The festival that must not be named: Danish Harry Potter event to transfigure over rights

Quidditch, magic battles, the Hogwarts Express and hundreds of excited children have been an annual tradition for the last decade and a half at Odense Libraries’ Harry Potter Festival.

The festival that must not be named: Danish Harry Potter event to transfigure over rights
A young wizard at the Harry Potter Festival in Odense in 2016. Photo: Sonny Munk Carlsen/Ritzau Scanpix

But rights lawyers from Warner Bros. have used the Immobulus charm on the yearly event, which will be discontinued under its current name, Ritzau reports.

The Hollywood film giant, which owns the rights to the hugely popular movies based on J. K. Rowling’s books, has moved to prevent Odense Libraries from using names and images related to the films.

“We are a non-commercial event, as we have stated before. But 13,000 people are coming to this festival,” project leader Søren Dahl Mortensen said.

“We have now received official instruction that we may not use the Harry Potter universe. We have likely become too big for them [Warner Bros., ed.].,” he added.

The festival started in 2003 as a small event at Næsby Library in Odense, but has since grown dramatically.

Several cultural organisations and up to 130 volunteers from across the city are involved.

Elements of the event included a train ride where visitors can take the ‘Hogwarts Express’, writing for the Daily Prophet and broomstick riding.

Potter fans from all over Denmark as well as from the U.K. are reported to have attended, and even Rowling herself visited in 2010.

J.K. Rowling in Odense during the festival in 2010, when she was also awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. Photo: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix

But the event must now be transfigured after rights holders apparated in to put a stop to the use of the Potter name.

“We will continue but will have to call it something else. Maybe we’ll call it ‘Magical Days’ or ‘The Festival That Must Not Be Named’. We don’t want to stop,” Mortensen said.

“We don’t quite understand Time Warner’s position because we think we’re keeping the universe alive. A lot of children are looking forward to coming and are making their costumes at home in preparation,” he added.

New names must now be found for all of the festival’s aspects that infringe rights laws. Mortensen said that paying for the rights was not an option.

“We are not interested in that. We cannot afford it and I don’t know whether it’s an option,” he said.

The Danish festival can take some consolation in the knowledge that it is not the only Potter event to appear in the Warner Bros. pensieve.

The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Warner Bros. had begun cracking down on unofficial Harry Potter fan festivals across the United States, citing trademark protection.

“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 unauthorised commercial activity,” the company told AP in January.

The Odense event is scheduled to take place from October 18th-20th.

“We hope people will still want to come. A lot of families have discovered it is a laid-back festival that is not expensive and commercial,” Mortensen said.

READ ALSO: Facebook reverses Little Mermaid censorship


Denmark proposes new law to make Facebook pay for news and music

The government is to forward a bill on Friday proposing tech giants such as Facebook and Google pay Danish media for using content on their platforms.

Denmark proposes new law to make Facebook pay for news and music
File photo: Regis Duvignau/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The proposal will also mean platforms used to share media, such as YouTube, will be required to make agreements with rights holders in order to display videos or music, the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

A comparable law recently took effect in Australia, resulting in all news pages being temporarily blocked for Facebook users in the southern hemisphere country.

READ ALSO: Could Denmark force Facebook to pay for news content?

“The media plays a central role in our democracy and ensures that public debate takes place on an infrormed basis,”culture minister Joy Mogensen said in the statement.

“If the media are to be able to continue making journalism, they should of course be paid for its use,” she added.

The proposal will provide for rights holders such as musicians or media outlets to be given a new publishing right which will enable them to decide who can use their content.

As such, companies like Facebook and Google will need permission to use the content online.

The Danish proposal builds on an EU directive which gives individual media outlets the right to agree deals with tech giants.

The bill put forward by Mogensen will allow Danish media to make a collective agreement with the tech companies providing for payment when their content is used.

An interest organisation for Danish media companies has backed the proposal.

“We have wanted to be able to enter collective agreements with tech giants because that would strengthen the media companies’ position,” Louise Brincker, CEO of Danske Medier, told newspaper Berlingske. Brincker noted she had not yet read the full proposal.

Media will not be obliged to make agreements with the tech companies, however. Complaints to the Danish copyright board, Ophavsretslicensnævnet, will be possible under the new law, should it be passed by parliament.

The bill will become law on June 7th should it receive the backing of a parliamentary majority.

Both Facebook and Google decline to comment to Berlingske on the matter, stating they had yet to see the bill in full.