Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Wizard People, Dear Reader

Tuesday, June 08, 2004
The New York Times reports on one of the funniest and largest fan edits ever:
On the screen "The Sorcerer's Stone" [or Philsopher's Stone for us non-American types] played as it was released by Warner Brothers. But the original soundtrack, dialogue and all, was turned down and replaced by an alternate version created by a 27-year-old comic book artist from Austin, Tex., named Brad Neely. He calls his soundtrack "Wizard People, Dear Reader," and it is one more breach of the media industry's control of its products. 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!"
The article carries on to compare Wizard People, Dear Reader with the (in)famous Phantom Edit (Episode I without Jar Jar, re-edited by fans) and other "classic" media poaching. As always, copyright is on the table: should J.K. Rowling be making money off this? Well, you have to play the DVD or video of the first Potter film for the audio fan-dub to work, so I guess she already does okay. The article continues along this line, in slightly more academic tones:
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 long-term strategic threat to the entertainment industry is that people will get in the habit of creating and making as much as watching and listening, and all of a sudden the label applied to people at leisure, 50 years in the making ? consumer ? could wither away," he said. "But it would be a shame if Hollywood just said no. It could very possibly be in the interest of publishers to see a market in providing raw material along with finished product."
Regardless of the market-value, the idea of consumers becoming active is something that media fans have advocated and practiced for decades (see, of course, Henry Jenkins' book Textual Poachers). Active engagement, from the standpoint of developing a critical and aware audience, is always preferable. And it doesn't hurt one little bit that Wizard People, Dear Reader is so funny you'll hurt yourself laughing. (It is downloadable as MP3s from the fabulous Illegal-Art.Org here).

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