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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

| 7.7.03
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling

I read J.K. Rowling's fifth Harry Potter book wondering how she would be able to keep my interest again. After all, the basic outline of the story always seems to be the same. Harry is miserable at the Dursleys. Harry gets spirited away to Hogwarts. Harry struggles against Snape, Malfoy, and difficult class assignments. Somehow Gryffindor wins the Quidditch cup. (Have they ever lost the cup? Don't the other houses ever get depressed about this?) Somewhere Voldemort enters the picture, Harry fights him, and the school year ends triumphantly.

While Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix does follow this basic structure, Rowling has taken her development of the characters to new levels of sophistication. Harry is fifteen years old now, and as a boy in his mid-teens he struggles with issues of identity, love, and family in this novel. For the first time I can recall in a Harry Potter novel, we're left at the end with our hero seriously questioning himself. If Harry has seemed like a superhero (or at least like a somewhat arrogant, know-it-all teenager) in previous installments, this time Harry makes some real mistakes, and will have to grapple with the consequences of those actions (hopefully in future books.)

This new depth and sophistication is not just limited to Harry. In Order of the Phoenix we learn more about the imperfections of many of the major characters. We read Dumbledore candidly recounting the mistakes he's made with Harry. We finally learn why Snape hates Harry so much. We learn more about Harry's parents, and about Sirius Black.

While I was reading this novel, I also stumbled across an essay on-line called "Steal this Essay" I was very intrigued by the points this author makes in his blog, especially in light of Harry Potter. I did a quick search on the file-sharing networks, and found that all five of the Harry Potter novels are available for download. I searched mere days after the novel's release, and there it was, free for the taking.

While the Harry Potter novels have made J.K. Rowling richer than the queen of England herself, I couldn't help but wonder what the future of intellectual property is when anyone who wants a copy can have one. There are still some technical hurdles to be overcome before novelists really have something to fear. People still don't want to be chained to their computers to read a book, even if they don't have to pay for it. PDAs have not become ubiquitous enough to pose a threat either. But the day does seem to be coming when either electronic content and online behavior will need to be monitored by a police state at unprecedented levels, or a new revenue model for all the intellectual property industries will need to be devised --one that ensure the author compensation while minimizing the incentives to copy.

KEYWORDS: Fantasy, children, series, magic, intellectual property
PUBLISHER: Scholastic; (June 21, 2003); ISBN: 043935806X

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