Friday, February 22, 2008

The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling have engendered a number of legal disputes since their publication. Rowling, her publishers and Time Warner, the owner of the rights to the Harry Potter films, have taken numerous legal actions to protect their copyright, occasionally drawing fire from civil liberties and free speech campaigners.

Allegations of copyright and trademark infringement
In 1999, American onetime author Nancy Stouffer quietly began to allege copyright and trademark infringement by Rowling of her 1984 works The Legend of Rah and the Muggles (ISBN 1-58989-400-6) and Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly.

Nancy Stouffer
In 2000, in the lead-up to the release of the first Harry Potter film, Warner Bros., the film's distributor, sent a series of threatening letters to owners of Harry Potter fansites, demanding that, to protect their copyright, they hand over their domain names.

Claire Field
In 2002, an unauthorised Chinese-language sequel entitled Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon appeared for sale in the People's Republic of China. The work of a Chinese ghostwriter, the book contains the verbatim text of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and characters from the works of other authors, including the title character from L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz.

Various Chinese publishing houses
See also: Tanya Grotter
In 2003, courts in the Netherlands prevented the distribution of a Dutch translation of Tanya Grotter and the Magical Double Bass, the first of Dimitry Yemets' popular Russian series about a female apprentice wizard. Rowling and her publishers sued, arguing that the Grotter books violate copyright law. Yemets and his original Moscow-based publishers, Eksmo, argued that the books constitute a parody, permitted under copyright.

Legal disputes over the Harry Potter series Dimitry Yemets
In their May, 2004 issue, the US Army publication the Preventive Maintenance Monthly, which instructs soldiers on how to maintain their equipment, featured a spoof comic based on Harry Potter, featuring a character named Topper who resided at Mogmarts School under Professor Rumbledore.

Wyrd Sisters
In 2007, Rowling launched a series of lawsuits against a number of users of the auction site eBay, alleging that they were selling illegally created e-books of her work.

In October 2007, Rowling sued the organisers of a Hindu religious festival in the Indian city of Kolkata for two million rupees ($50,000), claiming that they had erected a giant replica of Harry Potter's school, Hogwarts, without her permission. The festival organisers argued that, as the effort was not for profit, it did not violate Rowling's copyright.

Kolkata lawsuit
There have been a series of legal injunctions brought by Rowling and her publishers to ensure the books' secrecy before their launch. In their potentially sweeping powers over individual freedoms, these injunctions have drawn criticism from civil liberties campaigners.
In 2003, Rowling and her publishers sought and got a groundbreaking injunction against "the person or persons who has or have physical possession of a copy of the said book or any part thereof without the consent of the Claimants". Customers who agreed not to read the book received a special Harry Potter t-shirt and a $50 coupon for Scholastic's online store.

Legal injunctions
In June 2005, Aaron Lambert, a security guard at a book distribution centre in Corby, Northamptonshire, England, stole a number of pages from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince six weeks before its intended publication date. He was arrested a day later after negotiations to sell them to John Askill, a journalist from The Sun, went bad - Lambert reportedly fired a shot from his imitation Walther PPK pistol, though Mr. Askill was unharmed.

Libel threat

Harry Potter influences and analogues
Harry Potter parodies
Religious debates over the Harry Potter series

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