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Hogwarts Castle at Center of Indian Festival Lawsuit

By: Gerri L. Elder

Organizers of a religious event in the city of Kolkata, in eastern India, were shocked to learn that J.K. Rowling-author of the wildly popular Harry Potter books-was planning a lawsuit against them because they had constructed a replica of the fictional Hogwarts Castle for the event.

J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury, her publisher, decided to sue the organizers of the event for two million rupees, or $50,000, because they had constructed an elaborate castle using canvas, bamboo and paper mache for the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata.

394 Pages in Lawsuit

The High Court in Delhi ordered the builders of the castle to court to present their case.

Rowling’s lawsuit, not unlike her Harry Potter books, was very wordy. It was almost 394 pages long and argued that the festival organizers would exploit the castle replica to earn money through advertising. Rowling’s lawsuit demanded that the organizers of the Hindu festival not be allowed to have their event in the giant castle they constructed, unless they paid the $50,000 to Rowling and her publisher first.

In the Harry Potter series of books written by Rowling, the castle at Hogwarts is depicted as an ancient school of witchcraft where Harry Potter and his classmates are trained in the ways of the wizardry.

The castle that was constructed for the Hindu event in Kolkata’s Salt Lake district mimics what the imaginary castle might look like. The outer contours of the replica were built as the Hogwarts castle is described in the books and it includes an imitation marble staircase and flagged stone floor in the entrance hall, which was lit with flaming torches.

Santunu Biswas, the festival organizing secretary, said his group planned to go forward with their preparations for the four-day festivities, eastern India’s most celebrated annual religious carnival.

Festival Officials “Stunned”

Biswas said, “What we are building is not a violation of copyright act anywhere in the world because it’s a religious festival and has nothing to do with money-making.”

Robin Mukherjee, another organizer of the festival, said he was stunned. He added, “The summons came at a time when the marquee is almost ready and we don’t know what to do now as we cannot afford to pay the fine.” Mukherjee also said that in the past the event organizers had built a replica of the Titanic, but no one sued them for that.

When the High Court in Delhi heard arguments in the case they decided to dismiss Rowling’s lawsuit. They also ordered the organizers of the festival to not use any characters from Rowling’s books after the annual event without her permission. Since it’s unlikely that they would have anyway, this seems like a full win in court for the Hindu festival organizers.

Judge Sanjay Kishan Kaul ruled that permission to use the castle would expire on October 26, after the conclusion of the festival. He rejected J.K. Rowling’s demand for payment for copyright infringement but said, “Any further use of these characters will be subject to the prior permission of the author of the Harry Potter series.”