Jul 19, 2007

Harry Potter ‘leaks’ spread to China

BEIJING - Chinese Web sites published reports and photographs on Wednesday which they said may contain the ending to the eagerly awaited seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter book series.
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The author of a Potter article on the Web site of a newspaper called Strait News, said by telephone that the pictures came from an overseas peer-to-peer download site.

"Since the actual book hasn't been released, no one can be sure if it's the real thing or not," he said. The pages were subsequently removed, he added.

But a handful of other sites, including the popular Sina.com, also ran the article and pictures.

The reports and photographs are the latest examples of material possibly from the eagerly awaited "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" appearing on the Internet.

The books about the boy wizard have sold 325 million copies worldwide so far, and anticipation over what happens at the end of the series is high ahead of its official publication at one minute past midnight British Summer Time (2301 GMT) on Saturday.

Author J.K. Rowling fuelled speculation about the ending when she said last year that at least two characters would be killed off and a third got a reprieve.

In China, the People's Literature Press is doing the official translation of "Deathly Hallows" with an expected release date of October 21, but Chinese-language knockoffs may well appear before then.

Everything from pirated movies to phony luxury handbags are widely available in China, which has a reputation for its poor protection of intellectual property rights.

In 2002, an entirely fake Potter book, entitled "Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up To Dragon", appeared in China.

Security tight

Potter publishers have spent millions of dollars trying to protect the contents of "Deathly Hallows", which many expect to become the fastest-selling book ever.

Reports of leaks have gathered pace in recent days. On Monday, Reuters saw photographs of what appeared to be the final seven pages of book seven. The same, if not very similar images featured on Chinese sites on Wednesday.

Emerson Spartz, founder of the Harry Potter fan site www.mugglenet.com, said on Monday he had seen the same or similar pictures, and believed that they were genuine.

A spokeswoman for Potter's British publisher Bloomsbury said earlier this week: "There is a lot of fan fiction and a lot of dreamers on the Internet, and people are very clever about what they put together ... We are amazed people want to spoil it."

In the United States, media has reported photographs circulating on the Internet of every page of "Deathly Hallows", although publishers declined to say whether any were genuine.

This week Scholastic initiated court action against one Web site, www.gaiaonline.com, to persuade it to take down Harry Potter material it had posted, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Potter fans reacted angrily to recent leaks.

"I hate it when people ruin things like this for everyone else who wants to enjoy it the right way," one contributor wrote on the Mugglenet site. "I think that's just the most awful thing ever. Especially when there's spoilers where you least suspect it. People are jerks."

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