Wednesday, 17 September 2008

More Harry Potter copyright stuff

So I read in the Guardian that a movie made by a Mumbai-based studio, Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors, about a ten-year-old Indian boy in England comically foiling a couple of inept criminals somewhat in the manner of Home Alone, has been blocked by Warner Brothers on the basis that it 'infringes its intellectual property rights', by having a character with a name that sounds a bit like Harry Potter's.

It's kind of interesting, the way that HP keeps showing up at the cutting edge of legal disputes about intellectual property, fair use, creative transformation, and the ownership of funny words; the books were always products of a brand-based aesthetic. Brands basically stand in for magic in the books: where Ursula K Le Guin, say, would create a coherent set of rules and laws for magic in her universes, Rowling always used one-word spells and created a universe based around commodities: the Nimbus 2000, the Firebolt, Bertie Bott's Every Flavoured Beans, Chocolate Frogs, etc. The most meaningful magical connection in the whole of the seven books is the fact that Harry and Voldemort have the same wand. Magic in the HP-verse is basically commodity fetishism. J and I once gave a conference paper on this - on Guy DeBord's Society of the Spectacle and the disappearance of labour into fetishized commodities in the HP-verse - and a fabulous woman gave us the perfect example of it in the question-and-answer period. It's a moment in Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry gets his Firebolt-brand broom and Hermione, who is worried that it's booby-trapped, says 'You're not going to ride it, are you, Harry?' and Ron says:

What do you think he's going to do with it? Sweep the floor?


Una said...

Only tangentially related, but have you seen this story:

Ika said...

ohdeargod the borders of thoughtcrime become ever blurrier... I am guessing this is a William Mayne thing, but dude. (And - oh, I'm not even going to go there. But Alice in Wonderland! The Sword in the Stone! Peter Pan!)