“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 17: “Harry Potter Festivals Which Must Not Be Named”

Have you recently attended an unnamed magic festival filled with Harry Potter wonders? In this episode we come to you from Roanoke, Virginia’s Generic Magic Festival to discuss Harry Potter in popular culture and the challenges that fan activities pose for copyright and trademark law.



Join Katy and her guests Louise Freeman (Mary Baldwin University), Emily Strand (Mount Carmel College of Nursing), Amy Sturgis (Lenoir-Rhyne University), and Lana Whited (Ferrum College) in a discussion of the wonders of Harry Potter festivals and fan culture. We discuss our own fan identities and interests and whether we consider ourselves – in Henry Jenkins’s term – “acafans” (simultaneously academics and fans). Hear about our favorite experiences from the festival this year. Emily Strand shares her theory on how house-elves are like sci-fi robots. Don’t miss Amy Sturgis’s fantastic reading list for Harry Potter lovers looking for new series! Lana Whited describes her moving experience leading a panel of young adult readers, one of whom called the Harry Potter books “the fable of his youth.” Most of all, we celebrate the opportunity festivals provide to meet and talk serious Potter with our fellow fans (and acafans) across generations.

Recently, these festivals have had to go incognito because of copyright and trademark restrictions. Why has there been a recent crackdown from J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. about the names, products, and even decorations used in these festivals? Katy and Lana talk with Roanoke lawyer Christen Church (Gentry Locke Attorneys), who helps us to understand the delicate balance of intellectual property rights and fan engagement with our favorite series. Lana explains how this has affected the Roanoke festival, and we consider practical strategies for dealing with the new legal environment in the world of Harry Potter fandom.

Please also join the conversation via email (ReadingWritingRowling@gmail.com), Twitter (ReadWriteRowl), or on our Facebook page! We’d love to hear from you.

Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.