Rush Is on for Harry Potter Knockoffs in China

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In China, copyright pirates are racing to get out their version of the latest Harry Potter film before the real one makes it to theaters. Fake books are in the works, too, with no resemblance to the real thing. Such fakes have become a cottage industry in China.


In China, copyright pirates are racing to get out their version of the latest Harry Potter film before the real one makes it to theaters. And fake books are in the works too, as NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Shanghai. Faking Harry Potter books has become a cottage industry in China.

LOUISA LIM: The Chinese "Harry Potter," or Hali Bote(ph), have enjoyed even more scrapes than his Hogwarts counterpart. In "Harry Potter and the Leopard Woke Up the Dragon," the boy wizard is transformed into a fat hairy dwarf. There was a stormy love affair with Hermione in "Harry Potter and the Golden Vase." Then there was "Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Harry Potter."

Don't worry if you've never heard of these books. They're totally made up with no resemblance to the real thing. As die hard fan Chu Shu Li(ph) found out...

Ms. CHU SHU LI (Harry Potter Fan): For example, in one book Harry transformed a school from Hogwarts to a Chinese magic school. That's very ridiculous. And some professors are Chinese and they teach the ancient Chinese magic.

LIM: She's one of the co-founders of the Harry Potter fan club at Shanghai's elite Fudan University. They stage Harry Potter plays and publish a newsletter called The Monthly Profit. All snub the made-up books. But members I met disagreed on whether it was acceptable for true Harry fans to read counterfeit, non-copyright books.

Fan club members Yin Pingping(ph) and Wu Tian(ph) stake out their positions.

Ms. YIN PINGPING (Harry Potter Fan Club Member): Harry Potter is my belief, so I would never let myself buy or to read these books. If I accept this, it's a pollute for my belief.

Ms. WU TIAN (Harry Potter Fan Club Member): The first paper - some friends gave it to me because the copyright book is quite expensive.

LIM: And that's the rub. Non-copyright versions cost a tenth of the real thing. Nine million real Harry Potter books are sold in China. Most fans, like Chu Shu Li, believe sales of the counterfeit versions have been much higher.

Ms. LI: Actually, the pirate Harry Potter books make Harry Potter so popular in China. We don't want to believe it but it's true.

LIM: This is partly due to the difficulty of translating terms like quidditch, quaffles and muggles. The local publisher, the People's Literature Press, needs three months to finish a Chinese translation. But the copyright pirates can do it in as little as five days. Maybe the ministry of magic is needed. But Pang Kai Xiong(ph), the deputy chief of the People's Literature Press, says China's own government is on the case.

Mr. PANG KAI XIONG (Deputy Chief, People's Literature Press): (Through translator) From book five on, every year before the Chinese Harry Potter hits the market, China's Anti-pornography and Anti-illegal Publications Office issues a special notice requiring local booksellers to step up the fight against fake Harry Potter books.

LIM: And Harry Potter is not the only one to have been pirated. Street stores like this specialize in fake books. The Association of American Publishers estimates its members lost $52 million last year due to rampant piracy in China. Victims include Bill Clinton. His totally made up autobiography hit the streets three years ago. It included gems such as his private nickname - Big Watermelon, in case you are wondering.

One young author, who I'll call Wang Lan(ph), has been part of the dark side of the industry. Her (unintelligible) self-help books were printed under another name so the publishers could avoid paying her royalties.

Ms. WANG LAN (Author): (Through translator) They might think up a foreign name. That sells more books. They might use a famous person's name or just any old name.

LIM: As China's legions of Harry fans await the nail-biting final chapter in his story, most admit they can't bear for it to ever end. And that means one thing. Even after J.K. Rowling's laid down her pen, the market forces of fandom will ensure Harry Potter an afterlife scripted by Chinese pirates.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.

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