with more!


  • really... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Destree ( 679322 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:24AM (#6318522)
    Won't be picked up anywhere else? This article has been on the front page of all day Friday.
  • A bit weak for me. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dbarclay10 ( 70443 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:26AM (#6318525)
    Overall, I found the article somewhat weak. While the author made some very good specific points, he often harped about the quality of the localised ripoffs. Specifically, the author referred to the original as "superior" to the localised versions which incorporated a culture's own mythology and history.

    Having written a large number of editorial articles in the past, I think I understand where this author is coming from. The author may be attempting to appeal to those who are staunch (some might say zealous) supporters of the Harry Potter and its creator Rowling by appealing to their vanity.

    Unfortunately, I think the tradeoff wasn't worth it. The end result is that anybody *rational* who reads it (anybody who can understand the innate quality and indeed superiority of characters adapted to the mythos, legends, and history of a given community) will see this HUGE flaw in logic and will doubt the rest of the article.

    I know I do, myself - even though after careful examination I agree with his specific points, I wish such careful examination wasn't required.
    • by lorien420 ( 473393 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:43AM (#6318556)
      You missed the point entirely. The author wasn't trying to appeal to anybody by stating that the original was "superior." As is expressed later in the article, international rip-offs only come about after the original has reached a certain level of success and popularity. The rip-offs are written to capitalize on this success. It's an admission of the original's superiority, otherwise Rowling would be ripping of Grotter.
    • If you think that a book is inherently better just because it incorporates the local mythos, legends, etc., please don't let me ever take any book recommendations from you. That's like saying that the latest crap updated remake of a Shakespeare play turned into a movie is inherently better than the original work.
    • Although it wasn't stated implicitly in the article, I'd imagine that the author could easily have READ some of the books in question (or at least excerpts). Have you done the same?

      I certainly wouldn't find a version of The Brothers Karamazov set in modern America to have "innate quality and indeed superiority" over the original just because it's no longer set in 19th century Russia.

  • " Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - $19.99"
  • by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:31AM (#6318536)
    Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon, in which Harry encountered sweet and sour rain, became a hairy troll, and joined Gandalf to re-enact scenes from The Hobbit.
    Pretty much sums up memories of playing Dungeons & Dragons on a weekend in high school.

  • by Lomak ( 175786 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:38AM (#6318543)

    Art which uses found objects, cultural references, preexisting stories may be protected under the fair use doctrine.

    To decide whether a use is "fair use" or not, courts consider:

    1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit education purposes;

    2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

    3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and,

    4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. 17 U.S.C. 107(1-4)

    more here []


    • To decide whether a use is "fair use" or not, courts consider:

      Applying your criteria to the legendary National Lampoon's "Bored of the Rings", it appears to fit into each categories exactly the same way a Harry Potter derivative would... Namely, "for profit", "derivative", "almost none beyond generalities", and "increases it" (ala dojinshi).

      So, why can I buy the National Lampoon's derivative works, but not an interesting retelling of Harry Potter "regionalized" for Bulgaria?

      Well, screw you, Rowling.
      • The reason National Lampoon (Mad, Crazy, etc.) can get away with what they do is because their work is parody which is a special exception included in copyright law and doesn't have to be considered under the original poster's court other words, any attempt to sue National Lampoon for one of their comedy bits on the basis of copyright infringement would be thrown out of court before any judging has to be done.
        • can get away with what they do is because their work is parody

          I kinda expected someone to point that out...

          While I don't completely disagree with you (ie, US law does seem to specifically allow parodies), works such as "Bored of the Rings" no more parody Tolkien than a typical slash-fiction of star-trek parodies that show.

          Derivative works with baudy humor do not a parody make.

          With Mad's stuff, sure, I can see it clearly as an outright parody. But quite a lot that tries to call itself "parody" I wo
  • by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:42AM (#6318554)
    You could say that Burger King and Wendy's stole the idea of a fun, plastic burger joint from McDonald's and are unfairly profiting from their evil deed. But when it comes to burger joints, we accept that the consequence of a competitive market is less profit for the first mover (McDonald's)

    It has to be said: if McDonald's had patented, trademarked or copyrighted the 'plastic burger joint', they'd be suing Burger King and Wendy's, and never mind the competitive market...

    It also has to be said, that if Rowling has registered "Harry Potter" as a trademark, then she has to fight anyone diluting that trademark. Just like anyone else defending their trademarks - defend it or lose it.

    • Totally, this article is full of terrible, weak analogies like that, contrary to whatever Michael wrote in his little summation of the story.
    • by HBI ( 604924 )
      You couldn't trademark or copyright a plastic burger joint completely. You could copyright the menu. You could trademark the name "McDonalds", of course.

      You could, however, patent its processes. Particularly today. So the act of flipping burgers and getting just the right level of greasiness would become like Amazon's one-click patent.

      I think the comparison was kind of strained in the initial article as well.
    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @10:40AM (#6319501)
      It has to be said: if McDonald's had patented, trademarked or copyrighted the 'plastic burger joint', they'd be suing Burger King and Wendy's, and never mind the competitive market...

      While you cannot 'copyright' the idea of running a burger joint, ever since the 1980s you've been able to patent it under US Patent law.

      Fortunately for burger lovers everywhere, McDonalds, Burger King, et al (i.e. the fast food business model) predates that appallingly ill-concieved change in patent law, and so we do have a competative marketplace in that regard.

      However, as eBay and others have shown, we are now facing at least a generation or longer of time where the most innovative and promising approaches to business will enjoy little or no competition as a direct result of allowing said business models to be patented for 20 years (and probably extended to other areas when they expire, allowing them to last even longer).

      Goodbye free market.

      Copyright destroys competative markets as well. It has been judged, rightly or wrongly, that this is an acceptable tradeoff to allow authors and other artists to work full time on their craft, rather than being forced to hold down a day job at the same time. Perhaps this was true when copyrights lasted 14 years ... however, clearly now that they have been extended to life+70 years for artists, and 95 years for corporate "art", any such balance in the tradeoff has been lost.

      We should have Harry Potter knockoffs, just as we have JRR Tolkien knockoffs (Eddings, etc.), and just as we have Gibson knockoffs (indeed, he created the cyberpunk genre). This is how an innovative series of books leads to entire genres of fiction, creating entire new markets. JK Rowling is a greedy, shortsighted ass to do this, but more importantly, copyright is a dysfunctional, destructive, negative-sum system in its current form. Indeed, any system that preemtively destroys entire genres of literature or entire new markets just to protect the profitability of one work is inherently negative-sum, destructive to everyone. This is true of patents (and epitomized by patents on software, mathematics, and business models), and it is true of copyright in its current excessive form.

      So, lest we dismiss the example the article's author gave initially, under our current regime of laws, if McDonalds came into being today, there would be no Burger King, for at least 20 years, possibly longer. And if JRR Tolkien were written today, much of the fantasy literature of the world would likewise be banned (remember, even 30 years ago copyright wasn't nearly as draconian as it is today).
  • weak article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by happystink ( 204158 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:51AM (#6318572)
    This article is just weak. First off, it makes the argument that the ripoff works are okay because, while they may tarnish the characters, to block them would be some sort of crime against a free market. Then right at the end, the author suddenly decided to talk about parody, but actually admits that the copycat works are not works of parody. The 2 Live Crew analogy is particularily terrible, it's the writer's way of framing the issue beside a case that everyone agrees on, but it really has nothing to do with the books in question.

    If this was about the publishers attacking small fan-fiction sites, that'd be one thing, but this is a case of people making millions and millions of dollars by copying (no, not always word for word, but stealing characters, etc. is still stealing), in a pure act of commerce. You can hate JK Rowling for being rich and blocking these books, but you at least have to credit her for caring about the books, the people the article is defending are pure commercial opportunists.
    • Stolen characters? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by poptones ( 653660 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:26AM (#6318632) Journal
      I don't see anything about "stolen characters." Not even in Rowling's own comments; I've heard nary a mention of Tanya being "stolen." In fact she's a she, a bit of a brat, and dabbles in the dark side - not exactly the good master potter.

      The fact this character is an invention of someone else's fantasy (a russian man writing about a girl instead of a british woman writing about a boy) means the characters, even in the overlap, will not be the same.

      The girl could have been given any (more dissimilar) name at all and there would have been little anyone could do to stop the publication. Clearly the issue isn't with someone writing a parody, but only with someone besides AOL profiting from that parody. And in that regard, I call shenanigans!

  • by Admiral Burrito ( 11807 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @04:58AM (#6318582)

    This is just stupid. Clearly, something needs to be done about copyright laws. Save Tanya Grotter!

    I encourage you all to email, fax, or snail-mail your WTO representative and have them raise this important issue at their next meeting.

    Remember, we live in a democracy, and policy makers are there to represent the people, not just wealthy business interests. Contact your WTO representative now!

    • Maybe what Tanya's author and publisher should do is get together with the Disney folk, and charge Rowling et al with infringement of a long list of their publications. They might start with the Sorcerer's Apprentice, though of course that was stolen whole from an earlier tale.

      There have been any number of analyses written showing how the magic in Harry Potter is based firmly on European mythology and magical belief. This is part of its charm, of course. But saying that Harry Potter is a "derivative work
  • by The Famous Druid ( 89404 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:03AM (#6318591)
    On the one hand, I think that anyone who wants to publish a 'Star Trek' or 'Star Wars' book should be required to ok it first with the owners of those franchises.


    If I want to write a sci-fi which takes place in a future 'confederation' with an egotistical Captain 'Church', and a navigation officer called 'Prok' who is annoyingly logical, well that should be ok.
    No-one is going to mistake it for the original, but by using some of the same background, I ease the readers immersion into the story, and possibly extend the original in interesting ways.

    Note: This is what the Potter books already do, they're based on any number of Boys Own Adventure stories, where 3 or so schoolfriends have all sorts of adventures while dodging crotchety old school-masters, etc.
  • Hypocrisy (Score:5, Funny)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:07AM (#6318598)
    JK Rowling trying to prevent people stealing her ideas? Harry Potter is the most derivative piece of fiction I've seen. I mean 'the Dark Side', kid with unknown Force/magical powers living with his aunt/uncle who happens to be really good on an x-wing/broomstick. If Voldemort turns out to be Harry's father, George Lucas should sue.
    • Re:Hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dthoma ( 593797 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:39AM (#6318654) Journal
      Good post! Funny and insightful. I do find it very amusing that some people forget that every piece of literature produced for the last few hundred/thousand years could be considered a "ripoff" of everything else. Rowling rips off mythology and rips off Lucas, who in turn rips off mythology himself. Virtually every great or popular work of literature these days rips off some sort of legend; even the apogee of Western literature [] is a badly-disguised ripoff of the Odyssey. And that was probably a take-on of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Need I go on?
    • While I understand you are aiming for humor, I'm getting mildly sick of seeing this kind of comparison: You can turn almost any work into almost any other work by abstracting it sufficiently.

      For instance, lets take the early Star Wars universe (neglecting, for a moment, the movie Hidden Fortress) and Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.

      Both deal with a small group of individuals (bussinessmen or the rebel alliance) who split off from society and form their own communities which are being hunted by the predominan
      • Harry, who is more like a very talented soccer player.

        If, in soccer, there were two guys off the field playing street fighter II and whoever won the video game got 200 points for his soccer team and won the match.
      • Yes, there are differences. I suppose what annoys me is that this is what passes for good kids fiction these days - a derivative story line, increasingly poor editing in the books, massive marketing, film, game and merchandising tie-ins. Harry Potter burgers, drinks, chocolate.

        Compare that to Roald Dahl's kids books - nobody could say that those were derivative. A Big Friendly Giant that runs around blowing dreams into peoples' ears while they sleep? An international group of witches trying to turn all the
  • I'm not sop sure I would consider the work inferior myself, since that is so inherently subjective and I have a penchant for russian art. But I suspect the "reviewer" likely has not read the work him (her?) self, but was simply repeating comments made by others - like this one [] cited at the Tanya Grotter site itself.

    I've actually been looking for a translation of this for a while now, but thus far no luck. I do wish the publishers the best and I hope someone will produce a translation even if, for no other

  • Themes and ideas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dafoomie ( 521507 ) <> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:11AM (#6318612) Homepage
    or just use the themes and ideas of Potter (as in Tanya Grotter's case)
    How can you copyright themes and ideas? Does all future fantasy work now violate their copyright? There's nothing totally original and new there. I don't see a problem as long as its not using the character names or trademarks, or claim to be written by Rowling, or if the author has Harry Potter in one hand and a pen in the other. How many works were "inspired" by Tolkien? If its just a little *too* close, go ahead and sue. But I dunno how someone fighting with a grenade launcher infringes on Harry Potter.
  • by Zog The Undeniable ( 632031 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:16AM (#6318620)
    It all depends where you draw the line. "The Lord Of The Rings" is heavily influenced by Beowulf. The Chronicles of Narnia are based, in places, on the Bible (particularly The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and The Last Battle - which also implies that all Muslims are devil worshippers, oh dear). JK Rowling's stuff appears to borrow from both of these - Wormtail/Wormtongue are both servants of evil wizards, for instance - and if you read "The Midnight Folk" and "The Box Of Delights" by John Masefield, which predate Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling, there are other common themes.

    Basically, the Potter books aren't 100% original, nor are they as well written as their predecessors. They all have a very linear plot with Harry in every scene - compare The Two Towers where there are three simultaneous stories- and they're relentlessly literal where they could be surreal. Masefield's stuff is amazingly surreal, but then he *was* Poet Laureate.

    • 'compare The Two Towers where there are three simultaneous stories- and they're relentlessly literal where they could be surreal. "

      Actually, this can be said to be part of litterary style--neither method is necessarily better than another anymore than you can make the unilateral statement "acrylic is better than oil in painting" or "oil is better than watercolor".

      I took a class about a year ago in Writing Fiction with the teacher Joanne Greenberg (The Running of the Dear, I never promised you a rose garde
    • The Chronicles of Narnia are based, in places, on the Bible (particularly The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and The Last Battle - which also implies that all Muslims are devil worshippers, oh dear)

      Why the 'oh dear'? Is it suddenly wrong for someone to hold a belief and be convinced that it is the only truth and therefore other beliefs are lies? The Bible clearly states that Jesus is the only way to know God and therefore anyone claiming to following God but denying Jesus is not in fact following him

      • by the_consumer ( 547060 ) <slash&smitty,mailshell,com> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @06:45AM (#6318783) Homepage
        Is it suddenly wrong for someone to hold a belief and be convinced that it is the only truth and therefore other beliefs are lies?

        Yes, though not suddenly. This has always been wrong.

        • Now you see, that is a self-contradictory position to hold. You cannot say as an absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. And the very exclusion of a belief that claims other bleiefs are wrong on the basis that you want every belief to be accepted as possible defeats the idea of accepting every belief. If you want them all to possible then you are requiring mutually exclusive beliefs to be able to exist at the same time - a logical impossability.

          Logic requires that we accept that not all beliefs

          • 1) It would not be loving to allow them to contineu with a belief that is wrong without at least telling them that

            Isn't this the position the Muslims hold? That Christians are true believers, only their beliefs are a bit wrong...

            2) It's pretty offensive to see people putting something other than God first. And how many times a day do you hear someone exclaiming 'Jesus Christ!' or 'Oh my God!'? Bet that would be a lot less acceptable if it was Buddah or Allah being used instead.

            I'd say you're very self

            • Isn't this the position the Muslims hold?

              IIRC, Muslims say you can get into heaven without being a Muslim. Christianity says you must ask Jesus for forgiveness for your sins and accept God's love.

              I'd say you're very self-centric

              How am I being self-centred? When people swear using God's name, they're breaking his commands and demeaning his name, which I find offensive on behalf of God. That's being God-centred, not self-centred. If I was self-centred I wouldn't care what people were saying about God

      • Is it suddenly wrong for someone to hold a belief and be convinced that it is the only truth and therefore other beliefs are lies?

        As long as you don't think it's your (godgiven) right to rule the "fools" that believe in what you precieve to be a lie; no one can stop you.

        The Bible clearly states that Jesus is the only way to know God and therefore anyone claiming to following God but denying Jesus is not in fact following him, but rather oppossing him, which is tantamount to being ont he side of the dev

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:16AM (#6318621)
    He first ignores the difference between inspired by and derivative works, lumping in Tonya Grotter (which with the data given may or may not be a derivative work) with Harry Potter in Calcutta.

    Second, he doesn't consider any of the logical consequences of ending derivative work protection, except for a brief consideration of movie rights.

    For example, if international copyright is changed to allow Harry Potter in Calcutta, certainly there's no obvious reason why an unauthorized Harry Potter in New York shouldn't be similarly allowed. Or an alternate Harry Potter 6 book, for that matter.

    Translations are derivative works, not the original; all translation is paraphrase. Should a translation of a Rowling Harry Potter into French not pay royalties to her? How about a mere English-languge paraphrase?

    Similarly, a movie of the first Harry Potter is not a copy of the book but just a derivative work, and any other version of the film shot by a different studio isn't a copy, either. Should Disney be allowed to suddenly start making its own Harry Potter films based directly on the books?

    Moron. He doesn't even raise the questions.
  • you know michael... it doesn't seem to be a call for copyright reform (LITERARY copyright reform if anything) so much as a defense of the parody.

    it says nothing damning about the usual copyright issues that set slashdot aflutter (code, genetics, technology, music/record labels, etc etc.) when i first glanced at the header i thought this was going to be something more like this []. so i guess it's the word harry potter makes this nerd news (?!?)

    in any case ... nope, this is mostly a defence of the right to m
  • by dido ( 9125 ) <dido@imp e r i u m .ph> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:34AM (#6318650) still propagates what I perceive to be a very big misconception about what copyright is really for. The Constitution of the United States, in the copyright clause, has specifically stated that the purpose of copyright is "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts", not specifically to provide authors like J.K. Rowling with an incentive to continue writing. Richard M. Stallman (whatever you may think of him) explains this very well in this article []. Copyright law is not a monopoly granted by a (responsible) government in an attempt to strike a balance between the rights of authors and rights of the public, but rather as an attempt to balance two different, sometimes conflicting rights of the public: the public wants a lot of good quality works for its consumption, and the public also wants these works to be available at low cost. Stallman makes a nice analogy between this dilemma and that of building public works projects like buildings and dams. For public works, a government would want to build the best and safest public works, while at the same time it wouldn't want to spend too much money to do so. Nobody will build a bridge or dam for free, of course, so the government then has to decide how much money it is willing to spend for the public's welfare. For copyright legislation, the government is not spending public money, but the public's rights and freedoms.

    Well, the United States government has done, with the current travesties of law like the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act and the DMCA, the equivalent of having contractors build a bridge that totally covers the river. And worse yet, it is attempting to wrestle other countries into making similar laws apply there as well, under the pretext of protecting international trade.

    Yes, copyright law all over the world is in bad need of reform, but without remembering its original purpose for existing in the first place. Authors are granted these copyright monopolies not because they were the original creators of the work and they are entitled to it, but because it is supposed to serve the public interest. A lot of the misapplications of copyright restrictions mentioned in the article mainly boil down to violations of this principle.

    • They said "...while the case for copyright is strong..."

      I would argue that the case for copyright is not strong. Rather, the case for copyright is accepted as the norm, but there have been much better cases against the copyright.

      That is, for every claim made in favor of copyright, there is a counterargument that decimates it. Meanwhile, copyright is an infringement against a natural right, the right to work. Normally, if there are no good arguments for an infringement against a natural right, then it i
  • by Master Of Ninja ( 521917 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:49AM (#6318672)
    ... and then there are re-labeled rip-offs. Yes, Rowling's work may be deriviative and all fiction works on inspiration from what has gone before it, but names like "Tanya Grotter" (and even naming a book "Harry Potter" when it has no connection to the author) is just trading off the name of her work.

    This has nothing to do with copyright reform - the authors of these new books are trading off Harry Potter by slightly changing the name and keeping all the magic and other elements of the book in it. It's not like they're even trying to be different. If they wrote a book about a magician but was different in other ways you could say that 'magic' was in vogue, and it is OK. But is seems like these people are just ripping off quite a lot and writing some stories for the cash.

    I don't even like the argument about local market conditions. Harry Potter books are popular everywhere. People love 'Harry Potter'. So people churn out these knock-off books. If the authors wanted to write for the local market I'm sure they could easily make up their own stories but again the just rip-off works just to get the cash.

    (As you can tell by now) I don't agree with the author of the article at all. He just wants a cheap argument to allow author's who have no creative insight in the least to get rich off the hard work of others. If the authors stuck to fan-fiction they would probably get my sympathy. But whoring cash for when they have no talent - I hope they burn (metaphorically of course!).
  • by Syre ( 234917 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:49AM (#6318673)
    For those not initiated into the wonders of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, the original quote is:

    "Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom and A Hundred Schools of Thoughts Contend"

    More information can be found here [] in section 2.

    (note: the author of this post is not and never has been a Maoist)
  • by sploxx ( 622853 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:56AM (#6318687)
    ... is how the current copyright system evolved.
    Is it only me who see it influenced mainly by national political interests?
    First, the U.S. were not very aware of copyright issues, having not a law like the europeans (according to the article). Probably the euros tried hard to prevent other countries from stealing intellectual property. Now it is the western world preventing poorer countries to do that (with the U.S. at the forefront!)

    I feel confirmed in thinking that these IP laws (copyright, patents etc.) are founded by hypocritical arguments.
  • by rve ( 4436 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:59AM (#6318697)
    How can adults be so obsessed with this Harry Potter phenomenon? It's not bad as childrens fiction comes (though Rowling is certainly no Roald Dahl) but I really can't see how it could appeal to people past their early teens...
    • i find that the biggest adult Harry Potter fans are the ones that never experienced good fantasy books as a youngster.

      all of my friends that have read Eddings, Jordan and Salvatore or even the Shannara series gererally do not like the Harry Potter books.

      next time you meet a Harry Potter obsessed adult, ask them what other fantasy books they've read. i'm willing to bet there aren't many who have.
  • Was I the only one who saw the headline and wondered if Mike Gordon had written a parody childrens book? Now if only he would, and I could get my hands on a copy! Wait, back on topic... Whether any of the spin-offs are parodies or just reinterpretations which are not protected doesn't change much. It will be a fight for lawyers and Time-Warner has many many rich lawyers that will get this resolved in their favor. I am worried at how quickly the american fervor over 'Intellectual Property' becomes a matt
  • Huh? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Forkenhoppen ( 16574 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @06:28AM (#6318753)
    Where are all of the "In Soviet Russia" jokes? You'd think a story like this'd be just loaded with them..
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Funny)

      by bj8rn ( 583532 )
      There's this one [] (an obvious one, though quite clever for an "in Soviet Russia" joke). Didn't see any more, though, so I'll throw in some myself:

      In Soviet Russia, Harry Potter writes books about YOU!
      In Soviet Russia, the copyrights are owned by YOU!

      And last, but not least: In Soviet Russia, "In Soviet Russia" jokes are on YOU!

      *Still waiting for "Harry Potsmoker and the Stoned Philosopher"*

  • Lawrence Lessig's comments on lawyers and comics seem relevant here. Or rather here [].

    In short, Lessig argues that the harm done by fan fiction is at least in some cases a fiction created by lawyers who don't necessarily have their clients' interests in mind.
  • by dr_eaerth ( 149359 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @07:40AM (#6318892)
    I've been planning on writing someting about just this subject for a while. This is the natural situation, if you think about creativity.

    How does creative stuff happen? Some author or musician or whatever really digs something, and feels inspired, and writes something that features all the stuff he digs.

    You might create a ripping bluegrass tune in the style of Flatt and Scrugs, or if you're Mr. Bungle, mix surf music with death metal. If you're a writer, maybe you will create an epic like the great Finnish epics, only set in a world of your own creation, or maybe a world where the ancient Greek gods are all immortal personifications, updated for the modern age. Maybe you'll write a story where refugees from Troy found the Roman empire. Maybe you'll write a story about a nerdy boy who becomes a great magician, but who doesn't fight the demon Barbatos and an evil possible future version of himself.

    In the days before oppressive copyright, this was the norm. The world of fiction was a big pot of cool stuff and everyone worked out of it. To this day, the rich mythical history of past civilizations shape our current world.

    Terry Pratchett said this, and I think it's interesting:

    'Books in a genre may well remind you of other books in that genre. This is allowed. If it wasn't, H G Wells would have been the only person permitted to write about time machines. Being a fantasy writer is like being allowed to sit around a big bubbling pot, a stew made up of everything that's gone before. You're allowed to take a certain amount of stuff out, and you don't object if it turns out that you're putting stuff in, too. And so the stew bubbles on. There are only two crimes: one is to claim that the pot is yours, and that the other is to claim that there is no pot.'

    He wasn't talking about taking specifics like Harry Potter's name and rough history, but such distinctions are slight and, in my opinion, completely unimportant.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @07:45AM (#6318902)
    I cant think of any instrument more painful to ride then a flying double bass. Sitting on the strings, Painful. On the Back there is noting good to hold on to. Oh You definitely don't want to sit on the pin on the bottom I guess the side may be the best place. But with the strings on it you would sit on it crooked, the bridge is about 7" and the neck will be at an angle when you grab it. I think I will wait for the flying Harp or the Flying Piano-Forte, The Flying Tuba may make be good. I think a Flying Cello may work a bit better. But a Double Bass No Way, Ill just stick to playing it.
  • This reminds me strongly of a certain arrangement that has arisen in Japanese Manga - amateurs, fans, and even other professionals will create manga that is technically copyright infringing (they use the same characters and settings, for example), but is considered allowable because it can sometimes further the original story and push the original creator on to new ideas.
  • Funny... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by acidrain69 ( 632468 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @09:10AM (#6319157) Journal
    "Won't be picked up anywhere else"

    Then why did I read it on last night? 12PO
    "The misguided global crackdown on Potter Rip-offs"

    Granted, it does say under the header, but it is still what I would call someplace else.
  • by Jasin Natael ( 14968 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @11:46AM (#6319816)
    ...Rowling's campaign destroys the market for international follow-ons, since Rowling could never write a Potter book that could capture the Russian spirit the way Grotter does. Rowling is using the cudgel of international copyright not to destroy something she could have created, but to destroy something she could never create.
    You're damn right. She's destroying the culture of every country in which she brandishes this cudgel. Why shouldn't Russian children be able to read books that draw from their history, culture, and politics, and that interest them in their own country's writing? Why shouldn't Indian children be enticed to read their country's classical works of literature?

    Every kid, all over the world, becoming part of American monoculture is a horrific thought. But, if you believe it will happen anyway, you might as well get on board with J.K. Rowling, et al. Why not throw away the culture of our world now, and reap the profits while we're at it...

    --Jasin Natael
  • by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @12:14PM (#6319937) Homepage Journal

    Remember, an attorney will sometimes file suit on behalf of their client if they see a potential issue. I can't remember who did this a while back, but it has happened in more "high-tech" circles. I *want* to say Amazon did it, but don't quote me there. =^_^=

    So the point? Even with all the press exposing this, perhaps JKR isn't completely aware of the gravity?

    Weak, I know. Now here's another.

    Perhaps JKR is being talked into this by her attorneys in London (or for that matter, the Warner Bros. attorneys - remember, they hold copyright as well due to the movies) and they are taking advantage of some sort of naivete on her part.

    Perhaps in the end, maybe it really is an issue. Read the next paragraph for why.

    The thing is, in certain circles, it is widely grokked that JKR encourages fans to write stories, within certain limits. But in the fan-fiction realm, commercial publication is largely taboo, fanzines aside. (Admit it, you too have at the very least browsed through fan-fiction of one flavor or another.) What we're seeing here with the myriad of secondary Potter stories is, for all intents, fan publication beyond the level of a zine or your various and sundry internet archives/mailing lists/whatever. Harry meeting Gandalf in China's Leopard etc. at least sounds like an example of this - like another poster said, it sounds like a D&D game. This just scratches the surface.

    (Strangely enough, crossover writings are ridiculously common in fan-fiction. Anime fan-fiction *alone* has countless crossups with Ranma 1/2 and (insert favorite anime du jour here), with even the occasional Star Trek crossup, and at least one fusion with Clarke's 2001 series.)

  • by skywire ( 469351 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @02:09PM (#6320540)
    Practically all the comments here (except "The article is lousy" (#6318621)) are based on a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of copyright: the notion that copyright protects the ideas (themes, style, atmosphere, characterization, etc.) embodied in a literary work. It does not. It protects only the particular embodiment of those ideas, in other words, the particular phrases and sentences that make up a work. If those are not copied (or translated*), then there is no copyright violation. The Slate article author touches on this a little, but not strongly enough.

    All the long threads about derivative works, the thin line between parody and knockoff, and fair use are simply beside the point. If Tanya Grotter does not contain any of the English text of Harry Potter, or Russian translation of that text, then no copying has occurred, and thus no violation of copyright.

    Derivative works include some portion or portions of the original work. In other words, they are partially copies of the original, plus some original matter. Without a license, they are generally illegal. Derivative works that parody the original have a special exemption (but it is certainly also possible to parody a work without deriving from it at all). Fair use also is a special limited license to copy. But if no copying is being done, then fair use need not be invoked.

    * This actually opens up some very interesting philosophical questions related to the logical coherence of copyright laws, since given the right translation rule, any string can be translated into any other.
  • One word: Rincewind (Score:4, Informative)

    by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuel@bcgree[ ]om ['n.c' in gap]> on Saturday June 28, 2003 @02:25PM (#6320600) Homepage Journal
    If the case of Rowland's authors attempting to ban Tanya Grotter from being imported into Holland ever makes it in front of a judge, I sincerely hope that it gets thrown out.

    Rowland can copyright Harry Potter and his friends, but she cannot and should not be allowed to copyright the idea of a child wizard That concept is, itself, much borrowed from other sources. Even the story of a child wizard in a wonky wizards school [] has its precedents.

    What comes to mind first for me is the Rincewindd character of Robert Asprin's Diskworld series.Born the 8th son of an 8th son of an 8th son, he was destined to be a great sourceror.. Unfortunately, he doesn't believe that -- and neither do most of the people who encounter him. Nontheless, he still manages to both enable and prevent vast magical goings on in his world (depending on whether they are good or bad).

    The basic concept of a Harry Potter character is not original and nobody -- even (or especially) someone who has gotten fantastically rich with it should be allowed to control expressions of that basic concept.

  • Two-Faced Disney (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Saturday June 28, 2003 @05:40PM (#6321657)
    It's interesting in regard to this debate that The Walt Disney Company, arch supporter of eternal copyrights, built their early business off of lapsed, foreign, and potentially unenforcable copyrights. Where would many companies be today if they had scrupulously respected everybody else's intellectual property rights?
  • by bethanie ( 675210 ) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @12:34AM (#6323450) Journal
    I have to step in to defend the author herself. This article states that "J.K. Rowling and her publisher since J.K. Rowling and her publisher have launched an aggressive worldwide legal campaign against the unauthorized Potter takeoffs." (emphasis mine)

    What this means is that the publishing company is working to preserve its rights to the characters and likenesses that it has paid Rowling the rights for. Surely the publisher is in it for the money, as well they should be. They assumed the risk when they first accepted the manuscript for publication -- and they hit the jackpot.

    The publishers need to protect themselves from other commercial interests seeking to make money off of the characters that Rowling has created (at their expense).

    Even if the Harry Potter series ends at Book 7, there may be a multitude of opportunities for other spin-offs. They may set another author to creating a non-Harry children's series based at Hogwarts. They could set up an adult-focused series following Harry & friends through their careers & adulthood. They could publish more of the textbooks and supplemental material mentioned in the original series. And these are just the obvious ideas. My point is that the publishers, having invested in the creation of these characters, have every right to protect their financial interests.

    As far as the author's part in all this, having read quite a bit about Rowling herself, I have no doubt that she's NOT in it for the money. She has created these characters, breathed life into them, and there's no doubt that they probably mean as much to her as her own children. She has a vested interest (as their creator and mother) to protect them from being appropriated by other parties.

    I think it's worth the quality control alone to keep these books and characters protected as much as possible, especially from commercial exploitation by other "authors."


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