Harry Potter, Fanfiction, and Legality

With its influence on fanfiction (which definitely existed before JKR, but not in the same age range and numbers) Harry Potter has brought up some previously untouched debates (some of which were touched on by Jenkins) about copyright and intellectual material. Because along with introducing literature and fanfiction to young adults, it also introduced them to the idea that they might be stealing intellectual property from the original author (JK Rowling in this case). Consider the lawsuit leveled against RDR Books by Warner Bros. and Rowling over the publishing of the Harry Potter Lexicon. The author, Steve Ark, had even previously corresponded with Rowling and was planning to publish a Harry Potter encyclopedia.

Although this is an example of an author upset with someone making money off their work, other authors take issue with fanfiction itself, and non-profit works. While parody and criticism are under fair use, much of fanfiction is more homage or derivation than either of those things. While it’s easy to criticize authors for trying to control what, even by name, is someone appreciating their work, it’s also easy to see how some people might take issue with someone, however well-meaning, writing Judas/Jesus fanfiction (seriously. This is a thing that exists.). We’ve discussed how once you publish something you sort of lose the rights to it, but I can’t pretend I’m not sympathetic to the authors’ pain as their characters are twisted and mischaracterized.

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