INTA 2016: Harry Potter, fan films and Batman


INTA 2016: Harry Potter, fan films and Batman

merion_merion /

There is a fine line between allowing fans of books and films to express themselves and protecting IP, an in-house counsel at DC Entertainment and Warner Bros has said.

Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment, Warner Bros Consumer Products and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, was providing the keynote address at the International Trademark Association’s (INTA) opening ceremony today, May 22.

In what had already been a highly interactive ceremony, Nelson entered the stage after the audience watched a collection of clips from films made by her companies. Such was the impressive film production and acoustics, you could mistake the conference hall for a cinema.

Nelson, who trained at Disney and has worked at Warner for 20 years, singled out her work on the “Harry Potter” franchise as a highlight. From 1999 until the production of the eighth film, she was involved with the oversight and management of the franchise.

In 1998, when J K Rowling was on the brink of global fame, Warner acquired nearly all the rights (except publishing) to “Harry Potter”. The company was starting to manage an “enormous brand” at a time when the internet was emerging and only three books had been published, she said, so there was a “whole different set of opportunities and guidelines we had to work out”.

Providing a fascinating insight into the mind of a global entertainment company, Nelson explained that when you acquire the rights to something like “Harry Potter”, you have to incorporate fans’ sense of ownership when protecting marks in order to avoid children thinking that that “we had taken something away”.

She explained the difficulties of discerning fan activity with infringement by giving the example of unendorsed “Quidditch gatherings”.

“Do we shut that down?” she asked, noting that the company had to balance fans expression’ and protecting “what we have built up”.

“On top of that, we had an author who cared desperately about what we were doing,” she added.

Warner would encourage consumers to buy the books before watching the films, while the adaptation of IP across different mediums meant “we had to be dedicated to quality and care”, Nelson said.

Moving on to discuss her work at DC, she explained the “very different” approach to protecting IP but added that, in the same way, “we constantly had to respect fans and their sense of ownership, finding a balance so they can express their passion”.

She asked where you draw the line between a fan film and an infringement and whether a certain length or budget determines infringement.

Looking to the next five years, Nelson said that piracy will be one of the biggest challenges. It’s a “huge, huge challenge for our business”, she said, adding that in relation to streaming platforms, “we need to figure out what that means for our company”.

The INTA conference runs until Wednesday, May 25.

Warner Bros, DC, INTA 2016, Diane Nelson, trademarks

More on this story

INTA 2016: Monday roundup