Wizards Don’t Infringe Copyright

By Rebecca Helm, GIPC Intern

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was a guiding force in the development of the current college-aged generation. We grew up with Harry’s adventures, and the books matured with us. The themes discussed in these books- bravery, love, friendship- are obvious, yet important. But there’s something even the most careful of readers may not notice: the value accorded to intellectual property (IP) in Harry Potter’s magical world.

In the current tech-savvy world, it is incredibly easy to pirate intellectual property like music and movies. One uploaded song on a torrent site can spawn thousands and hundreds of thousands of copies. Pirating digital content is a crime that costs artists and the music industry an estimated  $1 billion every year, while those behind U.S. motion pictures lose over $6 billion to digital piracy annually. Imagine the effects to the economy if all industries were vulnerable to such easy theft.

But in the wizarding world, this dystopia is real. Wizards in the Harry Potter world can create exact copies of any object with the flick of a wrist! The ‘Geminio’ spell (used in the Deathly Hallows, book 7) can create a near-perfect counterfeit of anything. Think of the uses! There could be illegal vendors everywhere in this world, selling counterfeit Firebolts, fake Quidditch World Cup merchandise, pirated textbooks; the possibilities are endless, and production of these fakes would be so easy. Surely wizards would buy or make counterfeits of everything!

But they don’t. Think of the Weasleys: dirt poor and struggling to send seven children to a school that requires students to buy uniforms and different books every year. How easy it would  be for them to simply copy textbooks from stores with one simple spell? But that option is never even considered.

They save, and buy used, and reuse textbooks and clothes until they’re in tatters and need patching and stretching spells. But the one thing they don’t do is infringe the intellectual property of the wizards and witches who put so much effort into producing the books, broomsticks, and magical technology that make life in the wizarding world so interesting.

And speaking of the Weasleys, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes could never have gotten off the ground if counterfeit vendors, not to mention competing shops like Honeydukes or Zonko’s, simply made and sold copies of their inventions. The security of Fred and George’s intellectual property was fundamental to the success of their business.

This realization is relevant now, as those of us in our late teens and early twenties (the “Harry Potter generation”) are the group most likely to pirate digital content. A 2012 study by Columbia University found that 70% of 18- to 29-year-olds admitted to buying, copying, or downloading pirated music, TV shows, or movies, compared with less than half of surveyed adults.

Digital piracy causes annual losses of over $12.5 billion and kills 70,000 jobs in America every year. It hurts artists who create the music, books, and movies we love. We, the Harry Potter generation, need to take a page from these books and step up to end this crime against artists and creators. Buy your content, or watch it legally. Don’t be a Muggle.

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