New Delhi: Harry Potter will take on Voldermot in what promises to be a fight to the finish in Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows, the seventh and last instalment of the best-selling franchise that is to be released on 21 July. Meanwhile, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, the UK-based publisher, and Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, the Indian distributor of the book, are busy preparing for an entirely different kind of enemy—pirates.
The two firms have created a legal team, engaged a law firm as well as intellectual property investigators, and set up vigilance cells across the country to ensure that pirates do not start printing and distributing cheap rip-offs. “Last time, pirated copies of (Harry Potter and the) Half Blood (Prince) were out less than 48 hours (after the book was released),” says Thomas Abraham, CEO and president, Penguin Books India.
The stakes are high: Penguin has received record advance bookings for 240,000 copies, with an expected revenue of Rs22 crore. The last Harry Potter book received advance orders for 160,000 copies and earned Rs14.3 crore in revenue. Many of the orders have come from bookstores and not retail customers and pirated copies of the book could affect their sales, and, in turn, hurt Penguin. Technology is on the side of the pirates who typically scan the book, create plates, and have it printed and bound locally. They do not pay royalty or spend money on marketing and advertising and can afford to price their product lower. “It takes minutes to create an electronic version of a book and send it to the printing press. Such printing happens in small cities and innocuous warehouses in big cities for obvious reasons,” says Priyanka Malhotra, publisher, Full Circle, an imprint of Hind Pocket Books Pvt Ltd. Malhotra adds that several books published by Full Circle including those by Dominique Lapierre have been pirated.
Indian law firm Aca-law Consultants & Advocates, which specializes in copyright and intellectual property protection and represents Potter author J.K. Rowling and the Publishers Association of the UK will be working with police departments across the country to tackle piracy.
The firm has set up vigilance cells in many cities and created a 24-hour helpline (011-26499936 and 09818010044). “We are taking all possible steps to prevent piracy,” says Akash Chittranshi, founding partner, Aca-law.
Aca-law has hired IP Boutique Information and Research, an intellectual property investigation firm, to keep an eye on known pirates and locations where pirated books usually surface. “Every industry has some known criminals and some 20 investigators have been deployed to keep a watch on these targets (printing presses in cities known for piracy),” adds Chittranshi. Pirated books are usually sold on pavement stalls on Mahatma Gandhi Road, Brigade Road, and Avenue Road in Bangalore, D.N. Road, Kala Ghoda, and Matunga Circle in Mumbai, and almost all traffic signals in New Delhi.
Three weeks after the release of Half-Blood Prince, investigators seized 8,600 copies from a printing press in New Delhi. Last year, aca-law seized 100,000 copies of books including Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Shoba De’s Spouse, Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram, and the six Harry Potter books from four different presses in Bangalore. The seventh Harry Potter book has created a buzz of anticipation, especially after Rowling revealed that two central characters would die in it. Penguin is distributing the books to 300 cities and towns in India, says Abraham, as opposed to 100 for the last Potter book. The books will go on sale at 6.30am India time on 21 July.
“This is the last Potter. For the pirates, too, it’s the last time to cash in on Potter mania,” says Chittranshi.