Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the Spoilers Final Battle

The battle to protect the secret ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final installment in the famous J.K. Rowling series, recently morphed into full blown Armageddon. This time, the ante involves more than just copyright infringement, breach of contract, or tortious interference with business practices.

No, I'm afraid the very soul of Hogwarts is on the line. This is not, I repeat, NOT a drill.

Rowling's fantasmical concoction of muggles, wizards, and witches is a unique benchmark in popular literature. No other work of fiction can claim simultaneous creation through pages and celluloid. Book parties, book store campouts, stroke of midnight release dates, numerous virtual Hogwarts communities, contests, games, and touring buses texture the layers of its spellbinding mystique. Proof of the series' cultural icon status include its immensely popular main characters, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, as well as the movie actors who portray them, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.

For each new installment, its extremely fortunate publisher, Scholastic, employs more and more creative marketing techniques to induce Potter mania. This strategy always includes strictly enforced restrictions on public distribution. By placing each new cash cow in a, shall we say, chamber of secrets, Scholastic perpetuates a highly successful method to build media buzz, along with enchantment in the collective hearts of Harry's loyal fans.

But now the swill has hit the fans. Sorry, pun intended.

Of all unlikely places, the stench permeates Baltimore like a thick cloud of deatheaters on a muggy playground afternoon. Yesterday, the local rag's front page headline, The Spell is Broken, hearlded unauthorized delivery of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in Davidsonville, Maryland, to one Jon Hopkins (not to be confused with Johns Hopkins, notable Baltimore philanthropist), ostensibly the cousin of one Mary Carole McCauley, local rag reviewer. Along with Michiko Kakutani, reviewer for the New York Times, Ms. McCauley gave away plot tidbits, cloyingly refused to reveal what happens to who, then tartly dubbed the ending predictable. I don't know how others will interpret this, but to me, her little cat out of the bag means Harry doesn't die.

Now Taking Bets in VegasTo make matters worse, some lowlife uploaded individual page images of the entire book for free distribution. Authenticity is questionable, but that didn't prevent thousands of downloads. Then, someone tried to sell a copy of the unreleased book on eBay. Webmasters claimed no responsibility. They were just doing their jobs. Yah-vold!

I wonder if this will change the odds in Vegas.

Rowling and Scholastics are so outraged, they're not only seeking injunctions, they're also issuing heart wrenching appeals to leagues of loyal followers. "I'd like to ask everyone who calls themselves a Harry Potter fan to help preserve the secrecy of the plot for all those who are looking forward to reading the book at the same time on publication day," implored Rowling.

Aw, isn't that nice? Let's make the fans feel like filthy rotten mugbloods if they dare disobey the midnight dissemination edict. Can anyone else picture Peeves pounding a framed version of the edict into Hogwarts Castle?

Wait. There's more.

Israeli citizens are gearing up to join the ranks. Merchants who plan to participate in the release date by operating their businesses on the Jewish Sabbath are suffering a terrible backlash. A segment of the population is deeply offended while people in Tel Aviv don't much seem to care. Muckety mucks are now involved and they're taking names.

Will everyone please take a deep breath? Slowly...exhale...Ahhhh.

Harry Potter is just a figment of J.K. Rowling's imagination. And while I have the utmost respect for the woman and her ability to weave such an enthralling tale of good versus evil -- in the world of wizardry no less -- in the end, Harry Potter is just a well-constructed fairytale. Certainly, people responsible for violating contract agreements and the author's copyright should pay and I imagine they will. What sticks in my horcrux is how we, the fans, are so easily manipulated to eschew the story's final conclusion before an arbitrarily decreed deadline -- a deadline mandated solely to create media and consumer frenzy -- simply because the people in charge appealed to our basic human desire to share a simultaneous moment as a homogeneous community, albeit contrived.

Listen up, people. This isn't Woodstock!

For those of you who can't wait until the witching hour to learn the fate of Harry and friends, or because of religious reasons won't be able to grab your copy at the stroke of midnight, I've discovered a link to the ending. But I have to warn you, the person who wrote it also babbled something weird about Islam on a linked page.

If this is the kind of person you would trust to violate J.K. Rowling's copyright and Scholastic's business practices, then by all means, be my guest.