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As I understand, J.K.Rowling owns right for characters, story, special words (like "muggle"), and so on. Warner Bros. has exclusive right to make movies based on the original books/stories.

Here is a discussion on acquiring a license to produce Harry-Potter-related products. But what about movies, based on alternative stories in the same universe with the same characters?

I imagine that one can just ask J.K.Rawling for her permission to make a movie based on a fanfic. Since it is not an original book/story, which can be filmed only by Warner Bros, it means that one can make a deal to produce a movie based on fanfic, and pay, say, 80% of revenue to the author, if author is agreed :)

But I suppose this only possible in the ideal world.

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  • I mean, I think you have the basic idea. Find who owns the rights to do it now, and convince them (e.g., by promising to throw stacks of cash at them) to give you a license. – Patrick87 Jan 22 '16 at 14:06
  • There are star wars offshoot novels that essentially do such. They are complete free and therefore I believe gets around the legal issue. If you were willing to give a movie away for free I'm not really sure if it would be covered by the same laws or not. It probably depends how similar it is to the original work. – William Jan 22 '16 at 18:43
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    @William In the US, there's very little difference in what you can do under copyright law depending on whether you charge money or not. It affects part of the fair use considerations, and you can get into more legal trouble with infringing copyrights if you do it commercially, but for the most part if it's illegal to charge for it's illegal to do for free. – David Thornley Oct 12 '18 at 15:30
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If Rowling chose to permit the creation and distribution of such a film, it would be legal, unless that violated her contract with Warner. (I have no idea how that might be written.)

If based on a previous work of fan fiction, such a movie would need permission from the author of that work also.

Otherwise such a fan fiction move would be a derivative work and would infringe Rowling's copyright.

Creating such a work of fan fiction and distributing it "for free" does not "get around the legal issue." The copyright holder has the right to control the making of derivative works, whether for profit or not, unless they count as "fair use" (under US law). If they harm or might harm the market for the original they are not likely to be held to be fair use.

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