In a move as curmudgeonly and dark as anything Lord Voldemort could have dreamed up, Penguin India (henceforth to be referred to as “the publishing house-who-must-not-be-named”) has sued, for an obscene amount, a community Durga Pujo for creating a “Hogwarts”-themed pandal and for using images of Harry Potter without “permission” which I believe stands for “did not cross palms with silver”.
Copyright and intellectual property violation is no laughing matter and while it is undeniable that an overwhelming majority of the Bollywood fraternity (producers and music directors) deserve to be sued through their asses for IP violations , the fact that an army of corporate legal suits would go after a religious festival organizer whose use of the copyrighted images/concepts ( and that too for just five days) is not motivated by the desire to profit off them (they are not charging people money to enter the premises nor are they selling Potter merchandize nor are they claiming the characters as their own creations) is in equal measures mean-spirited and idiotic.
Of course the argument as mentioned in the BBC article is that the Pujo is a “large scale commercially sponsored” project—however anyone who has been in Kolkata during the Pujos knows that the way subscriptions (chanda) are collected has nothing to do with the theme of the pandal. In other words, it’s not as if the Pujo organizers leveraged the Harry Potter brand image to get more subscriptions. Why do I say that? Cause I do not ever remember the subscription collectors telling my dad—“Uncle give us 20 more rupees. This year we will have the Asura with an Andy Roberts face.”
The suits will also argue that more people will come to see the Pujo because of the Harry Potter theme and the ballonwallahs and the ice-cream wallahs and the roll-wallahs would make more profit as a result. The point is that people come not so much for Harry Potter but to marvel at the skill of the artisans who have created such a grand structure out of the most rudimentary elements—-it could just as well have been Helm’s Deep from the “Lord of the Rings” and the same number of people would have come. It is of course difficult to think that the powers-that-be would be able to see the tribute angle here—-and since the fools evidently cannot, there is no reason for us to even bother with Harry Potter.
In passing, it’s a pity that this is a Pujo else a case could be made to call the pandal “Hagoo”warts (Hagoo is Bengali for excreta), Hermoine as “Germ”ione and Ron as “Dhon” (Bengali for “jewels” or more specifically in this context: the male reproductive bling bling ) and pass it of as a parody which besides being a good legal argument against copyright violation would also show the makers of Harry Potter their place.
As I write, buoyed by this development, the legal teams of Michael Jackson, assorted West Indian pace bowlers, Mike Tyson,Greg Chappell (thanks Anirban) and Hema Malini are drafting legal letters asking for compensation for the unlicensed use of their likenesses in previous Pujos.
And so all those organizers rubbing their hands in glee that this did not happen to them, be warned. Your past sins shall soon catch up with you.
[Link in separate emails from Arnab Sinha, Bongpondit, Nikhil Deo and S.Pyne]