Warner Bros. Cracking down on Local Harry Potter Events in True Umbridge Fashion
Harry Potter. A book series that has filled adults and children with wonder for two decades. Also: a giant capitalist goldmine that Warner Bros. will milk until the teat shrivels up into nothing. Which means clamping down on anything that could infringe on their lucrative copyright, including local events that have been structured around the franchise.
The Associated Press reported that at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, they host an annual Quidditch tournament that is in conjunction with a local festival that takes place at the same time. Unfortunately, due to Warner Bros.’ new policy guidelines, these kinds of events will no longer be as accessible as they once were.
Philip Dawson, the Chestnut Hill’s business district director, was contacted by Warner Bros. and told that “new guidelines prohibit festivals’ use of any names, places or objects from the series. That ruled out everything from meet-and-greet with Dumbledore and Harry to Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.”
Dawson says that they will “make of the best of it,” however, due to this cease order, they won’t be able to hold specific themed events like it anymore. According to the Associated Press, last year the event drew in about 45,000 fans. This year, because of the trademark issues, they will rebrand it as a “wands and wizards” family night and pub crawl, in which people will still be able to dress up.
In a statement to the AP Warner Bros. said: “Warner Bros. is always pleased to learn of the enthusiasm of Harry Potter fans, but we are concerned, and do object, when fan gatherings become a vehicle for unauthorized commercial activity.”
In other words, if that Potter money isn’t going into their pockets it’s a problem. Warner Bros. has been working on this for years and the original article reports that cease order have been given out to free festival events in Aurora, Illinois, and Ithaca, New York. Back in 2003, a woman received a cease-and-desist letter for a Hogwarts-themed dinner party she planned, with a guest list of 30.
There was a Los Angeles bookstore called “Whimsic Alley” that was sued for its Harry Potter merch that included chocolate frogs to Gryffindor scarves. They settled the case, but the store ended up having to close last year.
AP reached out to J.K. Rowling, and she had no comment.
Sadly, Warner Bros. is totally within their rights to do this, but it seems heartless. Fan-based Harry Potter events have been the lifeblood of the franchise since the beginning—it is what has kept the series in people’s hearts even as the books ended, and and the events helped engage younger readers. Warner Bros. has the right to protect their brand, but they don’t need to protect their brand from fans. They will still pump money into theme parks and merch and new editions of books.
Also, if Warner Bros. was so concerned with their trademark, maybe they wouldn’t have cast Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, wouldn’t have allowed Yates to keep Dumbledore in the celluloid closet, and not made several bad Harry Potter movies. Half-Blood Prince? Still need an apology for that expensive nap.
Regardless, Harry Potter fans are long used to disappointment from the higher ups and will continue to celebrate the magic of the series, while lamenting how it has taken a hard capitalist turn. When Dolores Umbridge would give a sickly sweet smile about your policies, it’s time to wonder if you’re doing something wrong.
(via SyFy Wire, image: Warner Bros.)
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