Monday, June 07, 2004

Wizard People, Dear Reader

A comic book artist from Texas has created an alternate sound and dialogue track for the first Harry Potter film, he has called the new creation "Wizard People, Dear Reader." You see the film as it was shot, but with completely different dialogue.

With Mr. Neely's gravelly narration, the movie's tone shifts into darkly comic, pop-culture-savvy territory. Hagrid, Harry Potter's giant, hairy friend, becomes Hagar, the Horrible, and Harry's fat cousin becomes Roast Beefy. As imagined by Mr. Neely, the three main characters are child alcoholics with a penchant for cognac, the magical ballgame Quidditch takes on homoerotic overtones, and Harry is prone to delivering hyper-dramatic monologues. "I am a destroyer of worlds," bellows Mr. Neely at one point, sending laughter reverberating through the warehouse Friday night. "I am Harry" expletive "Potter!"

Sounds pretty funny. Apparently some video rental stores in Texas have bundled Wizard People, Dear Reader with the original film, I'm guessing these aren't chains like Blockbuster. Wizard People, Dear Reader has gotten more attention since being shown at the New York Underground Film Festival recently.

No doubt, Warner Brothers will be taking an interest in this work by means of a cease and desist letter. It certainly appears at first blush that this would be a derivitive work of the original. Creating derivitive works is a right only the copyright owner may excersise. However, this may be a fair use if Wizard People, Dear Reader is parodic to some degree; meaning it criticizes the original work. Also favoring a fair use finding are the facts that Wizard People, Dear Reader will not replace the original in the marketplace and that it is not a blatantly commercial use.

It is not clear that Mr. Neely's soundtrack violates the studio's copyright. Jonathan Zittrain, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, said that while the copyright holder retains the rights to derivative works, it was possible "Wizard People" was protected under the rules that allow "fair use" of copyrighted works for purposes like criticism, comment and news reporting.

The Wizard People, Dear Reader audiotrack is available for download from Illegal Art dot org (where you can also download DJ Danger Mouse's "The Grey Album," the subject of recent copyright difficulties; and view various other works that infringe on copyrights and trademarks).

Via The New York Times.


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