The Curse of Tanya Grotter

Ted Striphas has a great account in The Late Age of Print of the legal battles surrounding unauthorized adaptations of the Harry Potter novels.  All the usual “Media Piracy” elements are in play here: “windowing” practices for massive global hits that make them unavailable for months or years in developing countries.  Extensive local adaptations and commercializations at lower prices.  The zero point of originality determined by who has the most lawyers.  Among the nice touches: a Dutch court splitting hairs over whether Harry Potter was itself a derivative work.

Despite Rowling, Warner Bros., and other authorities’ intensive global efforts to police their coveted Harry Potter copyrights and trademarks, fakery has proven to be endemic to the book series. Consider what China Today calls “The Chinese Harry Potter Epidemic,” or a spate of “Harry Potter read-alikes” circulating in and around the country. These include books like Harry Potter’s Sister, author Serge Brussolo’s book Girl Wizard Peggy Sue, which Chinese publishers retitled and repackaged—apparently without the author’s consent—hoping to cash in on China’s Pottermania. Then there’s The Magic Violin, a novel purportedly written by nine-year-old Bian Jinyang. As with Harry Potter’s Sister, Bian’s publisher attempted to capitalize on the explosive popularity of the Harry Potter series by reissuing the book under the title China’s Harry Potter. Continue reading “The Curse of Tanya Grotter”

Some Context for the Russian Dissent

Several commentators have pointed to the unexpected public dissent by Russian President Medvedev from the G8’s recent statement on copyright and enforcement.  The statement read, in part:

With regard to the protection of intellectual property, in particular copyright, trademarks, trade secrets and patents, we recognize the need to have national laws and frameworks for improved enforcement. We are thus renewing our commitment to ensuring effective action against violations of intellectual property rights in the digital arena, including action that addresses present and future infringements.

To which Medvedev responded:

“The declaration reflects an absolutely conservative position that intellectual property rights should be protected according to the existing conventions,” said Medvedev. “No one questions that, but I have repeatedly stated that, unfortunately, those conventions were written 50 or almost 100 years ago, and they are unable to regulate the whole complex of relations between the copyright owner and users.”

Characteristically unafraid to ruffle his fellow leaders’ feathers, Medvedev continued “Unfortunately, this was not included in the declaration because, in my opinion, my colleagues have a more conservative opinion than is necessary at the moment. Or maybe they just don’t use the Internet and have little understanding of it.”

I don’t have any particular insight into Medvedev’s comments, but it’s not the first time he’s shown some pragmatism on these issues.  Although there has been an increase in Russian enforcement against Bittorent sites in the past couple years, the main factor shaping Russian political attitudes toward enforcement was the big enforcement push in 2006-2007, undertaken as part of a deal with the US to pave the way to Russian accession to the World Trade Organization.  This push set in motion some complicated domestic politics that both Medvedev and Putin chose to accommodate. From MPEE: Continue reading “Some Context for the Russian Dissent”