whack·a·mole — def: Trying to distribute millions of copies of the Harry Potter finale while simultaneously suppressing any revelation of plot elements in an era of inexpensive and semi-anonymous global distribution channels: Harry hits the Internet — pdf
It was a plot twist even J.K. Rowling did not see coming. Days before Saturday’s release of the eagerly awaited “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the final installment in the British author’s hugely popular series, news of the book’s content spread across the Internet on Tuesday in the form of digital photographs of pages from the 700-plus-page novel.
[...] Throughout the day, photos of pages from the book had spread from more sophisticated personal file-sharing sites — which do not store copies of the illegal material but rather offer much smaller “torrent” files that are pieced together by computer — to the Web’s mainstream.
By afternoon, one anonymous posting, on http://www.zendurl.com/h/hallows , which included photos of chapter titles and the entirety of an epilogue, was linked from across the Web.
Although the photographs of individual pages were blurred or poorly lit, they were readable. The site also had bullet-pointed text that claimed to offer detailed information about Rowling’s final installment, including the fate of Harry Potter and other key characters.
If the online material is genuine, it would represent a major breach of the security that publishers in America and Britain have been working feverishly to preserve.
And yet, other mechanisms of control (in this case, culture, to borrow Larry Lessig’s framing) step in:
First there was confusion. (Was it real?) Then there were legal threats. (Publisher Scholastic Inc. went after the alleged online spoilers.) And finally there was outrage as fans staged a revolt of their own against the leak, vowing to remain in the dark about what happens until Saturday.
“Not cool,” said Max Slavkin, 19, a USC junior, summing up fan response to the online revelations.
Later: U.S. publisher takes action over Harry Potter leak — pdf
But Scholastic is unable to remove all the photographs, which first appeared on Monday on BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing system that links personal computers.
Unlike the Napster music-sharing service that was shut down by authorities several years ago, such exchanges do not go through a central service, which makes it almost impossible for the book’s publishers to stop the file from being traded.
BigChampagne Media Measurement estimated that by Wednesday about one copy of the Harry Potter photographs was being downloaded per second and that 50,000 had been exchanged since Monday.
Even later (July 19): NYT reviews Potter before publication — pdf. The review: An Epic Showdown as Harry Potter Is Initiated Into Adulthood
Even later: count on the LATimes to speak of the unmentionable — Embargoes on ‘Harry Potter’ boil down to money — pdf