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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a popular Harry Potter fan-fiction that has attracted strong critical and fan reactions, both positive and negative. It's possible more widely read than any other HP fan-fiction, besides perhaps the Draco Trilogy by Cassandra Clare or My Immortal.

I've seen various assertions online that J.K. Rowling expressed approval of this work in some way. For instance, here, on Goodreads's Pinterest:

A JK Rowling approved fan-rewrite of the Harry Potter novels. Complex concepts of philosophy and logic are introduced in a humorous, fun to read, easy to understand, format contained in the well-beloved Harry Potter universe.

Is this true? Has J.K. Rowling explicitly given approval of this work, or even just said something positive about it?

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    She hates fan-fic if I recall correctly. – Valorum Nov 5 '18 at 19:00
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    Thank you for asking this; I've heard it for a long time, but never seen anything more than the HPMOR quote from chapter 7 to support it. Now, if we can just get Slytherincess...err... I mean JK Rowling to come answer it.. :) – K-H-W Nov 5 '18 at 20:04
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    "approve" in the case of HP fan-fic probably means more along the lines of "chooses not to sue into oblivion" vs "yeah...this is good - carry on"..although....the "yeah this is good" imprimatur from JKR and Cursed Child now raises some questions.... ;) – NKCampbell Nov 5 '18 at 20:15
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    @Valorum - she only hates fan-fic that doesn't bring her loads of income. Case in point: Cursed Fanfic. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Nov 6 '18 at 19:24
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    @DVK-on-Ahch-To - I misspoke. She hates HP erotica – Valorum Nov 6 '18 at 19:25
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The note at the top of HPMOR Chapter 7 is probably the source of these comments:

Whoa. A spokesman for Rowling's literary agent said that Rowling is okay with the existence of fanfiction as long as no one charges for it and everyone's clear that the original copyrights belong to her? That's really cool of her. So thank you, JKR, and thine is the kingdom!

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    By kingdom, you mean royalties? ;) – AJFaraday Nov 6 '18 at 9:59
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    @Mindwin Fanfiction is not explicitly covered under fair use, and no rule of fair use clearly allows it any way. – Cubic Nov 6 '18 at 13:38
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    @Mindwin: If you want me to trust you, show me some evidence :) The HPMOR quote is a paraphrase, not the original. Rowling's team are on record as saying she "is happy for spin-offs to be published online as long as the publications are not sold and it is made clear she was not involved in the stories". – psmears Nov 6 '18 at 14:05
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    Whether book-length derivative works qualify as "fair use" is not settled law in the USA. There have been many law review articles discussing the question, mostly coming down on the side of "yes, it is", but settled law would require an actual court decision or legislative act, neither of which has happened. – zwol Nov 7 '18 at 1:09
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    This answer can be misleading on its own, as it might imply a "yes". A good answer should point out that saying "I won't sue fan-fiction writers in general if they don't try to sell it for money" is different from "I support this very fan-fiction story", the quote in the question seems to imply the latter. – vsz Nov 7 '18 at 7:11
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Rowling is on record as approving of HP-based fan works in general [BBC interview], but that does not mean she approves of HPMOR specifically. I think there are strong circumstantial reasons to believe that she has not and will not read HPMOR, and would not comment on it if she had.

The statement Rowling's spokespeople made in the above-linked article — she is flattered that people are inspired by her work to write their own fiction, but keep it noncommercial and age-appropriate, and make sure to credit her with the original idea — is similar to statements made by several other genre authors, e.g. Leah Cutter, Jim Hines, Charlie Stross, and see Fanlore for more. Those statements frequently include an additional caveat:

Do not ever, ever ask me to read it. [Cutter]
Please don’t ask me to read it or tell me about it. [Hines]
This doesn’t mean I want to read your stories about my characters. [Stross]

Stross goes into some detail about his reasons:

  1. Life's too short. (I have a multi-year backlog of reading; I do not read fast: and the fact of your having written fanfic about my characters is not, in and of itself, sufficient to give you a priority claim on my attention.)
  2. In any case, I have a surplus of Charlie Stross character fanfic of my own to write, KTHX.
  3. There is the perpetual paranoid author's worry that $FAN will show $AUTHOR a neat idea, $AUTHOR will write a book with the idea in it, and $FAN will sue $AUTHOR for plagiarism. It's about as likely as being hit by lightning, twice, but — no thanks. (Something similar has happened to J. K. Rowling and Dan Brown. I can happily live without lawsuits.)

I haven't seen Rowling specifically saying this, but Stross's third point in particular seems quite likely to apply; the "something similar" that he mentions regarding her isn't a case of fanfic leading to plagiarism lawsuits, but still, one would expect her to be avoiding anything that could lead to more legal headaches.

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    That should be the accepted answer. That there appeared a quote in HPMOR saying that JKR approves of HP fan-fiction in general doesn't mean that JKR expressed approval of HPMOR. The currently accepted answer doesn't make this clear at all. – Trilarion Nov 7 '18 at 8:37
  • I've read before of an additional reason to assume not reading even if you approve is the default position, which is that copyright issues sometimes get tangled if the primary author incorporates elements of fan-fiction into canon material. If they can reasonably say that they never read fan-fiction, this might provide some defence in the case of accidental resemblance. – IMSoP Nov 7 '18 at 13:06
  • @IMSoP Yes, Stross's statement goes into some detail about his reasons for not wanting to read fanfic based on his work, and that's included. I was thinking of revising this answer to mention that. – zwol Nov 7 '18 at 14:30
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JKR approves of fan-fiction.

The spokesman for the Christopher Little literary agency said: "JK Rowling's reaction is that she is very flattered by the fact there is such great interest in her Harry Potter series and that people take the time to write their own stories."
- Rowling backs Potter fan fiction - BBC News

It's said that she does have some concerns though...

"Her concern would be to make sure that it remains a non-commercial activity to ensure fans are not exploited and it is not being published in the strict sense of traditional print publishing."
He said writers had to ensure that the stories were not obscene and were credited to the author and not to JK Rowling. He said: "The books may be getting older, but they are still aimed at young children. "If young children were to stumble on Harry Potter in a an x-rated story, that would be a problem." Fan fiction is a genuine online phenomenon, but its roots go back decades.
- Rowling backs Potter fan fiction - BBC News

So concidering all of this, it's likely that she approves of HPMoR.

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    "JK Rowling approved fan-rewrite" carries a very different implication from "JK Rowling approves of fan-fiction. The former implies (as I've occasionally heard) that JK Rowling has specifically and unusually given her direct approval to that work. – Adamant Nov 5 '18 at 20:55
  • fan-fiction in this case, is plural. – Niffler Nov 5 '18 at 21:15
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    I agree, I'm saying that people are saying something about HPMoR that is very different from simply saying that JKR approves fan-fiction in general. – Adamant Nov 5 '18 at 21:20
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    @padfoot careful, that same argument could be made for "My Immortal" – Morgen Nov 6 '18 at 3:31
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    Approving of fanfiction existing is not the same as approving of a specific story - that's an important distinction to make. It's the difference between "I don't mind this thing" and "I explicitly agree with the core theme and character behaviors expressed here". I'm going out of a limb to assume she tolerates, say, shipping Harry and Voldemort but she won't sign a copy of fan art if you give it to her. – Brian R Nov 6 '18 at 21:54

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