Minutes from the last faculty meeting at Hogwarts — Online Classes edition Reply


 

 

Headmaster McGonagall called the meeting to order

Old Business:
Appointments

Headmaster McGonagall noted that Despite the report from prior headmaster Snape that forced buyouts were on the horizon, the recent events as a result of the battle of Hogwarts means that we will be able to retain all remaining faculty. Faculty expressed satisfaction at this news.  She also reported that there is a possibility that we gained a few faculty lines though that is still to be determined. Despite great efforts to identify the fifty other unidentified deaths we have been unable to uncover news of professor deaths.

Professor Trelawney, chair of the appointments committee reported that it appears that school may be able to hire a tenure line for the Dark Arts position rather than using podium visitors since the death of Voldemort.

There was discussion whether Hogwarts should consider Harry Potter as a professor.  Despite favorable reviews from remaining professors and his acclaim for having saved the school and the world, it was suggested that the discussion be tabled until he at least completed his seventh year.

Capital Campaign.

Headmaster McGonagall indicated that the school may need to undertake a capital campaign due to massive damage done to the school. Professor Slughorn asked whether we really needed to raise money for building repairs and pointed out that he has not received a salary increase in the two years since he has returned to Hogwarts. Professor Sprout suggested that perhaps their wizarding prowess could be used to rebuild the school instead of raising funds. Professor Flitwick indicated that maintenance and building projects were not apart of his faculty contract and that he already sacrificed much to be a faculty member at Hogwarts.

New Business
Professor Pomfrey asked about a recent report appearing in Slate and CNet that Hogwarts would begin to offer courses online. Much discussion was had. Professor McGonagall indicated that the capital campaign from the last meeting had not gone as efficiently as planned due to the prevailing question why they could not rebuild with magic. She also said lots of great universities had begun offering online courses, particularly in America  and that this was just the way education was moving.At this point there was much angst at the American way.

Professor Slughorn said that Hogwarts would be a laughing stock for the counterparts at Durmstrang Institute — which already looks down on Hogwarts as accepting what they call inferior students.

Professor Slughorn asked about faculty stipends for the summer. Headmaster McGonagall pointed out that Slughorn hasn’t produced any real scholarship for the last fifteen years and that if he would like a research grant he should begin showing an interest in scholarship. Professor McGonagall did indicate that professors may be able to earn extra money through teaching an online class. Faculty agreed to consider this measure at the next faculty meeting.

The meeting was adjoined.

Follow up to Harry Potter and Cultural Property: Goblins as Allegory 1


In yesterday’s post, I postulated that Rowling’s treatment of copyright was similar to Goblin’s treatment of their creation.  I said:

in the latter case of copyright, Rowling seems to take the disposition of the more calculating goblin Griphook, claiming her entitlement to own, and therefore prevent others from claiming an interest in her cultural property.

Today’s inbox welcomed a message from a friend that teaches at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville School of Law, Gary Pulsinelli, pointing me to a paper he wrote in 2008 drawing a similar analogy.  The article titled: “Harry Potter and the (Re)Order of Artists: Are we Muggles or Goblins?” appeared in volume 87 of the Oregon Law Review, page 1101 et seq.  I am posting the abstract below with a link to where you can get the article:

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. 

Please feel free to send me more references or drop them in the comments.

MR

The Subtle Irony of Cultural Property in Harry Potter and Cultural Property IN Harry Potter 4


One of the many projects I have been working on this summer is writing a paper on the Property theory present in the Harry Potter novels (titled When Chattels Choose).  One of the truly interesting things about property represented in Harry Potter is the ambiguous relationship of ownership to the property. In the legal world, we see ambiguity in property most visually resolved in torts landscape — nuisance as the ever developing tool of property allocation.   We could even argue (as I will later this year) that nuisance theory is quite akin to intellectual property disputes.

For now, lets turn to how property disputes are resolved in the Harry Potter world.  Consider all the property that is described in the magical world — just about every piece of property may be reoriented to new ownership, even without the express consent of the “owner” — a choice of the chattel, we might say that alleviates the need for disputes. Let me offer just a few examples:

  •  After Sirius Black dies and Dumbledore informs Harry that he is the heir of 12 Grimmauld Place, Dumbledore considers it questionable whether Harry is actually entitled to Grimmauld place and asks Harry to perform a simple test to determine his legitimacy.   The property orients itself to its proper frame of ownership, regardless of the will of the previous owner and notwithstanding the acts or non-acts by the party actually entitled to ownership.  See Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Wands “choose” the master.   And wands may be reoriented if “captured” properly.  Consider the distinction between Harry disarming Draco Malfoy to become the master of all wands that Draco Malfoy was master of (including the Elder Wand) and Voldemort killing Severus Snape expecting to become master of the Elder Wand thereby.   The wand simply chose whose conquest mattered more for the purposes of its loyalty.  See Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 
  • The Sword of Gryffindor is described as cultural property by two different characters. First, the Minister of Magic Scrimgeour, after informing Harry that he was given the Sword as a part of Dumbledore’s will, later informs him that the sword is not susceptible of ownership.  Rather, the sword is cultural property which may present itself to any Gryffindor.   Interestingly, the Goblin Griphook describes the sword as cultural property, though not that belonging to Gryffindors, but belonging to Goblins, since they made the sword.  The sword apparently chooses the cultural affinity of its ownership by choosing Harry and then later choosing Neville Longbottom.  See Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Snitches (the golden balls used in quidditch games are said to have “flesh memories. As Scrimgeour says to Harry: “ A snitch is not touched by bare skin before it is released, not even by the maker, who wears gloves.   It carries an enchantment by which it can identify the first human to lay hands on it, in case of a disputed capture.  This snitch” — he held up the tiny golden ball – “will remember your touch, Potter.” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There are no doubt others, but what seems clear is that property has the capacity of choice in the world of Harry Potter.  That impartial choice acts as the great equalizer that by forcing “fair” redistribution of property according to certain characteristics and with certain presumptions of fairness.  First, it seems the the magical world is not adverse to basic rules of construction that equate to fairness.  First capture of the snitch equates to fleshly connection upon first capture; capturing a wand fair and square gives one rights in the wand (and others apparently); and property may be passed from one wizard to another according to expectations that they have.  These rules are mirror images of our world of property allocation with the exception that magic alleviates the need for dispute resolution — the property simply knows to whom it should belong.  Unlike a fox or whale, which may be fairly disputed who began the pursuit, who caused the capture, or whether the party who secured the bounty did so fairly, the magical world’s fairness quality is determined not by ambiguity, but by clearly choosing chattels.

What caught my attention, though in thinking through this scheme is the irony of property choice theory that ceases to exist outside Rowling’s magical world.  Again, consider the most obvious form of cultural property — the Sword of Gryffindor.   One could draw an analogy to Rowling’s own work as being cultural property — surely Harry Potter is very much with all of us as it was with Rowling for so long.  So when a pair of seemingly different (but inextricably similar) lawsuits involving JK Rowling’s intellectual property in Harry Potter surfaced in 2010, one could not help but wonder about the irony.

In the first lawsuit, holders of the copyright to Adrian Jacob’s book Willy the Wizard  sued Rowling for Plagiarism claiming that many elements were taken from his earlier (1987) book, including elements of the plot in Goblet of Fire, the presence of the Wizarding Train, a wizarding prison, and human hostages inside a bathroom.   In the second lawsuit, Rowling herself along with Warner Brothers brought a lawsuit against a New York Librarian who operated the Harry Potter Lexicon Website after the website began promoting a print version of its website.    Slate.com offered the following analysis of the second lawsuit:

For a fan to write this kind of entry, Rowling says, is to “take the author’s hard work, re-organize their characters and plots, and sell them for their own commercial gain.” But that’s ridiculous. This and other entries aren’t, as Rowling seems to suggest, anything like an abridgment of the originals. No one would read the Lexiconas a substitute for the Potter books; it is useless unless you’ve read the original, and that makes all the difference.

These two examples offer a crash course in the dissonance that exists between Rowling’s magical world and her non-magical world.  Arguably, the magical world would have a means of chattel based choice to decipher the propriety of the actions.   Unfortunately, the law offers no perfect wisdom like that of chattel-based choice.   I might argue that Rowling takes on both characteristics in the disputes around the Sword of Gryffindor in her two law suits.  In the plagiarism suit, Rowling appears to be the wide-eyed, perhaps naive recipient of cultural property, claiming innocently, that they simply chose her as a worthy recipient.  What defines the rightful wielder of the sword is courage in the novels — courage, which no doubt Rowling took on in publishing her stories from the outset.   But in the latter case of copyright, Rowling seems to take the disposition of the more calculating goblin Griphook, claiming her entitlement to own, and therefore prevent others from claiming an interest in her cultural property.

What we do know is that artists use and reuse the works of others. This is clearly described in works far and wide — as scholarly as Jamie Boyle’s The Public Domain, Larry Lessig’s Remix, and blog writers the world over.

Comments are welcome.

The Law and Harry Potter: Where is the Remorse? Reply


I was late to the party. The Harry Potter Party that is. Finally, over the past month and a half, I succumbed and read the Harry Potter novels with the goal of finishing before my Birthday on Thursday. I finished them today — so Happy early birthday to me! But that was not the only early birthday present I received — I found in my mailbox a copy of Thomas and Snyder’s The Law and Harry Potter.  Just like it was an eighth installment of the book, I tore it open, looking to see if my entrée’ into the wizarding world was similar to others.  While the essays I read were quite good  (I still have several more to go) one overwhelming question popped in my head  “where is remorse.”  Indeed, scaling the chapter of contents and the essays on criminal behavior, very little is said about Rowling’streatment of this central theme.  In fact, its not until we get to Darby Dickerson’s essay titled “Professor Dumbledore’s Wisdom and Advice” that we see remorse dealt with.  So why doesn’t a book dealing with Harry Potter and the Law deal more directly with remorse? Maybe that in and of itself suggests the answer — that the law is as uncomfortable with the idea of remorse as, well, Voldemort is.   For example, what happens when a lawyer, doctor or other professional says “I messed up?”   How do companies, universities and governments apologize?  How are apologies in the criminal context treated? As mere evidence of reform, no more powerful or less powerful than other factors, like can the person conform to other important social norms — making up one’s bunk, not fighting with inmates, etc… or the need to provide for retribution.  Perhaps the editors of the volume realized this fact — that often, the law and remorse have little to do with each other.   Perhaps the authors simply had nothing to say.

This criticism became most clear when reading Andrew Morriss’ essay Moral Choice, Wizardry Law, and Liberty: A classical liberal Reading of the role of law in the Harry Potter Series.  (I completely agree with Morriss’ assessment by the way that Rowling’s posits a calibration model inviting readers to evaluate themselves against the text).  But what is it that we should be calibrating?   I think Rowlings theme (since the third book — and likely before) is the role that remorse plays in shaping humans as humans, and humans as a part of a greater social group. As a proponent of the “progressive view of law” that asks what law should look like as a reflection of human advancement,  I think we should consider greatly the role that remorse plays on the human condition, and how the law should account for it.

Remorse as Regenerative — One broad theme we find in the Harry Potter saga is the regenerative effect of remorse — that remorse renders the characters as more human (and those that refuse to engage it are less so).  For example, Ronald and Percy Weasley both seem less than human during parts of the novels (like their responses are not a result of their agency, but rather are outside of their control).  Notably, the human character traits that Rowling emphasizes as most important  – family and friendship — are challenged by whether Percy or Ron will seek to repair damage relationships.  Percy’s haughtiness calls into question his position within the rest of the Weasley clan.  After all, is Percy a blood traitor like the rest of the Weasley family or is he different, and therefore should not belong.    For Ron, his betrayal of friendship causes the reader to question Ronald Weasley’s reason for beginning the quest.  Indeed, we have much to worry about leading up to the seventh installment when Ron’s connection to Potter is concerned — a constant internal battle between individual heroics and choices to continue a quest which seems more likely to lead to oblivion rather than exultation.  But through their remorse, both Percy and Ron are restored — Percy to his name and family, and Ron to his self-less role of friend and companion.    Other remorseful characters whose humanness becomes more focused because of their remorse is Lupin, Dudley Dursley, Albus Dumbledore, Regulus Black, Aberforth Dumbledore, Kreacher, and Snape.

But Rowling’s most visual depiction of remorse’s regeneration is when remorse is lacking.   For example, Tom Riddle shows no capacity for remorse, and therefore begins to lose his humanness (we see the humanness slipping from Tom thanks to Dumbledore’s memories in Book VI and realize that the form that we come to recognize as Voldemort has very little human left in — even in appearance, his humanity has slipped away.  When we encounter the fully formed Voldermort from Book IV onward, he is far less human, either by appearance, or action.   In Rowling’s world, its the lack of remorse that renders Tom Riddle as Voldemort and Voldemort as splintered and doomed.  Voldemort’s lack of remorse, begins with his perception that he he superior, with nothing to be remorseful of.  And the things that he does remorse over, are things he can chalk up to other people’s shortcomings — his family, his followers, or his advisors.

Misplaced Remorse — Rowling identifies two forms of remorse that seem to be as harmful as not being remorseful at all.   The first is automated remorse, or remorse that is so covered by one’s transgressions, it simply cannot reveal itself in any conscious manner.  Sometimes, then, remorse becomes the catalyst for betraying our own self-interests.  It may actually be so latent that the holder does not necessarily realize that remorse is working to define the individual’s behavior.  For example, remorse provides the fodder for Peter Petegrew’s betrayal of his own self-interest in the Malfoy manor basement (even if that remorse is automatic, rather than contemplated, as Dumbledore suggests it may be). Automated remorse deprives the holder of the pain that works upon one’s soul.  It therefore, only leads to the destruction of the person.  Interestingly, it is the least human part of Peter Pettegrew (his hand) which demonstrates his most human quality (his mortality).   Perhaps this is the most visible depiction of the reality that remorse holds in the law.  One might say that the very least a person seeking parol must do is “say your sorry” to his victim.  Perhaps the law understands how difficult it is to convert automated remorse into a regenerated human.  Though, perhaps there is even a virtue to being able to say your sorry — even if you don’t mean it.  As Ira Glass says at the beginning of the This American Life episode “Mistakes were made,” sometimes, the fact that people say their sorry is enough to let us know they at least respect the social code of apology, even if they are too hardened to believe the apology themselves.

The second category of misplaced remorse in Rowling’s work could be misdirected remorse (or remorse for the wrong things).  For example, at the end of the seventh novel, I am not sure anyone is fully convinced that the Malfoy’s are remorseful for anything more than choosing poorly.    Likewise, we learn that Aunt Petunia was merely sorry she was turned away.  These instances tend to demonstrate how inhuman, humans are without proper remorse.   Said slightly differently, the Malfoy family and Petunia Dursley are like Voldemort — they are human in form, but lack the central defining feature of regret and the ability to come to terms with one’s own inadequacies.  For these characters, remorse is to be applied to a failure of others, not to their own short comings.  They conveniently omit the reality that humans are at their core, broken and fallible.  Perhaps this remorse is most dangerous — the remorse that regrets actions not because they have consequences for others, but because they have consequences for themselves.

I invite your comments to weigh in.  Should the law consider remorse and if so how?