Now if you’re not really deep into Harry Potter you’ve probably never heard of Potterwar. I first heard about it a few years ago when watching the documentary ‘We Are Wizards’, which is all about Harry Potter fan culture. Essentially Potterwar is the story of how Harry potter fans went up against Warner Bros and won. It’s kind of a long complicated story but for the sake of this post I’m going to summarise it.
In 2000, the first Harry Potter movie started production and the fan base was growing by the day. Fans from all over the world start using the internet as a place to share their Harry Potter love, many creating fan sites. Warner Bros was not happy about this because these fans sites were using words and phrases which were copyright, such as ‘Hogwarts’ and ‘Dumbledore’. Warner Bros started to send cease and desist letters to the owners of these fan sites. Bear in mind, most of the people running the fan sites at the time were around the age of 13.
Led by a girl named Heather Lawver, who was just 15 at the time, many of the people running these sites refused to shut down. Instead they organised a worldwide boycott, refusing to purchase anything Harry Potter that was owned by Warner Bros, only spending money on the original books.
And it worked. Warner Bros lost so much money during the boycott that they retracted the letters and allowed people to continue using the copyrighted words and phrases. Potterwar was a big win for the people and set a precedent, giving more freedom to what people could do online.
If you want the whole story, as told by Heather herself, you can check out the blog post she made about it here.