Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Shallows of Copyright

Once again, Canada's Raincoast publishers who had the immensely good fortune to become the exclusive Canadian distributors of this legendary money maker are pushing the envelope of copyright far beyond any legal basis, according the the Globe and Mail.

According to the Globe, Raincoast's position is that:

"the legal framework in Canada recognizes and protects the confidentiality of the book and its content until the release date chosen by the author and the publishers as holders of the copyright, notwithstanding attempts at spoilers or other breaches of the embargo."

The Globe's lawyer, Peter Jacobsen says:

... that Raincoast's position "misstates the law." While copyright is protected under the law, the law "does not prevent comment ... for the purposes of review ... and news reporting," he said. "If someone were to obtain a copy of [Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows] in a legitimate way, they can do any kind of review or discussion of it as they see fit, so long as it falls within the definition or criticism or review or news reporting."

Jacobsen said copyright law "restricts the amount you can quote," but he cautioned that Potter's publishers "attempt to misstate the law is a way to say there's kind of an injunction against revealing anything about [the book]."

Jacobsen is absolutely right and Raincoast is quite wrong.

Copyright law does not cover facts and anyone has the right to talk about a book, and to quote parts of it for purposes of criticism or review.

The issue of "spoilers" and giving away the ending is not a copyright issue - but rather a time honoured tradition amongst professional critics and, indeed, most decent ordinary people...

Let's not forget that copyright law - despite enormous efforts to the contrary and incrementally creeping inroads - doesn't yet include the exclusive right to read, talk about or think about things of interest and even importance....



  1. In a similar situation in July 2005 (also involving Harry Potter), Raincoast obtained an injunction against (among other things) reading the book before the official publication date.

  2. This is why an ever greater number of people don't give a sh*t about copyright. If the copyright holders were reasonable, most people would respect copyright but when exercise of copyright is unreasonable people lose their respect it.