Harry Potter and the (Re)Order of the Artists: Are We Muggles or Goblins?

22 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2007 Last revised: 25 Mar 2008

See all articles by Gary Pulsinelli

Gary Pulsinelli

University of Tennessee College of Law

Date Written: January 2008


In "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," author J.K. Rowling attributes to goblins a very interesting view of ownership rights in artistic works. According to Rowling, goblins believe that the maker of an artistic object maintain an ongoing ownership interest in that object even after it is sold, and is entitled to get it back when the purchaser dies. While this view may strike some as rather odd when it is applied to tangible property in the 'muggle' world, it actually has some very interesting parallels to the legal treatment of intangible property, particularly in the areas of intellectual property and moral rights. Because of the way these parallels have been developing and growing, we seem to be becoming more goblinish in our willingness to recognize ongoing rights in artistic objects, including allowing the artist to collect a commission on subsequent resale of the work. Practical and social considerations suggest that we are unlikely to go as far as recognizing a permanent personal right in the creator that lets him or her reclaim such an object after a sale or other transfer is made. However, we are moving closer to recognizing some forms of the collective right that the goblins actually seem to demand, a cultural moral right in important cultural objects that enables the descendants of that culture as a group to demand the return of the object. Thus, we muggles may not be as far from the goblins as we may have at first believed.

Keywords: Harry Potter, goblins, art law, intellectual property, copyright, moral rights, cultural rights, cultural property, property, law

JEL Classification: K39, O34, Z10

Suggested Citation

Pulsinelli, Gary, Harry Potter and the (Re)Order of the Artists: Are We Muggles or Goblins? (January 2008). University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1022214 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1022214

Gary Pulsinelli (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

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