Warner Bros. Turns Harry Potter Fan Events Into Events For The Franchise That Must Not Be Named

from the trademarka-kedavra dept

It’s always a weird look for companies and IP owners to go after clear expressions of fandom from their customers. And, yet, this sort of thing is done often, with fan get-togethers or festivals regularly being threatened by the IP owners they’re fans of. Often times we hear the usual nonsense trademark law excuse that fans must be served with cease and desist letters, or sued, or else the trademark owner will lose its rights. That, as we’ve discussed repeatedly, is not true, as there are other options available to the trademark holder besides threatening fans.

Warner Bros. has many of the rights to the Harry Potter franchise and the company has not been shy in the past about firing off threat letters to fan groups and festivals. Previously, Warner Bros. has claimed that it only abused fans in this way if there was a commercial aspect to the events. Even under that policy, the legal team for the studio was, shall we say, imperfect. But Warner Bros. has apparently had something of a policy shift that is causing it to go after far more of these fan events, causing Potter fans everywhere frustration and anger.

“It’s almost as if Warner Bros. has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town,” said Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch tournament that coincides with the annual suburban Philadelphia festival.

Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill’s business district director, said Warner Bros. reached out to his group in May, letting them know 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.

“It was very quickly apparent (we) weren’t going to be able to hold festivals like years past,” he said. The late October festival drew about 45,000 fans last year to the historic neighborhood’s cobblestone streets. This year, they will instead have a “wands and wizards” family night and pub crawl and other magic-themed events — and people can still dress as their favorite characters.

As the AP notes, this policy shift is causing these notices to go out to festivals all over the country, each time stating that new policies prohibit this sort of fan-fun at local festivals. As is often the case, Warner Bros. is claiming that trademark law requires it to take these exact actions. Again, this is not true. The studio has many other options, including offering a cheap license to the festivals to allow the fun to go on while having them be officially sanctioned. That it chose not to pursue that course means that Warner Bros. is squarely more interested in being a legal bully than it is in allowing fans of its franchise to celebrate their fandom.

It’s an especially stupid track to take, given that these organic fan festivals are certainly in some part responsible for propelling the Potter franchise to the stardom it has now achieved.

Philadelphia Potter fan Sarah McIntyre thinks it’s ridiculous for Warner Bros. to target the festivals.

“They are acting like the Dursleys,” said the 34-year-old yoga teacher and bookkeeper. She said they should be encouraging communities to bring Harry Potter to life. “Creating interest in the franchise would increase revenue,” she said.

How this is not obvious to the folks at Warner Bros. is beyond me. The studio ought to want people talking about the franchise as widely as possible and it’s hard to see how fan events at local festivals would do anything other than cause new potential consumers of the franchise to generate some interest in it. As the AP takes pains to note, Warner Bros. is certainly within its rights here, or is at least likely so. But that doesn’t make this is a smart business decision, never mind the most optimal outcome for its franchise. Instead, it comes off as purely unfriendly to fans, which is just not a good look for an entertainment product.

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Companies: warner bros.

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Comments on “Warner Bros. Turns Harry Potter Fan Events Into Events For The Franchise That Must Not Be Named”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Free Wizards

Or try The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals for a different perspective on food regulation that exists, that will kill you, after some time. Industry capture of government regulations does not just exist in the tech industry. Ever hear of Big Sugar? Or think about what it costs for Ethanol to be a regulated part of your cars consumption? That cost should be considered in both dollars and oil consumption.

I am not saying regulation is bad. I am saying that bad regulations are bad. That the continued expenditures by the recipients of government largess to continue their largess is really, really bad. Read the farm bill. How many small farmers actually make out? How many corporate farmers make out? Now that the Roundup patent is more than 20 years old, why is Monsanto (that has now renamed itself due to former shame and future profits, by allowing itself to be bought by another giant. Anyone who thinks they could not have prevented this is daft.

Which company was it that set out to patent existing plants because no one else had patented those plants and didn’t want anyone else to use those plants without paying them? Of course, those patent applications made NO mention of prior art, just that they weren’t already patented.

In some ways, I like corporations. Without them many things would not have been researched and/or discovered. In other ways, I really, really hate corporations. To a large degree I target Wall Street, and other exchanges, for their profits first mentalities. There should be some other values involved, the question is how to involve them when greed is so paramount?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Free Wizards

“I am not saying regulation is bad. I am saying that bad regulations are bad.”

This message is entirely lost in the mindless back and forth between the zealots. And because they are so used to fighting the zealots anyone not parroting their ideals are only anti zealots and they can no longer be reasoned with.

The pro-regulatory crowd has spend so much time looking for regulations to fix problems they perceive that they never look back to view the destruction their regulations have left in their wake.

We have more regulations than ever, and we have more wealth disparity then every. We have larger monopolies and monolithic umbrella corporations that own huged collections of food labels. Monsanto has gamed regulations endlessly for profit and gain. Turbo Tax lobbies the regulators all day long to make taxes as complicated as possible so you have to use a service just to navigate the mess that is taxes. The IRS already calculates your taxes based on what employers already report, there is no reason to force people to manually file most of the time. Not only that but regulations are often more beneficial to the businesses rather than consumers, the government will trust a businesses lies over your own and if they file a fraudulent tax document against you then you are mostly fucked!

Regulations are becoming an unbearable weight on the backs of the consumers and people just keep asking for more and they are dying for it.

Regulatory benefits at most only last as long as the generation that spawned it, and when they pass it becomes and institution to be gamed and abused at the expense of the idiots that sought safety and security in exchange for a little temporary safety!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Free Wizards

I am not saying regulation is bad. I am saying that bad regulations are bad

You seem to enjoy mocking people who say that, and yet that is the thesis statement of every single rant you post.

Outside of insults, what have you done that permits you to lay sole claim to that phrase? More historical quotes taken out of context?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Free Wizards

“The pro-regulatory crowd has spend so much time looking for regulations to fix problems they perceive that they never look back to view the destruction their regulations have left in their wake”

That crowd you made up in your head sure are stupid, huh?

In the real world, people want effective regulations, which may mean removing bad ones, may mean reforming existing ones, or may mean new ones. But, between corporations exercising as much control as they can and useful idiots standing against the idea of new or reformed regulations, nothing useful gets done.

“We have larger monopolies and monolithic umbrella corporations that own huged collections of food labels”

So, you support competent, empowered regulators getting in there and stopping that from happening then? The industry sure isn’t going to stop that unregulated, or with ineffective regulation.

“Regulations are becoming an unbearable weight on the backs of the consumers”

If true, then that’s a good idea to adjust the load. If it’s consumers you’re worried about, the bigger burden may be removing regulations, depending on . which ones you remove.

“Regulatory benefits at most only last as long as the generation that spawned it”

Absolutely bullshit. For example, the regulations that stopped people hiring 8 year olds to work in the mines and the like almost certainly benefitted you, even though they were probably introduced long before you were born.

But, no wonder you have some a dumb view of all these things – you not only don’t seem to believe they serve anything but a short-term purpose, you also don’t appear to believe they can be altered after they are passed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Free Wizards

It’s called Poe’s law and was obviously sarcasm.

The poster was also using several fallacies in that sarcasm but it is approved because it follows an anti-free market narrative.

The free market is LONG dead but idiots like him still think it’s hip to keep blaming the free-market for something their blind support for regulate all the things have caused. Businesses love idiots like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Free Wizards

The sarcasm was not obvious enough, obviously.
Not sure how the free market can be ‘blamed’ if it doesn’t exist. I think they were pointing at the people who like to invoke how the free market will magically fix things.
Somewhere between laissez-faire free market and over-regulation there should be a sweet spot to strive for – neither extreme is sensible.

trollificus (profile) says:

Re: This has been happening with Disney / Star Wars as well.

There’s a video of Rian Johnson expressing the sophomoric film school ambition to make movies that half the audience would love and half would hate. Against all odds (and, presumably, marketing department advice), he has succeeded!

And instead of being happy, Disney-beholden media and contractors are attacking the half that didn’t like his movie! Wut?

I think they’ll find that the long tail of rabid Star Wars fans they are now calling “toxic” accounted for a very large percentage of the money spent on the franchise, as well as generating the social momentum for interest in the property. Who do they think spent literally thousands per year on costumes, models, games, books, multi-repeat theater viewings, collectibles etc? Casual fans?

Disney seems to believe the success of Star Wars was solely and entirely the result of LucasFilms’ management and marketing. An idea that is currently undergoing real-world testing.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

End Results

This year, they will instead have a "wands and wizards" family night and pub crawl and other magic-themed events — and people can still dress as their favorite characters.

I want to see their recipe for butter beer, that is legally salable to children. I have been imagining this for as long as the books have been out. I have thought about Birch Beer and butter, Root Beer and butter, and watered down real beer and butter, and have been disgusted by them all. Even the thoughts. I hope someone has more ‘beer’ creativity than I. I sent my nieces copies of the books when I first heard about them, and there were only two available. My sister-in-law first congratulated me, then cursed me. I have not figured out why the curse, though it may have been related to the books.

Then, of course, there is the marketing aspect. What in the hell is Warner Brother thinking about? Free marketing? Apparently not. Control? More likely. What will they achieve? Pissed off fans. Does that make them stronger, or richer? I think not.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: End Results

Interesting idea, though a short shelf life (due to the raw eggs), and while it might be considered buttery, eggnog does not traditionally contain butter, which might wind up in truth in labeling court. Damned laws.

It would work for a festival though, if said festival didn’t interrupt some corporate wanker’s concept of promotion.

Part the the problem is that butter melts at body temperature, and coagulates at anything colder. So butter beer, conceivably, would have lumps of butter in it, and that does not make like a satisfying drink. Now if butter beer were served hot, it might make a difference. Though there was a restaurant that used cold Hollandaise (a butter and egg emulsion, though warm, not hot) along with raw scallops to simulate eggs sunny side up. What can I say, it was the 70’s, they also had a chocolate rabbit dish.

As an aside, one of the differences between butter and margarine is the melting point. Butter will melt at normal human body temperatures. Margarine will not. Therefore, if you have a film on your tongue after tasting something, it was likely margarine, rather than butter. Myself, I use olive oil as much as possible (unless the flavor is conflicting with the intended result) and butter only when it is necessary for the end product (heart conditions have some precedent), and then only sweet (unsalted) butter. On the other hand, I have used a 50-50 mixture of clarified (water and solids removed by melting and then chilling, and then physically separating the fat from the dregs) which give flavor, and a decreased melting point, but an increased smoke point. Any oil, butter, margarine, olive oil, corn oil, etc. will achieve a smoke point, and shortly thereafter an ignition point where the oil will self combust. The smoke point is good, generally it means the oil is ready for cooking, but it is short lived, the combustion point is shortly thereafter. It is not always necessary to achieve the smoke point for cooking, but it is beneficial in some cases.

I should mention that the only way to put out such an oil fire is to remove the oxygen. This might be done by putting a lid on the pan, or with copious amounts of salt, not usually available in a home kitchen, or with the appropriate fire extinguisher. Water will not only not work, but will make the problem worse. DON’T USE WATER.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Butterscotch or Caramel

When I read of Butterbeer, I thought the same thing as Anonymous Coward that the flavor is butterscotch or caramel based. There are a few fancy soft drinks that already are that I’ve found at places like BevMo or specialty stores.

For a wizarding town, I’d figure out how Henry Weinhard gives their root beer an outrageous (and uncontrollable) head.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: End Results

The butterscotch makes sense. Thank you.

As to caramelizing butter, one has to understand that it is sugar that is caramelized and that butter is not part of the caramelization process, just water,sometimes, (which quickly evaporates and is used in only very small amounts) and sugar, which turns brown and thickens when heated to the correct temperatures.

Butter would turn brown, but browned butter has a much different flavor profile that caramelized sugar. Browned butter has its uses, but not for sweetness.

Hint, when one browns onions, it is the sugar in the onions that turns brown, and sweetens the flavor of the onion.

Madd the Sane (profile) says:

Gravy train

This makes me wonder if WB is trying to silently kill interest in Harry Potter because they feel that the gravey train for HP is over, and they want them to divert interest into a new, more lucrative IP.

Of course, the bad will that WB is generating might hurt any IP that they put under their umbrella, until they only have IPs that no one wants to touch.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Gravy train

Depends upon what rights they have contracted for. Remember, copyright is life of the author plus 70 years, and she ain’t dead yet. I don’t see this franchise going away anytime soon. The question is, how will it be enhanced?

Of course, there is the limited thinking possibility that you present. Only one franchise can make money at any one time. Which of course is madly insane (punily intended). -:)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Gravy train

Really that would be incredibly stupid even if that was true just on the grounds that they should expect to be able to sell the franchise for more even if they doubt their ability to extract money out of it at their scale. (People expect similar budget movies from them and the budget to meet it probably wouldn’t pay it back and downscaled guaranteed flops not making money even with a smaller budget.)

There isn’t any cunning here – just territorial greedy morons who can’t even give brand management in terms of being nuts about faithfulness to carry the name as a pretense for it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

This is why you leash and muzzle your lawyers

I suspect a lot of actions like this are the result of lawyers looking for billable hours, and/or busy-work to make it look like they’re worth the amount being paid, giving how monumentally stupid it is from a business perspective.

At this point someone should put together a test for prospective lawyers to weed out the idiots and/or greedy fools, because stuff like this just makes me and others less likely to give their clients(you know, the people they’re supposed to be helping) money, not more.

Question 1: A group of people are interested enough in your client’s product(s) that they are holding events related to them. This results in increased/refreshed interest in said product(s) of those already in the group, and has a good potential to draw in new people curious about what’s going on.

Do you:

A) Offer a free/cheap license to show your support.

B) Do the above, and find a way to showcase said event to draw even more attention to it, and therefore your client.

C) Send a threatening legal letter telling them if they continue on they’ll be sued into the ground.

Anyone answering C is immediately struck from the pool of potential lawyers to be hired.

Anonymous Cowherd says:

Corporations, as entities designed to insulate people from the consequences of their collective actions, have a natural tendency to distill the darker inclinations of humanity. And the larger the corporation, the more concentrated that darkness becomes.

Every little cog in the machine just doing their jobs, contributing just a little bit evil, but it adds up.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

OFFICIAL Harry Potter festivals

If they did that and it was good and didn’t overcharge, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. My concerns:

~ WV is waiting for someone to do it for them and then buy an expensive HP license.

~ WB is not interested at all, but WB lawyers don’t have enough to do to justify themselves.

~ WB does it but it’s overpriced, or schlocky and is obviously a ploy to take advantage of a devout fanbase.

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