The Harry Potter Injunction

Having spent much of the day discussing the Harry Potter case, I find myself becoming increasingly troubled by the scope of the injunction issued by the B.C. Supreme Court.  The injunction represents more than just a remarkable misuse of copyright law.  Quite simply, it is an attack on freedom. 

  • The freedom to read (the order restrains reading the book). 
  • The freedom of expression (the order restrains discussing any aspect of the book).
  • The freedom associated with personal property (the order compels anyone who has the book to return it, along with any notes, to Raincoast books).

This is all done purely in the name of furthering commercial interests.  In Canada, we have some narrow restrictions on hate speech and child pornography. But we do not issue court orders that prohibit children from reading books.

For a judge to issue such a blantantly unconstitutional order is appalling.  For a book publisher and a children's author to request such an order, is shameful.  We should tell them so.


  1. Contact
    Contacting Raincoast seems like it will do little to raise the awareness of the court’s attack on personal liberty. It is after all, in their best interest to keep the contents of the book quiet.

    For the courts to infringe on such fundamental rights however, is attrocious. Is there not a way we can draw the court’s attention to this miscarriage of authority?

  2. Joe Zelwietro says:

    from Prince Rupert, BC
    It was good to hear a voice of discord. I thought I was alone. The scope of the injunction was too broad and I agree that it was a violation of important freedoms. I knew that business interests in Canada had no problem with suspending freedom for profit, but for a Supreme Court Judge to do so is shocking. I know most people won’t care about this, but an important line has been crossed. I wish this injunction could be appealed.

  3. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    Hmm, try enforcing that ruling here…
    Seems that Calgary has gotten into the act as well.

    A Mac’s store sold a few copies yesterday in town, and now they’ve pulled them all. Wonder if our Alberta court would hold up better under the scrutiny of such an out-of-their-minds request by RainCoast

  4. Doom's Great Gimlet Eye says:

    All cynical mirth aside, this really isn’t a joking matter and I whole heartedly agree that the Courts have seriously breached Canadian freedoms with this order.

    If someone has say, scanned the book, posted it online ala the google library project (, made it available in blog format, podcast, offered a downloadable .PDF, a .DOC file or even via cellular website THEN I would say the publisher would stand on firm ground.

    Not that I am saying any of the above is a ‘bad thing’ in and of themselves.

    Going after supporters and LEGIT purchasers harms only the publisher and they authors they represent.

    Anybody wonder how long it will be before we see podcasts of Potter? I don’t. But at least then the publishers will have some level of legitimacy to launch themselves at end users.

    Mind you, like music/video downloaders, they are still punishing people for LIKING their products. And if people like it enough, they will buy it anyways.
    (Just quickly –

    I know I sure love the feel of a good book in my hands.


  5. legal analysis?
    I would like to better understand the legal analysis of this issue — I was a bit surprised to hear all the outrage.

    Clearly I am missing something. My understanding is as follows. The publisher granted to Rainbow Books a license to distribute the books as of a certain date. Rainbow Books began to distribute the books prior to that date. A bunch of people bought them.

    Those people were bona fide purchasers, ie bought them in good faith not knowing that they were buying them from a party which hadn’t the right to sell them — ie Rainbow Books, which was in breach of its contract with the publisher not to sell them by a certain date.

    So the issue is whether or not the BFP of the book can have more rights than the party which sold it to them. Am I right — is that the issue? If so, is the answer that this is indeed possible and that the publisher’s only remedy is to seek damages from Rainbow Books?

    I don’t know much about this, but my understanding is that the BFP rule is not uniform for all types of purchase — ie real (immovable) property, personal (movable) property, licenses, antiquities, and other categories either legal or statutorily carved out.

    Help a poor guy out!

  6. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    RainCoast actually answered me “telling
    I took a moment to fire off a note to RainCoast telling them I thought that their over-reaching requests were out of line. And was quite surprised when I got an answer in less than a few hours. (I wonder if it was because I included the tidbit that I intended not to buy the book from a Canadian retail outlet, but would defer my purchase until I was in the US in August).

    Here’s their answer…
    Dear XXXXXXX,

    Thank you for taking the time to write to Raincoast. Please know that it
    is not Raincoast’s intention to ban reading or to penalize a small group
    of fans who’ve erroneously been sold Harry Potter and the Half-Blood

    Raincoast is trying to address your concerns regarding protecting the
    confidential information in the book. I’m hoping you read the commentary
    that I posted this morning.

    Best wishes,
    Monique Trottier

    Internet Marketing Manager
    Raincoast Books
    I’d be interested to understand how they can interpret their actions as “not penalizing a small group of fans”

    Michael: I’d be curious to read a response to this story:

    Here’s a quote:

    No matter how good their intentions, any knowledge of Harry’s adventures gleaned from those pages before the book’s official release contravenes strict laws, say legal experts.

    As preposterous as it sounds, even cracking the spine to read the first few lines breaks the law.

    “The Copyright Act grants a number of exclusive rights to the copyright holder,” explains Glen Bloom, a lawyer with Ottawa’s Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt, a firm specializing in copyright law.

    The copyright holder decides when others can read the material, he said. In this case, author J.K. Rowling has chosen Saturday at 12:01 a.m. local time around the world.

    End of quote.

    Why I appreciate that you disagree philosophically, is this legal interpretation correct?

  8. Hopefully, public outrage can set a prec
    Wow… I fail to see how there are any grounds for imposing legal responsibility on the buyers of the book. The seller made a mistake, and breached a law or contract, not the buyer. However, the buyer is being punished by having his constitutional rights witheld until Saturday… Impressive.

  9. retired
    If you buy a stolen car you don’t get to keep the car. The car goes back to the owner. In the same manner if you buy a book that was not supposed to be on sale you have stolen the rights to the book from the author. Your displeasure should be aimed at the book seller who illegally and irresponsibly sold some copies to the public not to the book distributor who is acting in good faith to maintain the author’s wishes. Raincoast, as the distributor is blameless and is trying to right a wrong. Canadian Superstore, as the retailer must retain illiterates as employees.

  10. ray
    do us a favour and shut up. thanks

  11. Onemorecup says:

    Dear Mr. Geist:

    With the greatest of respect to you, I find I must disagree with your assessment of the injunction as ordered by the Court.

    Basically the only person\’s right abused here, in my opinion, is J.K. Rowling. Contractually, she has entered into arrangements regarding security with Bloomsbury/Scholastic Publishers; who have in turn, contracted with distributors…who have contracted with individual book retailers.

    All of the aforementioned had an \”Agreement\” or \”Contract\” to sell a product at a specified time and place. Some of those aforementioned decided to be \”above their own contracts\” and deliberately disobeyed for the sake of profit; notwithstanding, they broke the \”Agreement\” they\’d entered into. Yes, there should be consequences for such actions.

    I don\’t feel as though anyone\’s civil rights were infringed upon whatsoever and the scope of the Injunction merely reinforces what was already agreed to in the first place.

  12. Implicit in making something a law is the suposition that said law can be enforced. I believe that the concept which had so many people upset is the thought that someone could track who the person was who bought a particular book, and enforce the non reading of said book. How exactly would anyone enforce such a law? If said law were enforceable in the country in which it was declared, how would one go about enforcing it if the buyer were a tourist from another country?

  13. Potter
    Deve-se levar em conta que o livro foi públicado antes do esperado pela editora, nada além de seus direitos foi feito. Todavia, o livro já estava à venda e várias pessoas já os tem em suas casas. Nada mais poderá ser feito, apenas tomar mais cuidado em relação a isso na proxima edição.