Thursday, December 11, 2008

Your brand, our brand, firebrand

People like to talk about what they like. That can often mean lots of free positive publicity for products.

Take the Harry Potter phenomenon for instance. Millions of books sold, billions of dollars earned, and I have no idea how many fan sites and secondary products. People of all ages love to read, watch, think about, and talk about the story, its characters, and its themes. You'd think that would be a great thing for J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers. Oddly, it isn't always, at least not when you take a fan site and put it into print.

Earlier this year Rowling and WB took a middle school librarian and his publisher to court over his plans to publish the contents of a Harry Potter fan site. Why? According to Rowling, the book preempts a book she intends to publish.

Come on JK. If I understand right, the material already exists on the fan site. You even praised the fan site. And you haven't even written the book yet. Are you going to take down the site too?

Take it a step further. Can I teach a creative writing course, and have the students rewrite the story based on the characters, and then publish it? What if some of the rewrites are similar to an idea the author may have had? Who owns the concept of the characters? Isn't art in the eye of the consumer?

Me, I'd say let them publish it, or better, JK could dialogue with the author(s), create synergy with her own ideas, and make something much better together. To paraphrase my father, the guru of fun, isn't the power of the one so much greater when it is at one with the power of the many?

(read more about the legal battle on copyright infringement)

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