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Harry Potter sparks scrums in Germany

BERLIN, Germany -- Thousands of children in Germany stayed up beyond the witching hour on Saturday to snap up the latest adventures of the teenage wizard Harry Potter.

German translations of the fourth of J.K Rowling's books, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," went on sale at midnight, with stores holding special parties to mark the occasion.

But not everyone was enchanted. Some tired parents and grumpy kids complained the events deteriorated into shoving matches as the crowds clamoured to be among the first to snap up their copies.

"This is not a kids' party, it's just jostling and shoving," said one forlorn 11-year-old boy who turned up at Berlin superstore Dussmann equipped like his hero with bookish round glasses and a broom.

"This is all about business," raged an elderly woman, furious about the price of refreshments at the launch, before storming out with her granddaughter.

About 3,500 visitors did stay on, however, to buy the 768-page book.

Retail parties in Munich and Cologne also saw brisk trade, selling thousands of copies in the first hour.

German fans could be forgiven if their patience has run a little thin. The book was published in Britain and the U.S. more than three months ago and has never been far from the top of the best-seller lists since then.

One group of enterprising German fans who decided they should not have to wait made an attempt to bring their hero to the masses in the summer but fell foul of the law.

UK queues
Potter fans queue to buy the book  

Fourteen-year-old Anna Koeleman, from Berlin, began translating an English copy of the latest book with a few school friends to while away the summer holidays.

Her father Bernd, a computer expert, recruited a few more Potter enthusiasts over the Internet and set up his own website on which the first six chapters soon appeared.

But the book's German publishers Carlsen-Verlag took legal action against Mr Koeleman.

He argued that he was simply encouraging German students to brush up their English language skills. Carlsen-Verlag did not see it that way.

Koeleman was served with an injuction under which he was forced to remove the amateur translation or face up to two years in prison or a fine of DM500,000 ($220,000).

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Unofficial Harry Potter fan club

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