Giving Away Spoilers Isn't Copyright Infringement

from the oh-please dept

We pointed to some of JK Rowling's questionable testimony in the case against a publisher of a guide book to the Harry Potter universe -- where she made a bunch of emotional claims that had little to do with copyright. In wrapping up the case, she again made contradictory claims, backing away from earlier claims of the book being "wholesale theft" to saying that she wasn't so against the book if it only didn't quote so much of the book. But the much odder part of the case was the closing testimony from the lawyer representing Warner Brothers (who owns the Harry Potter IP rights), claiming that the real harm was that the Harry Potter Lexicon gives away spoilers and that people might say: "You know what? I guess I don't really need the rest of the Harry Potter books because I just read the big giveaways." First of all, that seems unlikely -- but more importantly, giving away spoilers is not copyright infringement. Once again, it seems like WB/Rowling keep appealing to emotional arguments rather than anything having to do with the actual law.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 5:57am

    Ok, you claim that giving away spoilers is not copyright infringement, but you give no evidence to back up your claim. Common law examples would be nice or maybe some copyright law itself, but you cannot make unfounded arguments.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      DanC, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:19am

      Re:

      Do you really need someone to explain to you what fair use is every time someone says something isn't infringement?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        TriZz, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:01am

        Re: Re:

        DanC: It sounds like you need the explanation of Fair Use. Fair Use only applies if the "Fair User" isn't benefiting financially from the use. The author of The Harry Potter Lexicon is probably making some money...if not even more now due to the attention it's getting.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          DanC, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Fair Use only applies if the "Fair User" isn't benefiting financially from the use.

          Actually, it appears that you need a refresher course, as your understanding of fair use is lacking. Financial benefit is only part of one of the factors in the four factor test to determine fair use.

          The four factor test, as swiped from Wikipedia:

          1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

          2. the nature of the copyrighted work;

          3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;

          4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Review sites, TV guide, siskel and rupert, they're all doing that for free?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          DanC, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:23am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I should also point out that whether the derivative work is transformative has historically been more relevant in determining fair use than financial benefit, which is why the main focus of Rowling's case has been the third factor.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Ima Fish, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "derivative work"

            The Lexicon is not a derivative work. It's an explanation of a work. Is a Rolling Stone review of a song a derivative work? Nope. Is TV Guide a derivative work? Nope. Is a review of a fimm a derivative work? Nope.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              DanC, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:41am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              The legal definition of derivative work, from 17 U.S.C. 101:

              A "derivative work" is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.

              My understanding is that the lexicon is a transformation based on Rowling's published works. That being said, it's still covered by fair use.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2008 @ 9:27am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Well then, based on that definition (17 U.S.C. 101) it isn't a derivative work because it doesn't fall into any of those categories. But what I don't understand is why would you bother to post something that goes against your own argument. Perhaps you're just confused.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  identicon
                  DanC, Apr 20th, 2008 @ 11:10pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  why would you bother to post something that goes against your own argument. Perhaps you're just confused.

                  Nope, no confusion here. Everything I posted supports my argument. As I stated, based on the legal definition in 17 U.S.C. 101, the lexicon is a derivative work. It (obviously) draws from the Harry Potter books, and is transformative in nature, being a reference book for the series. From the cited law:

                  "any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted."

                  Obviously, my reading of the law is different than yours. I was quite clear, however, on my interpretation, so I fail to see how you construe posting the definition as weakening my argument.

                  Ima Fish is arguing that the lexicon falls more in line with a review, which I disagree with. Both the format and the intent are different, as a review analyzes a work and provides an opinion, while the lexicon is only meant to categorize content and provide additional information.

                  Regardless, none of the quibbling over definitions changes my original point that the lexicon is covered by fair use, regardless of its status as a derivative work.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2008 @ 6:35am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Nope, no confusion here. Everything I posted supports my argument. As I stated, based on the legal definition in 17 U.S.C. 101, the lexicon is a derivative work. It (obviously) draws from the Harry Potter books, and is transformative in nature, being a reference book for the series.
                    If it doesn't fall into any of the categories listed in 17 U.S.C. 101 then it legally isn't a derivative work. Since it doesn't, it isn't. That doesn't seem overly complicated to me but it seems to be throwing you for a loop.

                    From the cited law:
                    "any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted."
                    I note that you emphasized the word "transformed". But since the work hasn't been transformed that still doesn't apply. Thus, it still isn't a derivative work.

                    But maybe you think that "transformed" just means "or anything else". It doesn't. If that were the case, someone could argue that this very comment is just one of JKR's books "transformed". I guarantee you that I could come up with a "transformation process" which would do exactly that. But such broad interpretations of "transformed" are, for want of a better word, idiotic. In the case of the Harry Potter books, a work would need to at least serve a similar purpose as the books in order to be a transformation. For example, a movie retelling the story from the book would be a "transformed" and thus derivative work of the book. A guidebook describing it wouldn't. Hence, you are confused and weakening your own argument by citing 17 U.S.C. 101 whether you understand that or not.

                    Regardless, none of the quibbling over definitions changes my original point that the lexicon is covered by fair use, regardless of its status as a derivative work.
                    Definitions are essential in law and your claim that the lexicon is a derivative work is very much relative to the rest of your claim. If the lexicon is neither a copy nor a derivative work then there is no copyright infringement here and I don't see how fair use is applicable at all. But perhaps you can explain now just exactly how the fair use exemption applies even in cases where there has been no infringement. (this should be good...)

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    •  
                      identicon
                      DanC, Apr 21st, 2008 @ 7:43am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      If it doesn't fall into any of the categories listed in 17 U.S.C. 101 then it legally isn't a derivative work. Since it doesn't, it isn't.

                      I fail to see how the lexicon doesn't qualify as a transformation. It takes material from the novels and casts it in a reference format. Therefore, it is a derivative work.

                      But maybe you think that "transformed" just means "or anything else".

                      I never said nor implied that, so attacking this point is a simple straw man argument.

                      a work would need to at least serve a similar purpose as the books in order to be a transformation

                      What is the source of this definition? I am basing my reasoning in part on Kelly v. Arriba Soft and Perfect 10 v. Amazon, where the indexing of images was determined to be both a derivative work and transformative in nature. Additionally, in the Perfect 10 decision, the circuit court stated that "A use is considered transformative only where a defendant changes a plaintiff’s copyrighted work or uses the plaintiff’s copyrighted work in a different context such that the plaintiff’s work is transformed into a new creation." In the case of the lexicon, the context has been changed to that of a reference book which indexes various elements of the Harry Potter universe.

                      A guidebook describing it wouldn't. Hence, you are confused and weakening your own argument by citing 17 U.S.C. 101 whether you understand that or not.

                      The only thing I'm particularly confused about is your use of the word 'transformation'. After stressing the importance of definitions, I'm a bit surprised that you would neglect to provide a source. I am unaware of any "similar purpose" stipulation for determining what constitutes a transformation.

                      But perhaps you can explain now just exactly how the fair use exemption applies even in cases where there has been no infringement.

                      The fair use exemption would still protect the lexicon's use of quotes from the novels in the event it is not ruled a derivative work.

                       

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    •  
                      identicon
                      DanC, Apr 21st, 2008 @ 8:53am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      If the lexicon is neither a copy nor a derivative work then there is no copyright infringement here and I don't see how fair use is applicable at all. But perhaps you can explain now just exactly how the fair use exemption applies even in cases where there has been no infringement. (this should be good...)

                      I meant to elaborate on the flawed logic in this statement. Copyright infringement is in no way dependent upon whether a work is derivative or not. The inference made in your statement is simply incorrect; even if the lexicon is not considered a derivative work, it may still infringe copyright. Therefore, a fair use defense would still be applicable. Obviously, if no infringement has occurred, then a fair use defense would not be required. An unauthorized derivative work, however, is only a single form of copyright infringement.

                       

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      •  
                        identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2008 @ 12:30pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        Well, I do believe that you have thoroughly proven me wrong on both points. Congratulations and I must say that I admire your style.

                         

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2008 @ 8:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          TriZz: Fair Use CAN and DOES apply to those who are 'benefiting financially.'

          Next time you correct someone, try to be informed.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      shmengie, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:23am

      Re:

      thank you! exactly what i was gonna say. i love reading mike's stuff every day. but, sometimes he tries to slip one past us.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:49am

      Re:

      He doesn't need to you twat, everyone knows that giving away spoilers isn't copyright infringement. If I buy a book and read it and then tell my mate what happens in it, you're telling me that's copyright infringement? On any level?

      [Crowd chanting] "Are you JK in diguise???"

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 5:58am

    Ah, come-on. J.K. Rowling is a struggling author simply trying to make a decent living off her creative works. This guide book probably diminished the returns off her books, movies, t-shirts, lunch boxes, action figures, video games and other licensed products by .00000000000001%. What's more, people who buy this book might not be as inclined to buy her next Harry Potter book. Oh wait, never mind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:08am

    It may not be copyright infringement, but that doesn't make it any less lame.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:36am

      Re:

      'Lame' is not grounds to prevent publishing.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Exsqueezeme???, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 8:59am

      Re: less lame????

      You are totally off base.

      IMDB allows posting of "spoilers" about movies.
      Are you arguing that IMDB is "lame" because of this?

      There is NOTHING wrong with a book or site providing spoilers for ANY media source. While reading a spoiler might change my decision to read a book or view a movie, that's MY choice, not the media company's.

      Personally, I don't read spoilers for movies I don't want SPOILED. If I DON'T think I want to see the movie, I might read the spoiler just to confirm that, but sometimes say, "Ooh, it actually sounds interesting now. I'll go rent/see that."

      Come on guys, if you want to argue "lameness", you're being no less EMOTIONAL than JKR or Warn-a-brotha.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:10am

    Rolling Stone reviews songs. Those reviews in no way violate copyrights. The magazine merely talks about the songs.

    Film critics review movies, sometimes telling spoilers. Yet, those reviews do not violate copyright. They merely talk about the films.

    TV Guide reviews TV shows, explains TV shows, and sometimes gives away plot details including spoilers. Yet, TV Guide does not violate copyright. The magazine merely talks about TV programing.

    As I've stated here before, to say that the Lexicon somehow replaces the series of books is as asinine as saying that TV Guide somehow replaces broadcast television.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    DanC, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:12am

    Already tried that...

    Rowling's lawers actually did send a cease & desist letter to someone for posting a "spoiler" for Deathly Hallows....not realizing the whole thing was a joke/parody.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Overcast, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:12am

    Cry more lady - waaaaaaaa

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:19am

    I'd like to see ANY of you write a book as successful as hers and see if you allow anyone and everyone to make $$ from your works - I hope she wins hands down! Its HERS to make those decisions, not anyone else's so GET OVER IT and stop BITCHING cause she won't allow some TURD to steal HER works! Geeez, MORONS!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Ima Fish, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:23am

      Re:

      Why don't the editors here delete these types of comments? One of the hardest things I had to learn while working at Dvorak's blog was that not only can we delete such nonsense, we should. It raises the quality of the entire blog. I realize we want everyone to have their chance to talk, but it should at least make sense and not be posted merely to flame.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:53am

        Re: Re:

        Delete comments when people disagree with Mike? That's the way to run a website and maintain interest. Unless there are people being excessively abusive I don't see how this benefits anyone.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          ehrichweiss, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:25am

          Re: Re: Re:

          No, this has nothing to do with disagreement. This is basically trolling using emotionally charged rhetoric to draw attention away from the real facts.

          Deleting such comments would at least keep the discussion on topic versus having some idiot shill come in and derail an intelligent discussion so as to persuade the public that draconian copyright laws are necessary.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            ehrichweiss, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:34am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            ...so as to persuade the public *with flawed logic* that...

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Ima Fish, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:35am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Thanks. That's exactly what I meant. Of course you need disagreement because it increases input which increases your numbers. But ignorant or flaming content should be removed.

            Let's look at the comment I complained about. First, it is utterly ignorant about the law. Second, it uses improper language. Third, it incites comments based on emotion.

            When new people come to this site and read such comments, the site looks like it is being over-run by idiots. Sort of like what happened to usenet back in the late 90s when AOL opened their floodgates.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              SomeGuy, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:47am

              @Ima Fish

              While I agree with you that the post was less-than-useful and marginally-offensive, I'd be inclined to leave Techdirt if I noticed they were removing such content. Not because I believe that it has some value in itself, but because by leaving it there Techdirt shows an amount of honesty and integrity. They don't remove comments just because they're ignorant or offensive and that gives me confidence that the discussion that results is an honest representation of what people have to say.

              Removing comments because they're not-helpful leads to trying to define what 'helpful' is, and that degrades the integrity of the conversation. Removing comments because they're offensive requires defining how offensive a comment can be before it outweighs the usefulness of the comment's content, and that degreades the integrity of the conversation. It doesn't take much to start people wondering how much of the conversation is truely representational and how much has been filtered through some arbitrary mechanism.

              Even the comment you complained about brings up pertinent points relevant to the topic at hand: Harry potter IS Rowling's creation, and she should have control over her work based on the effort and talent she employed to bring it forth. Even if the regulars here at Techdirt have heard the line over and over and have had to refute it over and over, people are still thinking about it and those who DON'T read all of Techdirt care about the resolution of such arguments.

              Yeah, not having the moderators aggressively 'clean up' the blog means we have to tolerate some unpleasantness, but I'd prefer that than begin questioning the integrity of our discussions.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2008 @ 9:49am

                Re: @Ima Fish

                Removing comments because they're not-helpful leads to trying to define what 'helpful' is,...

                I can't define "helpful" but I know it when I see it.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:16am

        Re: Re:

        Hey Ima, where are you from?

        Wanna hook up later to discuss?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Skeptical Cynic (profile), Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:28am

      Re:

      First you are not very well informed. Second we all make money off of other people's work. Everything we do is derived from the work of those before us.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Alimas, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:06am

      Re:

      I would totally love someone to make a guidebook off my books.
      What a compliment - someone writes works about my works in acknowledgment of their awesomeness.

      JK Rowling is an idiot.
      (I don't like the books either)

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        SomeGuy, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:50am

        Re: Re:

        I agree. If I could create a world and populate it with characters and compel people to care about those ... I mean, what other definition is there for 'success' for an author of fiction?

        (I do like her books, though.)

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      ehrichweiss, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:31am

      Re:

      If I could write books with her success, I would have no reason to complain about someone writing a lexicon, etc. inspired by my book. They do this all the time in books for computer programming and there hasn't been a single author complain about it. I wonder why......

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 10:24am

        Comparison?? Huh?

        People keep using examples that don't equate. I don't agree with her greed but people can't seem to compare accurately.

        A book about a particular programming language is educating someone on how to use that product while sustaining and promoting it.

        A closer example would be to say that you write a book on a programming language with examples and someone comes along and takes the examples out of the book (line for line) and republishes them without the rest of your book and makes money off of it.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Dave Zawislak, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:21am

    How much of this is lawyer driven?

    A brand new lawyer was searching for a place to practice. He search amongst many towns. Some were too big. Some were not what he was looking for. Then he came upon a small peaceable town. It had no lawyers.

    "This is great", he thought, "the market is wide open". So he opened up shop. For months he had no income, and his funds were running dry.

    Then one day, a smile came to his face. Another lawyer had setup shop across the street. From then on the 1st lawyer had no worries about where his next meal would be coming from.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Ima Fish, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:37am

      Re: How much of this is lawyer driven?

      A lawyer cannot file a lawsuit without a client. In other words, someone else had to give the go-ahead.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:53am

        Re: Re: How much of this is lawyer driven?

        And besides that, Rowling herself is testifying. Sounds like she's got some personal stake in the game.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:30am

    Spoilers should be labeled

    Spoilers sections should be labeled so the readed knows that if they keep reading the ending could be spoiled. Once lapeled it's up to the reader to be spoiled or not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    What about the movie "Free Willie"

    The title gives away the ending,
    The title is a spoiler, sue yourself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 18th, 2008 @ 6:52am

    Wrrong way round

    As usual, these people have things the wrong way round.

    The target audience for this type of guide (as with similar books about Tolkien's Middle Earth, Stephen King's Dark Tower series, etc.) is NOT people who haven't read the books yet. It's people who want to read more and to look at connections they might have missed.

    In other words, this book provides a service to people who have ALREADY handed their money over to you. A real world of difference this one: King admitted to using the guide to his universe to help him keep track of the world he created and write the final chapters. Rowling says "money money money it's mine, I haven't got any more books in me so I'll sue to get more money".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:00am

    I am right.

    GET OVER IT. I am right again and your silly opinions mean nothing.

    Again, listen to me. I am right.

    Like I said you write a successful book, like I also did by the way, and see if you won't be just as selfish and controlling.

    SO just STFU plz.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:07am

      Re: I am right.

      JKR doesn't know law as well as writing. If she did we wouldn't have this article. Why do we have to be successful authors to comment about the law?

      Why don't you tell us the name of your book? Then I can look it up (I'd bet I haven't read it) and then put all the spoilers here so you can sue me. Or, you won't and then your just Angry Dude and you forgot to put in your name.

      A return after every line, egomaniacle comments, the only argument being "I am right". I think you are Angry Dude.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:12am

        Re: Re: I am right.

        Can you read MORON? LOL.

        My name is next to my post.

        Who's Angry Dude anyway?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Chronno S. Trigger, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:48am

          Re: Re: Re: I am right.

          "My name is next to my post."

          Anonymous Coward? Or maybe Apr 18th? 7:07am? or is it literally "next to my post"? That must have sucked going threw high school.

          You never did give us the name of your book.

          and as for Angry Dude, He's an egotistical maniac who hits enter after every line, never gives proper arguments and never backs up any of his comments. oh and he calls everyone MORON because he thinks he's god. Sound familiar?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Joe, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 8:06am

      Re: I am right.

      How does this guy make any sense? If he wrote a successful book lets hear the book...oh wait he's trying to be anonymous.

      Overall though there have been other books based off of fictional work created before. It's pretty clear that the author is over stepping her bounds and either she is really that stupid or her lawyers aren't doing her job to counsel her correctly.

      Or she has no idea how to work PR.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    SteveD, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 7:16am

    Spoilers = Copyright, Or Content = Copyright?

    It’s a bizarre equation. How could a plot spoiler equal copyright infringement? Absurd.

    Its almost as if Warner Bros are valuing the series as if it was 'content' rather then literature. But the position is made even more ridiculous when you consider that a great number of people who went to watch the Warner Brothers films did so having already read the books, and so already knew how it was going to end.

    Besides, if anyone wants to know the plot of every book they just have to look on wikipedia.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    KB, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 8:00am

    Hmmm

    You know after thinking about this some more - I think my first reaction (ie "Go fuck yourself Rowling") may be a little off.

    Believe me, I'm no fan of the author as a person and detest her constant attempts to control every aspect of the characters she created.

    However, in this instance I think my original opinion may be flawed. If this Lexicon is nothing more than just a long list of quotations from the original books, then it really can't be classed as a derivative work and wouldn't fall under fair use.

    The argument about Rolling Stone (and I suppose Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, amazon etc.) publishing "spoilers" or quotes isn't really relevant as reviews don't usually print substantial passages from the work and such quotations do not ordinarily comprise the substantial bulk of the review....

    All that said, Rowling doesn't really need the money, she should just put out a word saying "This work isn't original or official and I don't condone it"... Just because someone can make hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on a lawsuit doesn't always mean they should follow through with that. It's plain old greed I'm afraid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 10:09am

      Re: Hmmm

      I think this is the most well put statement on here and I completely agree on all points.

      She doesn't need the money and the entire situation shows a substantial amount of greed, however it's her work that they're quoting and using.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2008 @ 3:39pm

        Re: Re: Hmmm

        however it's her work that they're quoting and using.

        And legally so. I would also like to point out that JKR based her work on that of many who preceded her as well.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 9:01am

    What's this Harry Potter crap I keep reading about?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    There's a reason they're called "

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 9:11am

    There's a reason they're called "spoilers"

    Many people do find their experience of a story to be diminished by knowing the ending ahead of time. This is why fan forums take extensive measure to keep people from inadvertently reading spoilers when a work is newly published.

    However, I think it's fair to say that if you read a comprehensive guidebook to a story world, you should expect it's going to have to explain how the story ends.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    This deals with a book from the same guy as the website.

    First, as I understand it, when Rowling learned of the book, she asked to take a look at what he was publishing to make sure no content that was infringing was in it. He refused, then tried to rush it into publication.

    Second, the title makes no mention of it being Unauthorized. It seems that the author is trying to make it look official. Rowling has a similar book coming out in the future, and she was planning to donate the proceeds to charity.

    Third, the book apparently contains material from the books copied verbatim and it also reprints essays from the website without giving the original author credit or compensation.

    In other words, it sounds like the author is trying to make money off of other people's work, and give the impression that Rowling is the author.

    When you LEARN about the case at hand, instead of just ignorantly shooting your mouth off, you see that it does not come out looking good for either the Lexicon guy or for Rowling herself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Petréa Mitchell, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 10:00am

      Re:

      "Second, the title makes no mention of it being Unauthorized. It seems that the author is trying to make it look official."

      One of the issues in the lawsuit was indeed whether the book looked too official; that was settled with an agreement to change the typeface and remove a Rowling quote where she praised the Web site from the book jacket.

      "Third, the book apparently contains material from the books copied verbatim"

      Some, but by all reports, way, way less than what's on the Web site. One thing I wish we could get clarification on is whether Rowling's opinion about quoting too much is based on the actual book text (which RDR claims to have sent to WB's lawyers after the suit was filed) or the amount on the Web site.

      "and it also reprints essays from the website without giving the original author credit or compensation."

      RDR says there are only contributions from three people besides Steve Vander Ark included in the book, and that Vander Ark had some kind of agreement with those other three people about passing compensation on to them. I know that's vague, but it's the information we have.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 10:07am

    I am the A/C from 1

    What I was looking for was an explanation of why he (Mike) thought it was copyright infringement? Instead, people put words into his mouth. There was no mention of fair use in the blog. He merely writing his personal opinion. To act like a qualified authority of copyright law only to inject your own personal opinion instead is like well...the Music/Entertainment industry. In fact, I think Rowling might be trying to do that, as well. This seems like an emotional charged blog with no factual backing.

    P.S. DanC, fair use was never intended include those who profit. Otherwise, all those people who sample music in their own music would not have to license it, but they do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      DanC, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 10:44am

      Re: I am the A/C from 1

      P.S. DanC, fair use was never intended include those who profit.

      I assume you have a source on that? Because, as I noted, that isn't what the law says. The law does take the profit motive into account, but it is not the only or even the most important factor in determining fair use. The four factor test was entered into law as part of the Copyright Act of 1976, and is based off a ruling from 1841. Fair use has never been solely about whether or not a profit is being made from a derivative work.

      Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc disproves your point as well, since 2 Live Crew did not acquire permission to parody "Oh, Pretty Woman", yet their commercial use was found to be protected by fair use. And prior to this case, the effect on the original work's value was considered the most important factor, not profit.

      As per your example of licensing for sampling, there have been relatively few significant cases pertaining to it, the most important being Bridgeport Music v. Dimension Films, which did find a sample infringing, but explicitly stated that fair use was still viable to defend the sampling.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike (profile), Apr 18th, 2008 @ 10:54am

      Re: I am the A/C from 1

      What I was looking for was an explanation of why he (Mike) thought it was copyright infringement?

      Um. I don't think it's copyright infringement.

      To act like a qualified authority of copyright law only to inject your own personal opinion instead is like well...the Music/Entertainment industry. In fact, I think Rowling might be trying to do that, as well. This seems like an emotional charged blog with no factual backing.

      Which parts have I not backed up with facts?

      P.S. DanC, fair use was never intended include those who profit. Otherwise, all those people who sample music in their own music would not have to license it, but they do.

      Actually, that's incorrect. You are allowed to profit from fair use. As Dan correctly pointed out, commercial use is only one factor of the four-factor test, and there are plenty of fair use examples where people profit from the use.

      For a court decision that clearly stated that profit is not against fair use, take a look here:

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060519/035207.shtml

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Mischa, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 10:56am

      Re: I am the A/C from 1

      I assume you mean why Mike thought it was not copyright infringement?

      Giving away spoilers does not equal copyright infringement. That is fact, not opinion. While something about the spoilers might potentially be infringing, the fact that spoilers exist does not mean that there was infringement.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 12:36pm

    Soylent Green is people!

    Ok, come arrest me for copyright infringment. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Clueby4, Apr 18th, 2008 @ 3:55pm

    This comment is an infringment, then!?!?

    According to some of the feebs posting her, everyone including me is "stealing"/"benefiting" from Mike's article.

    Good thing we don't live in the fantasy world were "How would feel I" != law.

    BTW, If you don't agree with me, the I hope you observe you flawwed interpretation of Copyright and Fair Use and not respond to anything I've posted. Since, I may feel bad and/or prevent me from profiting from my "creativity". O.o :P

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    John, Apr 19th, 2008 @ 4:05pm

    Two points

    First, if giving away spoilers is somehow "copyright infringement" is there a statue of limitations?
    For example, Cliff Notes Study Guides give away spoilers to every single Shakespeare work. Can the estate of Shakespeare sue?

    Or better yet, can New Line Cinema sue Cliff Notes over their study guide of Lord of the Rings?
    Spoiler alert: Frodo succeeds in his quest and the evil ring is cast into the fires of Mount Doom. :)

    Or have these books been out long enough that "everyone" should know how they end?

    Second, will seeing a spoiler really, truly, honestly keep people from buying a HP book or seeing the movie? I would guess that almost all of the target audience has read the HP book *before* seeing the movie!
    Shouldn't Warner Bros be suing JK Rowling for giving away the plot of their movie?
    Should Warner Bros sue the trailer-making people who give away spoilers in upcoming movies? "What do you mean they freed Willy? I never saw that coming!"

    I know this sounds absurd, but this whole issue of spoilers is absurd.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Petréa Mitchell, Apr 19th, 2008 @ 9:15pm

      Re: Two points

      "First, if giving away spoilers is somehow 'copyright infringement' is there a statue of limitations?"

      Sure, the limit of copyright protection. When it expires after its 90 years or whatever, everything should be fine.

      "Second, will seeing a spoiler really, truly, honestly keep people from buying a HP book or seeing the movie?"

      Some people, yes. Some people won't go in unless they know the ending ahead of time. It takes all kinds, and all that.

      "I would guess that almost all of the target audience has read the HP book *before* seeing the movie!"

      Seems reasonable, doesn't it? But I've been surprised by just how many people are seeing the movies first, and in some cases never mean to read the books.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This