Intellectual Property

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Aix-en-Provence

|

I usually support intellectual property rights, but in this case I'm not so sure:

Police arrested a teenager suspected of posting his own translation of the latest Harry Potter novel on the Internet weeks before the official French release, the book's publishers said on Wednesday.

The 16-year-old schoolboy, from the Aix-en-Provence region in southern France, was taken into custody by a police anti-counterfeiting unit and later released, said a spokeswoman for the Gallimard publishing house, which handles the French editions of the novels.

Hell, most American kids can't even write about books in their own language, let alone translating one into French. (It doesn't excuse it, I'm just sayin'…)

"It is not a young person or a fan we are talking about here—these are organized networks that use young people," [Gallimard spokeswoman Marie Leroy-Lena ] told Reuters by telephone.

Then arrest them, not him.

The article doesn't mention how good or accurate the translation is. If the translation is not the same quality or better than theirs, Gallimard needs to drop the charges. If it is, they should probably offer him a job.

More from reason on the young wizard here.

NEXT: Whose Kidney Is It, Anyway?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Great. We finally get a Harry Potter thread on H & R on a day I’m in trial all day.

    As for the poor French kid, I’d think the authorities would be gloating about him rather than complaining. Look at the superiority of our system, we have high school students translating your popular fiction! Vive le Lycee!! Vive la France!!! (Cue the Marsellaise. And note that I can’t even spell it properly.)

  2. Gallimard sounds like a fantasy villian. Or a fantasy chicken.

  3. Reason #1,687 to abolish copyright.

  4. Look at the superiority of our system, we have high school students translating your popular fiction!

    Well, I am sure if the French wrote anything Americans wanted to read, we would have kids doing translations too.

    Look into the groups that translate anime into English and distribute online. Most of these groups also stop distributing their translations once official versions are released.

  5. *tips hat

    I am against copyright. However, since we (and apparently the French) do have copyright, this is how it must be enforced. If he’s acting alone he must be held to the law. If he’s working for a larger organization, his testimony will be required. It’s just silly to say we should have copyright law but, if your young or cute, or like blond and thin, then it doesn’t apply to you.

  6. I am a strong copyright supporter, but one instance where I have little sympathy for rights holders is when new releases are held back from certain markets for unrealistic periods of time.

    Yes, they should have the right to determine when they’re willing to release a French translation. But they shouldn’t be surprised when the absence of a French translation leads to a little action directe from a Frenchman.

    I consider it similar to occasions where I have pre-ordered a DVD and the film becomes available on bit torrent prior to the shipping date of the DVD. In such a case I will download the film without remorse, because I’ve already paid for it – I’m just speeding up the shipping process. I’m sure that any Frenchmen who are big enough Harry Potter fans to read an amateur translation online are going to buy the “genuine” product, so they aren’t really stealing anything.

  7. These types of unofficial translations were one of the reasons copyright was first implemented. Of course, that was back in the 1700s and the aim was to stamp out bootlegging. This technically falls into such a category.

    One thing is clear about copyright: we are following the French lead.

  8. Mr. Fluffy, we need to see you in our office immediately. Please bring all of your pirated DVDs as well. And a big dildo. No Lube.

  9. Lamar,
    Bootlegging? I assume you’re not talking about rum. So what then? Unauthorized copies of Voltaire?

  10. Cute headline.

  11. Warren: Exactly. Or perhaps Dickens.

    Heck, it’s not like Johnson & Johnson is suing the Red Cross for using the, um, red cross.

  12. I just read the book. If I translated it, there would be some serious plot changes, let me tell you.

  13. Pro Libertate,

    One of the reasons I oppose copyright. You should be allowed to make those changes. Even in.. make that, especially in English. Just like Shakespeare did.

  14. Does it count as translating if you just read the book to the Frenchies loudly and slowly?

  15. Well, there’s always parody. That’s fair use. In theory.

    I support copyright; my beef is with the unreasonable scope and duration of copyright today. I’m also rather put out by the idea of mere copyright infringement being a major crime or a civil wrong with gigantic fines. Most infringers simply lack the understanding and the mens rea to be classified as criminals. Bah.

    Oh, and the inability of the courts to consistently recognize the importance of fair use is another problem. Without fair use, copyright creates an unconstitutional tension with the First Amendment. Incidentally, by any rational reading of the Constitution, if copyright directly impinges on the freedom of speech, it should lose, every time. It doesn’t have to encounter such conflicts, but gutting fair use is making that more of an issue.

  16. I wonder if there should be an accompanying Copyright Responsibility to go with copyright. Maybe some things like ‘use it or lose it’ provisions where you have to make sure that your book is in print or available, else it reverts to public domain within a short period of time, or things to reduce the ability to do things like in this article: intentionally hold works to release things at different times in different parts of the world. It might not fix all the things about copyright law that bug people (like Disney could still do the release and pull strategy on their movies, just within the time frame allotted), but it might help to get items out there.

  17. “I usually support intellectual property rights, but in this case I’m not so sure…”

    At least you let us know that you are throwing intellectual consistency out the window.

  18. These types of unofficial translations were one of the reasons copyright was first implemented. Of course, that was back in the 1700s and the aim was to stamp out bootlegging. This technically falls into such a category.

    It also fostered censorship. IIRC, all British printers had to be licensed by the government back then, and copyright was designed to make sure they made a nice monopolistic profit and that no ‘unauthorized’ content got out.

    Not to say that copyright is useless, though the ever-increasing copyright terms have made it a joke.

  19. Does anyone here remember Spider Robinson’s “Melancholy Elephants”?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.