Could it be that the most anticipated book of the year, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," is already on the Web?
Several Web sites have published what they claim are actual pages — and, in some cases, full chapters — of the highly guarded tome (see "Why Harry Potter Has To Die In Book Seven"). And on Wednesday (July 18), J.K. Rowling's attorney issued a statement saying that amid the hundreds of fake pages that have appeared online in recent days, some are legit; he did not specify which ones are real. However, the pages pose more questions than answers.
First of all, there are multiple versions that contradict one another. One table of contents, for instance, calls chapter 10 "Kreacher's Tale," while another table of contents calls the same chapter "The Reflection in the Mirror." Some who claim to have one version of the book have posted recaps, or spoilers, of what's to come in book seven — with scans offered as proof. But even within that, there are inconsistencies, with people claiming Ron and/or Ginny Weasley die alongside a scan of an "epilogue" that reveals that both Ron and Ginny live happily ever after. That leaves the possibility that one version is real and one version is fake, but which is which?
Putting aside for a moment whether the text is authentic — there's a wide difference of opinion as to whether J.K. Rowling would actually write something like the stories out there, or if they're the work of fan fiction — there are certainly enough odd little errors that would make it seem as if the text hadn't been perused by an array of editors, little things that could get overlooked like punctuation and spelling. Normally, if we had spotted those kinds of mistakes, we would think it was an unedited galley or advance copy that had been leaked. Except this time, there were no advance copies.
When MTV News talked to Arthur A. Levine, who edits the Harry Potter books, prior to the supposed leaks, he detailed the security measures taken this time around. "Usually, we give advance material to the buyers at bookstores, to help them determine how many copies they want," Levine told us. "We don't do that here, and they already have a pretty firm idea of what their audience is. And no copies to press reviewers until the day of release."
Then there's the little technical details — the numbers, the pixilation and focus, and the transparency of the pages. To convince those who think the pages look authentic, one intrepid Photoshopper — determined to show how easy it is to manipulate images to make such a fake — showed that it could be done in a short amount of time. And then there's always the question of why an authentic version of the book would have Scotch Tape holding the book cover to the bound text. It looks like someone printed out a color copy of the "Deathly Hallows" spread and attached it to something else.
Still, while not saying whether the leaks are indeed fakes, "Potter" publisher Scholastic obtained a subpoena on Monday to learn the identity of a user who posted copies on a social-networking site in California. Some fans looked at this as proof that the leaks were real, but a spokeswoman from Scholastic explained to MTV News that the subpoena was sought because "any material from or derived from the books is a copyright infringement."
"There is a lot of material on the Internet that claims to come from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,' " Scholastic Vice President of Corporate Communications and Media Relations Kyle Good said, "but anyone can post anything on the Internet, and you can't believe everything you see online. We all have our theories on how the series will end, but the only way we'll know for sure is to read the book ourselves at 12:01 a.m. on July 21. No matter what anyone claims before that time, we know that parents, booksellers, librarians and especially fans do not want spoilers but rather want to keep the magic alive for that midnight moment when everyone can read the book together."
"There's some incredible stuff in book seven," Levine said. "It'll blow you away, how things in book seven were there all along. I'm dying to tell you, but I can't. I couldn't even go to a park and read it, or call up a friend and read a passage. That's because it's very, very tight security, because Jo [Rowling] wants everyone to have that same moment, to read the book and discover the answers and uncover the mysteries."
That's why, even before the leaks, when anyone pretended they had a copy — whether it be Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" or Stephen Colbert — Levine could only laugh. "I wish we'd had a Secret-Keeper spell for this one. That would be great."
[This story was originally published at 3:05 p.m. ET on 07.17.2007]