Harry Potter falls prey to Chinese pirates

It’s missing some paragraphs and gets a couple of facts wrong, but the wizards of China’s thriving product piracy industry have worked their magic again and produced a rush translation of the latest Harry Potter book.

It’s missing some paragraphs and gets a couple of facts wrong, but the wizards of China’s thriving product piracy industry have worked their magic again and produced a rush translation of the latest Harry Potter book.

An unauthorised Chinese version of “Harry Potter: The Half Blood Prince” was on sale in Beijing today just two weeks after the book appeared in English and well ahead of the planned October launch of the Chinese-language edition.

Impatient Chinese fans also have begun posting their own translations online.

The fantasy series by J.K. Rowling is wildly popular in China, where the hero is known as “Ha-li Bo-te” and authorised translations of five earlier books have sold millions of copies. In 2002, an unknown Chinese author produced an entire fake adventure: “Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-To-Dragon.”

A Chinese-character paperback version of “The Half Blood Prince,” was being sold in an underpass in downtown Beijing for about €3.

The saleswoman wouldn’t say where she got the book, but said she had been selling copies since Friday.

The official English-language hardcover books sell in Beijing for 178 yuan (€15).

The fake book looked identical to the first five “Ha-li Bo-te” tales put out by People’s Literature Publishing House, the mainland company that purchased the rights to publish Harry Potter in Chinese.

However, several crucial pages of action are missing and there are some critical mistranslations, such as using the word “immortal” at one point when the original says “mortal”.

The earlier authorised translations were produced by a team of veteran children’s book translators.

Pirated versions of those books and the movie spin-offs are widely available in China.

Chinese leaders, under pressure from the US and the country’s other trading partners, have promised repeatedly to stamp out the country’s rampant piracy of goods ranging from books and movies to drugs and designer clothes.

But such fakes are still widely available and foreign companies say they are losing billions of dollars in potential sales.

The People’s Literature Publishing House plans to launch the official Chinese version of “Half Blood Prince” on October 15, the Beijing Daily Messenger newspaper reported.

In 2003, the publisher tried to beat pirates to market by rushing out its own translation of Rowling’s previous book, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” 10 days before its scheduled release.

At that time, the company offered a reward for reporting piracy, but it wasn’t clear whether it caught any copycats.

A spokesman for Rowling’s London agent, Christopher Little, said two weeks ago that it had successfully taken action against Chinese pirates but declined to give details.

Since the English-language release of the latest book, Chinese fans have begun sharing their own translations for free on Web sites, including those run by Beijing’s elite Tsinghua and Peking universities.

At Peking University, a student known online as Blimey is nearing completion of a translation and planned to post the last instalment on August 15, the Beijing Daily Messenger said.

Blimey, who wasn’t identified by name, was quoted as saying he didn’t think he was breaking the law because he had no plans to sell the translation.

“There are many Harry Potter fans across China who are unable to read the English version,” Blimey was quoted as saying. “I did this in order to help them realise their dream of reading it in Chinese. And it’s good practice for my English.”

On the Tsinghua site, a fan writing under the name Woodchuckle was so upset by Rowling’s ending that he wrote and posted his own.

A notice posted on the Tsinghua site from its administrator told users that several postings were deleted because they contained illegal electronic versions of the book.

The notice said the university had received a warning from a law firm but didn’t give any other details. However, visitors have seen facsimiles of pages from the English-language text of the novel posted on the site and later removed.

Fans also use the chat rooms to talk about their reactions to the new plot twists, opinions on the characters or what they felt they learned from the story.

“As soon as I saw the book in the bookstore, I bought it and rushed home to read it,” one fan wrote on the Tsinghua site under the name mmxsunny. “I didn’t finish it until the middle of the night and then I cried like crazy.”

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