TNB Night Owl – Harry Potter and the Law of the Copyright

The Harry Potter books are the most famous literary works of the 21st century, having been adapted into dozens of languages in nearly every country in the world as well as serving as the basis for a successful movie franchise.  The movies, in turn, have spawned a theme park, games, and merchandise on a par with long-running series like Star Wars and Star Trek.

They’ve also spawned copyright issues.

The most famous of these stems from the beloved fantasy movie, Troll.  Well, not “beloved”, exactly.  “Mocked”, “derided”, “ignored” and “forgotten” are perhaps all more appropriate descriptions.  Troll, in fact, was most famous merely for being the movie which had spawned Troll 2, because Troll 2 is considered one of the worst movies ever made.

(It’s so bad, in fact, that a documentary was made just about how a fandom grew out of the movie’s horribleness.  It’s called The Best Worst Movie, and among other things it explains why a movie called Troll 2 featured goblins instead of trolls.)

The success of Harry Potter finally drew Troll from Troll 2’s shadow, because Troll, made in 1986, featured a plaid-jacketed teenaged boy who learns magic to defend his family.  The character’s name?  Harry Potter, Jr.

When put that superficially, it sounds like there’s a possible case for Rowling ripping off the movie.  A look at Troll, however, shows how ludicrous the case is.  The two are virtually nothing alike.  A better case can be made for Rowling ripping off the character of Timothy Hunter in Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic comic series (where a dark-haired 12 year old English boy is educated in the ways of magic with the help of a group of older magicians and his pet owl)… but Gaiman himself has discounted that, going so far as to actively rebut it on his website.

That’s not the only direction copyright violation has reared its head, though.  There are the actual cases of copyright abuse regarding Potter.  Some of them are hilarious.  In English, there are obvious attempts to cash in on the Potter name with “parody” books.  In other languages….

China has had a number of knock-off books, including Harry Potter and the Porcelain Doll, Harry Potter and Golden Armor, and Harry Potter and the Big Funnel.  (Marketplace.org)  Golden armor and a doll I can maybe understand, but I have no idea what’s supposed to be magical about a big funnel.  Maybe it overflowed.  

China didn’t simply restrict itself to those, though.  There was also Harry Potter and Bao Zoulong.  It deviated significantly from the books, as Harry became a dwarf who fights an evil dragon.  First he’s recruited by a group of other dwarves, though, and along the way he finds a magic ring… (BBC News)

Yes, the author simply took a translated version of The Hobbit, swapped in names from the Harry Potter series, and hoped nobody would notice.

And then there was the novel, Harry Potter in Calcutta.  That was successfully sued and copies pulled from the shelves, depriving fans from learning why the boy wizard took a break from his learning for a whirlwind tour of India.  The author said his intention was good… simply trying to fill in the long gap of time between the release of the fourth and fifth book… but that didn’t hold weight with the court.  The world, sadly, will never know Harry’s curry preference.

Question of the night: What’s your favorite fantasy story?

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About AlienMotives 439 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.