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Harry Potter & the Unstoppable Torrents

1:00 AM -- Hoo boy, have the muggles gotten their panties in a bunch.

Last week, while desperate young Harry Potter fans began loitering in front of their local bookstores in order to be the first on their blocks to score the last tome in the series, some decided to skip that whole ordeal and get their copyrighted material the old fashioned way -- by downloading it off the Internet.

But then, you probably already knew that.

What I find most interesting about the book being leaked to the Web is not that it somehow made it onto whatever your favorite file sharing network is, but that it made it there in out-of-focus digital camera format, as though someone had the time to take pictures of a 1,000-page book about wizards, but couldn't be bothered to transcribe it with any of his other geeky friends.

But then it hit me that the pages were photographed and uploaded to the various file sharing networks as-was precisely because that's the only way anyone would believe that the leaked version of Deathly Hallows was real.

I mean, think about it. Let's say you're stumbling around the Internet, yearning for your Quidditch fix. Maybe you haven't seen the new film, and you want to download it rather than pay your local theater for the luxury of listening to your neighbor's kids talk through the whole flipping thing. Maybe you're curious to see the hot videos of that French actress who plays Fleur Delacore that you've heard so much about. And maybe, just maybe, you really were looking for the Deathly Hallows.

Regardless of the reasons, you stumble upon a 200-kbit text file. It looks authentic enough. Maybe it even reads like J.K. Rowling wrote it herself. But there's no way to be sure -- and why not? Because nerds know no bounds.

If you think hardcore Harry fans would have anything better to do with their time than come up with 800 pages of magically inspired and poorly written imitations of J.K. Rowling's seminal works, think again. There are more than 41,000 stories at harrypotterfanfiction.com (or so I've heard), some surely better than others, but I bet that somewhere in that massive collection, someone has taken the time to write a couple of reams worth of prose and call it authentic Rowling.

Heck, the Chinese have been doing it for years!

So what's a hapless fan to do, but take pics and upload the whole thing. That's the only way to tell it's authentic, right?

Right?

— Ryan Lawler, P2P Proselytizer, Light Reading

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