LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Legal threats against anyone who used words from the latest Harry Potter books have not occurred with the release this week of the fifth Harry Potter movies, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” And July 21 is the release of Rowling’s seventh and final Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
The reason for a less aggressive legal response, reports the Chicago Tribune, is that Warner Brothers, who own the film rights, want to preserve the goodwill of the enormous Harry Potter fan base. Hence, webmasters are courted instead of threatened.
“They would send legal letters out to every Harry Potter Web site if they used any words from Harry Potter at all,” webmaster Emmerson Spartz said. “But they got so much bad press from that that they changed their tack, and they realized how much power the Harry Potter Web sites have, and instead of looking at us as their enemies, they realized we could rally the fan base more, which is what we’ve been doing.”
The turning point evidently came after Rowling gave the Harry Potter Lexicon a fan-site award on her own Web site.
Still, Warner Bros. hasn’t completely loosened its grip. As the keeper of the copyrights, the studio continues to go after projects and events that use Potter terminology, such as the book-release party to take place at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville. It was going to be called Muggle Magic, as the one for the “Half-Blood Prince” release was, but thanks to a Warner Bros. warning letter, it’s now officially The Party That Shall Not Be Named.
In a more telling example of Warner Bros. protecting its so-called brand, Potter fan site webmaster Steve Vander Ark said when he shot an A&E special, he was instructed to discuss the Harry Potter stories in general without distinguishing between the media in which they appeared. “They didn’t want us to use the word ‘books,'” he said. “They didn’t want to separate books and film. Warner Bros. wanted to keep them the same identity.”
On the flip side, Rowling and the book’s American and British publishers (Scholastic and Bloomsbury, respectively) have worked to ensure that the books remain separate from the movies. Most blockbuster movies beget book editions featuring the actors and on-screen images on the covers, but despite the Potter movies’ great popularity (the first four have grossed more than $3.5 billion worldwide), there has yet to be a movie tie-in version of a Potter book. Mary GrandPre has done the covers and inside drawings for all of the American books, and the British books have employed a variety of illustrators for separate kid- and adult-oriented editions.