March 31, 2005

JK Rowling Under Fire After US Army 'Parodies' Harry Potter

Recently a very small furor began in the news regarding intellectual property rights, Harry Potter's creator J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros. and the United States Army. At first my response was "oh. OK." Then I read this accusation of JK Rowling's greed by a columnist who should know better. JK Rowling is one of my "A" list authors for both her stories and ethics. So I did a little bit of searching and found a few other versions of the story.

Sunday Herald published a matter-of-fact story

The Leaky Cauldron: Harry Potter News. Scroll down to February 06, 2005 at this fan site.

News: Exclusive: Military magazine spoofs 'Harry Potter' article links to scans of the US Army publication being challenged

It's my understanding that copyright violation doesn't depend on the violator's reason for stealing intellectual property. I'm less clear about what exactly constitutes "parody." Copyright owners who want to protect their property rights must actively pursue violations (Disney is just one example.) That doesn't mean that a copyright owner can't or won't give permission for others to use their intellectual property with or without a fee. It's my opinion that had the US Army asked for permission, Warner Bros and/or Rowling (whoever actually owns the infringed rights) could have given permission and possibly waived or lowered any licensing fees. However, the US Army apparently didn't ask, but just did what they wanted while other branches of the US government are tasked to protect property rights.

If it turns out that the Army's use of Harry Potter-like names, images, and concepts does qualify as a legal "parody," they're still guilty of poor manners.

Bad Army. If anyone can hold it accountable, it will be Harry Potter with his millions (if not billions) of youthful (in mind and/or body) supporters.

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