The Daily Prophet
While reading in Lessig’s book, Remix, I was struck by a story he tells about a young girl who starts an electronic newspaper, The Daily Prophet. Lessig says, “This was not a religious paper. It was instead an effort to explain and extend the story given to her generation by the extraordinary author, J.K. Rowling” (206). Harry Potter has become a world-wide phenomenon that students everywhere are familiar with. They enjoy the stories, the characters, the movies, the video games, etc. This is incredible; because of the mass production of anything Harry Potter, students automatically assume that they can interact with the media and, in a sense, make it their own. In the instance with the electronic newspaper, Heather Lawver was simply engaging with other fans of the media and creating an online space in which they could come together and share their love for the stories. However, “As Rowling’s success migrated from the printed page to a major Hollywood media company, Warner, the ‘control’ over what was now Warner’s ‘property’ shifted from a storyteller to a pack of lawyers” (206). During this time, Lawver received threatening letters from Warner which then transpired into what is now known as the “Potter Wars.” Lawver fought Warner with intimidation factors like gathering petitions and using the media to her own advantage. According to Lessig, “Lawver’s campaign of course leveraged the Net. Warner quickly became saavy…It avoided threatening Lawver directly; it hoped to avoid her following generally” (207). Lawver gained allies and a following of supporters because people saw her activism as a positive influence and something that would help other “kids” learn about the culture in which they live and make decisions about that culture.
One of the main points that Lessig discusses in regard to this situation with Lawver is how “every major franchise of content is coming to understand the value of the community of fans who work (for free) to promote their content” (212). The 21st century has to deal with these issues because of the multitude of media content available on the internet. In fact, the internet itself plays a huge role in recreating the role of copyright laws and how people interact with major companies, like Warner, because of accessibility and availability.
Lessig discusses some valid points about Lawver’s issue with Warner. He depicts both sides which shows how each entity felt during this “war.” Lawver’s desire to have a common place that was accessible to people all over the world to share their stories and feelings about Harry Potter is not technically wrong; however, the fact that Warner Bros. takes the “rights” to Harry Potter complicates the issue. What Warner needed to understand is that making an online site titled The Daily Prophet does not infringe upon their rights. Rather, it is a strong fan base that spreads the devotion to the actual content instead of decreasing interest.
Lessig’s book Remix is a fascinating read because of the examples he provides in illustrating his point about the ridiculousness of the so called “copyright wars.” This war is really unfounded in many ways because of the pettiness of the arguments. Just like in the example with Lawver who did nothing technically wrong but was rather caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the other examples in the book touch upon why it is necessary to recreate the meaning of copyright. Warner, on the other hand, did not understand that Lawver’s intentions were completely pure–that of gathering a fan base in a central location. What Warner had to learn was that this centrally localized site devoted to Harry Potter could actually aid them and Warner would not even have to pay them for their troubles. It is these sorts of examples that prove that the copyright wars are unnecessary in today’s digital world. This is not to say that copyright should completely disappear. It is necessary because it protects the rights of the individuals who create the originals; Lessig’s (as well as my own) argument is merely to point out the problems with the copyright wars and the fact that they focus on the wrong issues of functioning within a digital society.
Book: Lessig, Lawrence. (2008). Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. New York: The Penguin Press.