Neil Gaiman On JK Rowling, Fair Use And The Flattery Of Derivative Works
from the flattery-will-get-you-everywhere dept
Copyfight points us to a fun blog post from Neil Gaiman where he discusses the lawsuit involving the "Harry Potter Lexicon" that JK Rowling is so upset about. He makes a bunch of good points about fair use and derivative works, saying that he'd be flattered if someone had done something similar with his works, and also notes that his own first books probably could be found as violating copyrights as well, and he's happy that no one acted like Rowling in trying to sue him for his work:
Lots of emails from people asking me to comment on the JK Rowling/ Steve Vander Ark copyright case. My main reaction is, having read as much as I can about it, given the copyright grey zone it seems to exist in, is a "Well, if it was me, I'd probably be flattered", but that obviously isn't how J.K. Rowling feels. I can't imagine myself trying to stop any of the unauthorised books that have come out about me or about things I've created over the years, and where possible I've tried to help, and even when I haven't liked them I've shrugged and let it go.He also goes on to note, if somewhat tangentially, that others have accused Rowling of copying his own works -- specifically The Books of Magic that involve a young magician "with potential" who (at one point) goes off to a magic school. Gaiman points out that he does not believe Rowling took the idea from him (or even that she read his works), but that people writing within a certain genre are always going to overlap with ideas -- some of which they glean from others and some of which they come up with themselves. And that's a good thing. It's only in this unfortunate era when people seem to think that all ideas must spring brand new from a virgin mind that the ideas of sharing, building on the works of others and creating new derivative works are seen as being bad.
Given the messy area that "fair use" exists in in copyright law I can understand the judge not wanting to rule, and assume that whatever he says the case will head off to the court of appeal.
My heart is on the side of the people doing the unauthorised books, probably because the first two books I did were unauthorised, and one of them, Ghastly Beyond Belief, would have been incredibly vulnerable had anyone wanted to sue Kim Newman and me on the grounds that what we did, in a book of quotations that people might not have wanted to find themselves in, went beyond Fair Use.