Final Potter book put under tight security
Watch out. The boy wizard from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is likely to cast the Cruciatus curse on anyone who dares snatch a copy of his latest tale before its time.
Security on the last of the Harry Potter book series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is so tight that book publisher Scholastic is taking the extraordinary measure of forcing all those handling the book before its release date in the wee hours Saturday to sign away their lives or face consequences of Voldemortian proportions.
"About two and a half months ago, I signed something that says I would keep it secure . . . pretty much protect it with our lives," said Kimberly Bray, manager of technical services for the Salt Lake City Public Library system, which is getting 150 copies of the book.
Still, purported spoilers are popping up everywhere this week.
On Tuesday, the Web link http://www.zendurl.com/h/hallows/ displayed what the site claimed to be a seven-page epilogue and scanned photographs of the table of contents from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, coming out Saturday under ultra-tight security. Similar information appeared Monday on http://spoilerboy.googlepages.com/home.
Meanwhile, a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, has said that he downloaded hundreds of pages from the 784-page book, and U.S. publisher Scholastic Inc. has been busy ordering would-be spoilers to remove their information from the Internet.
''I'm guessing we're in the double digits,'' says Scholastic spokeswoman Kyle Good, who added that requiring material to be pulled down did not mean it was authentic.
Librarians and booksellers getting the much-hyped tome several days before the Saturday 12:01 a.m. release are barred not only from releasing the books a second earlier, but pledged to keep them secure from unauthorized hands.
"They'll be stashed away in our back room under lock and key," said Anne Holman, manager of The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City. "We're going to have to put a little magic around them to keep them secure."
"Otherwise, you would be liable for any or all attorney fees and damages," said Fairlie Kinnecom, manager of technical services for the Salt Lake County Library system, which is getting 652 copies of the book. "And Scholastic will not again ship early to the offending library."
These book handlers know the publisher means business.
In 2003, the books' author, J.K. Rowling, sued the New York Daily News for $100 million for buying a copy of the fifth in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, at a New York health-food store four days before its release date and reprinting two pages.
The newspaper later settled with Rowling.
But in the Internet age, when digital versions of every art medium from movies to music and television shows can easily be traded through peer-to-peer services, piracy is difficult to curb, and breaking release dates is common.
It's what happened to "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith," the last movie to be made in the George Lucas saga that revealed how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. A DVD work print of the film was passed around on the Internet a day before its release in theaters.
And just one day after Order of the Phoenix was in bookstores, every one of its 870 pages had been scanned and uploaded to the Internet.
"When every book has come up, it has taken just 24 hours for someone to send us a copy in an e-mail," said Melissa Anelli, Webmaster for the Harry Potter Web resource, The Leaky Cauldron.
Which is partly the reason Scholastic, which refused to comment about the latest book's security, has never put out an electronic version of any of the Harry Potter books.
"Once you have an e-book, it opens the door to distribute it freely, which shouldn't have to happen," said Anelli.
Digital pirates have freely passed around audiobook versions of the series on the Internet (the audiobook version of The Deathly Hallows, which comes on 17 CDs, also is being released Saturday), along with digital versions of the movies.
A copy of the latest film, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," hit the Internet just one day after its release in theaters earlier this month.
Still, Scholastic and the books' British publisher, Bloomsbury, are going through extraordinary measures to protect the content of the final book in the series.
Only a handful of editors got to see the book once it left Rowling's hands, and it's been printed at undisclosed presses. Nearly all of the 12 million copies of the first printing reportedly will be distributed in the same day by a huge fleet of FedÂEx trucks to minimize chances it gets out early.
"I've never seen as much security as I have for this, but I wouldn't say it's evil or mean-spirited," said King's English manager Holman. "I have a pretty thick folder of just-signed contracts for this with my name on it, so I'm going to be guarding these books."
With so much at stake in the final tale of the teen wizard, it makes sense that Rowling wants her words, not digital pirates or sneaky book thieves, to reveal the twists.
"It's a big deal because a part of reading Harry Potter is trying to figure out the mystery," said The Leaky Cauldron's Anelli.
"When that is such a big part of the experience, there will always be people trying to figure that out - it's such a prize piece of information."
* VINCE HORIUCHI can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-257-8607. The Associated Press contributed to this story.