Terrible Ruling: Judge Halts Publication Of Harry Potter Lexicon

from the bad-news dept

Despite the fact that J.K. Rowling relied on emotional, rather than legal reasons for not wanting the publication of a guidebook about the Harry Potter universe, called the Harry Potter Lexicon to go forward, it appears that a judge was convinced. The judge has halted the publication of the Lexicon, saying that it violates Rowling’s copyrights and did not establish a fair use defense. Hopefully the book publisher will appeal, as there seems to be some questionable statements in the ruling:

“because the Lexicon appropriates too much of Rowling’s creative work for its purposes as a reference guide, a permanent injunction must issue to prevent the possible proliferation of works that do the same and thus deplete the incentive for original authors to create new works.”

It’s quite difficult to see how the publication of the Lexicon, which would only encourage more fans to dig even deeper into the Harry Potter universe somehow “depletes” the incentive for the original author to create new works. The Lexicon does nothing more than add more value to the rest of the Harry Potter books, and to deny its publication seems like a travesty of a broken copyright system.

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Comments on “Terrible Ruling: Judge Halts Publication Of Harry Potter Lexicon”

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125 Comments
Kenn North (profile) says:

Ridiculous

I love Harry Potter, and I own all the books, and all the CD audiobooks. I was going to buy her latest book as well, but have held off due to this case. Rowling is being a whiny billionaire. Let me worry about what is poor content. Is she really afraid that if I bought a book from someone else that I would retaliate against HER. She is making her fans out to be brainless morons who couldn’t tell good books from a hole in the ground. Which only hurts her again since we liked her books in the first place.

Ridiculous.

pegr says:

Pop culture tripe and a corrupt judiciary.

Not the first time a judge has ignored the Constitution…

So some of my more ignorant friends occasionally ask me why I am so “hung up” on the Constitution. I tell that, without strong Constitutional control of the Government, it becomes a mob rule popularity contest (with popularity measured in $$$).

Woadan says:

Re: Re: Pop culture tripe and a corrupt judiciary.

They don’t have a Constitution like in the US, but the UK is a “constitutional monarchy”.

That aside, the case was tried in New York (http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/09/08/harry.potter.lawsuit.ap/index.html), so whether they have one in the UK or not is completely immaterial. (Perhaps you’ll enrich yourself on the details of an issue before you fire off that comment in the future.)

To add insult to the injury, the judge also awarded Rowling and Warner Brothers $6750 in damages. $750 each for the 7 books in the Potter series plus a couple of other books about the series.

Woadan

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Pop culture tripe and a corrupt judiciary.

Yes they do have a constitution like in the US. John Adams (VP #1, President #2 for those of you keeping track) was critisized quite often for being a monarchist because of his great admiration of the English constitution. The Constitution of the United States of America’s initial framework borrows heavily on the British Constitution for both structure and content.

UUUD444 says:

Bad Precedent

This could spell bad news for the Myriad of fan fiction sites out there. While the individual authors do not make any money from their work, the hosting sites certainly do. In some cases they may not make much more than their hosting and web development fees, but in others they could be making a fair income.

She got greedy, plain and simple. She wasn’t trying to protect her interests, as this book wouldn’t threaten them.

Meatshield says:

Re: Bad Precedent

The easy way around that is to host the site in a country that doesn’t have bass ackward laws like that. They can’t stop it if it’s not hosted in a country that obeys their laws. PirateBay has the “avoiding legal hosting troubles” down by not even knowing where they are hosted lol.

Kate says:

Re: Bad Precedent

Actually I thought just the opposite. If this book had been allowed to go ahead, I could see a lot of authors pulling any support from non-profit fan websites because JKRs support for the Lexicon website was one of the defenses offered by RDR in favour of the for-profit spin-off book. The matter of income from the host sites was raised in court and dismissed as the incomes to the hosts are fairly minimal in the majority of cases. Rowling had always been a firm supporter of fan activity and I recall her saying publicly how upset she was that that support was being twisted into consent to steal her work. As far as I am aware, she (and many other authors and creators) are well aware of fanfiction and are happy for fans to continue to create works for free distribution. However – try to publish one and you will feel their wrath. And rightly so. Fanfiction authors are the first to admit that they are playing with borrowed toys and few would try to lay any legal claim to their work should the source’s owner contest it.

As it is, JKR actually wasn’t the one to instigate proceedings. They were started by WB as license holders. All the book appeared to be was a direct cut-and-paste of descriptions Rowling wrote in her own companion guides with some inaccurate additions. It was more than derivative, it was in many instances direct plagiarism and the ruling was quite correct IMO.

Arkwin says:

they are brainless

@kenn North

They are brainless, granted I have read the first book, most of it is lame, there is nothing backing up anything in the book. There is really no history of why witches and wizards exist. And seriously Rowling is the saddest author of them all. complaining about this, the Harry potter universe. The only reason being that she didn’t think of this first to get more money from her fans like you that will buy every think labeled harry potter. Do you need to see all the movies twice, buy all the movies, buy all the books, read them countless times, and buy the audio CDs as well. It’s time for you to stop thinking your in a fantasy world and stop throwing money at this mundane author. Also the fact that she came out and said that dumblordor (no idea how to spell that) was gay? WTF srsly she just wanted more attention.

Ian says:

Re: Re:

Good point! Strongs has been around for a 100 years and hasn’t affected Bible Sales.

Concordances (including “A Complete Concordance To Shakespeare”) may have been a good argument to present in court. For those that don’t know, Strongs, along with other concordances, rip said Book/s into one-word pieces and present them alphabetically like a lexicon.

I would think Lexicon/Concordances would actually drive book sales in the end. Heh.

Joel says:

Good for J.K. Rowling !! I agree.

A writer created a fictional world, and wrote several books about HER fictional world. Now along comes someone else who wants to make up a guide to her works, and then profit from it? Even if they didn’t want to profit from it, what gives them the right to use her work?

She created Harry, she should have control over how Harry Potter and his world are presented (or summarizied).

Personally, I hate Harry Potter. Never liked the books, never liked any of the movies, but they’re still HERS.

David says:

Re: Good for J.K. Rowling !! I agree.

So, by that note, should Rowling by paying the estate of Tolkein because she wrote about wizards, who appeared previously in his books? She didn’t create the world in a vacuum. No creative works have been made in a complete vacuum, ever. Attempting to call them “hers” does a grand disservice to society. If they’re hers, she shouldn’t have shared them, or allowed people to give her money for the stories. As it is, she has enriched herself by sharing it, and as such, she should expect that other people will be inspired by her work to varying degrees.

Just because the lexicon says “Harry Potter” doesn’t mean that it’s infringing on her rights any more than if I published a book talking about the greatest sports teams ever would require any licensing from each of the players or teams I deigned to mention. This is the same thing.

DanC says:

Here’s RDR Book’s official statement:

“We are encouraged by the fact the Court recognized that as a general matter authors do not have the right to stop the publication of reference guides and companion books about literary works. As for the Lexicon, we are obviously disappointed with the result, and RDR is considering all of its options.”

I sincerely hope they appeal. For those interested, the Wall Street Journal has a pdf of the actual decision here.

Phillip Vector (user link) says:

“She created Harry, she should have control over how Harry Potter and his world are presented (or summarizied).”

Actually, wasn’t there a post earlier about how Harry Potter was used in a movie before the books? I seem to recall it was the name of a boy victimized by magic.

I may be mistaken. Nope.. Here it is..

http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0087939/

LostSailor says:

It’s quite difficult to see how the publication of the Lexicon, which would only encourage more fans to dig even deeper into the Harry Potter universe somehow “depletes” the incentive for the original author to create new works. The Lexicon does nothing more than add more value to the rest of the Harry Potter books, and to deny its publication seems like a travesty of a broken copyright system.

Well, it would certainly encourage fans to dig deeper into their pockets to enrich Vander Ark.

It’s quite difficult to see why Mr. Vander Ark should profit by leaching off of the work of another writer. While there is a fair use argument for guides and reference material even based on bestselling fiction, the ruling apparently decided that he’d copied too much.

Yes, it may increase interest in the Potter books, but it’s not very likely (the films will do much more in that regard). And Rowling has likely already made the bulk of the money she’s going to off of the Potter material already in print (unless she decides to write more). But neither of those are the issue, really.

Mike says that this is evidence the “copyright system” is broken, but why should this person profit mainly on work that is not his own? Can’t this also be seen as an attempt to cash in on the back of Rowling’s work? As I recall, she had no complaint when Vander Ark had all this material published free on the web, but only took legal action when that material was about to be published and sold in book form.

I have not read the complete decision yet–Thanks DanC for the link.

dorpass says:

Re: Lost Sailor indeed

“Yes, it may increase interest in the Potter books, but it’s not very likely (the films will do much more in that regard).”

And there you go again, spouting off something you cannot even attempt to prove. Although, if you were to realize that many people read the books BEFORE movies, you might want to think… wait, I expect too much.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Lost Sailor indeed

Dorpass:

Oh? And of course you can prove, in advance of publication, that publishing of the lexicon would increase sales of the Potter books? More than interested generated by the films? You may want to realize that new generations of readers will be far more likely to go to the books after they’ve seen the films.

As for adversely affecting sales, since it copied very large portions of two of Rowling’s companion books the lexicon would definitely take away sales; it’s in the court opinion if you’d care to read…wait, I expect too much.

Freedom says:

Re: Re:

>> why should this person profit mainly on work that is not his own?

What world do you live in? We all profit from work of others.

As far as I’m concerned this guy could have written a book to extend the story line as well and that would be fair game in my mind although probably a no-no with the silly copyright laws we have. The only thing that isn’t fair game is if you literally copy the book and sell it as your own. If you take bits and pieces of the book and ‘mash it up’ and create a new work, then good for you – go make some money. Nothing is stopping the author from doing the same.

For someone to extend and take advantage of a popular work is called capitalism and it is the best system in the world. We are extremely fortunate that we have a large group of people in our society that are always looking to take something, morph it and repackage it. It is the true nature of things and laws that restrict it are unnatural at best.

Freedom

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re:

Vander Ark has the freedom to write about the Harry Potter world and the books. But he can’t just copy another authors words. He can write a parody closely based on the Potter books. He can go write his own stories about a boy how attends a school for wizards and fights an evil sorcerer. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But that’s not what was happening here. Mike calls this a “Terrible” ruling, but now having read the ruling, I found it narrowly construed and that it considered carefully the fair use claims and found that, in the balance, the use was not fair.

Capitalism is also about protecting your property.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Capitalism is also about protecting your property.”

She can “protect” it all she wants but she can’t have it both ways. She’s created a series of books that detail a world people want to read more about and are willing to buy a separate book to do this. She’s not created such a work herself, so the market’s open to others.

This book doesn’t negatively affect her sales. In fact, most of the people this book would be aimed at are existing fans who already own the other 7 books. She’s exercising control, and in doing so losing fans. As for the work done, the author has done some work. Maybe not in creating the entire text from whole cloth, but by organising, editing and streamlining the selection of quotes and extracts from the novels – not an easy task I’d bet. Is this person not entitled to compensation of their own? Remember, we’re not talking about someone trying to pass off a book as a new Rowling work, but someone producing a clearly labelled unofficial work.

I’ve mentioned it before here, but let’s contrast her behaviour with another famous author, Stephen King. There are not one but two now-officially approved books that chronicle the world of his Dark Tower series of novels. These books were not specifically commissioned, and King himself admits to having used them while writing the final chapters of his series. He doesn’t mind his work being used as he recognises that only fans of the series would be interested, and has now endorsed them both, flattered that people would be willing to spend so much time compiling such a guide.

Another example: I remember as a child discovering Tolkien’s lesser-known works through a cheap, unofficial guide to Middle Earth that even made me want to buy the notoriously dry Silmarillion – no easy read as a 100 year old. Had Tolkien’s estate had the same attitude as Rowling, I may never have bought any book of his other than The Hobbit and LOTR, yet now I own them all.

Rowling wants to exercise control over her works, but fails to realise how much that makes her lose rather than gain.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

She can “protect” it all she wants but she can’t have it both ways. She’s created a series of books that detail a world people want to read more about and are willing to buy a separate book to do this. She’s not created such a work herself, so the market’s open to others.

As I’ve indicated before, Vander Ark was quite free to create a Lexicon, publish it, and sell as many copies as people might be willing to buy. But he can’t, as the court concluded, use Rowling’s words beyond fair use to do so. He copied extensively from Rowlings particular phrasing from the novels and even more from two ancilliary books.

This book doesn’t negatively affect her sales.

Regarding the two ancilliary books, the court concluded otherwise.

She’s exercising control, and in doing so losing fans.

Well, that remains to be seen.

Remember, we’re not talking about someone trying to pass off a book as a new Rowling work, but someone producing a clearly labelled unofficial work.

Actually, the publisher was originally marketing and advertising the book, down to a quote from Rowling on the back cover, to strongly suggest it was authorized; that was a large part of the problem. He offered to back down, but only after the suit was underway.

I’ve mentioned it before here, but let’s contrast her behaviour with another famous author, Stephen King.

That’s King’s choice. Rowling used Vander Ark’s guide, as did Warner Bros. They even invited him to the set of one of the films. There was no problem when the Lexicon was online and free. When it was only when it was slated to be published that there was a problem. The court decision indicates that Rowling and Warner tried to settle the matter amicably but were aggressively rebuffed by the publisher.

Rowling wants to exercise control over her works, but fails to realise how much that makes her lose rather than gain.

Again, whether this has “hurt” her or whether she’s lost anything remains to be seen. This Lexicon could have been published without problem if a little more care were taken.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“There was no problem when the Lexicon was online and free.”

That’s one of the sticking points for me. Apart from the fact money’s being made, what’s the difference? If Rowling didn’t think she was losing either money or control when it was a free website, why should the publication of a physical copy change that?

“The court decision indicates that Rowling and Warner tried to settle the matter amicably but were aggressively rebuffed by the publisher.”

“Amicable” to a major corporation is rarely a good deal for the recipient. I don’t know the terms of the deal, but the publisher must have thought they had both a good chance of winning in court and make significantly more money by publishing the book.

“Again, whether this has “hurt” her or whether she’s lost anything remains to be seen. This Lexicon could have been published without problem if a little more care were taken.”

We’ll never know for sure because any losses due to her actions will probably get written off as being due to “piracy” or the shelf life of the books (sales are sure to drop significantly after the movies are finished).

My point was simple – you seemed to be implying that not blocking this point was somehow anti-capitalism. I was saying that not only is capitalism well and truly alive in the creation of these books, but that Rowling actually stands to make more money by leaving it alone.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

That’s one of the sticking points for me. Apart from the fact money’s being made, what’s the difference?

Why apart from money being made? That’s not an unimportant consideration. One of the parts of analysis of fair use is whether the use is non-commercial or commercial in nature.

“Amicable” to a major corporation is rarely a good deal for the recipient.

I have only the facts as stated in the court opinion to go on, but that says they never got to the point of discussing a settlement. Clearly the publisher thought they could win. However, if I were the publishers, I would have at least listened to what Rowling/Warner wanted. There may still have been a suit, but there may not have been.

My point was simple – you seemed to be implying that not blocking this point was somehow anti-capitalism.

I don’t think I was implying that, nor was that my intention. Yes, attempting to publish the Lexicon is capitalism; my point was that protecting one’s property and rights is also capitalism.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“Why apart from money being made? That’s not an unimportant consideration. One of the parts of analysis of fair use is whether the use is non-commercial or commercial in nature.”

Well, half the argument being put forward is that the publication of these books would lose Rowling something, either financially or creatively. If the only substantial difference between the books and the site is the fact that one is charged for and the other isn’t, I cannot see why one would be damaging and the other wouldn’t be (and therefore OK as implied by Rowling’s former acceptance).

As for the fair use doctrine, that’s more complicated. Most copyright law was created back in a time when the only way to sell a copy of something was to make a physical item. This incurred a substantial cost, so people who profited from copyright infringement would most likely be professional thieves rather than ordinary people and personal copying was such small scale that it didn’t matter.

Vander Ark fits between these two stools because he put in most of his work into compiling the website, then started charging for a version of that work in a different format. He didn’t start charging until he started incurring costs (at least directly, though apparently ad revenue from the site wasn’t very high), yet the content was OK in one form and not in another? Maybe that’s legally right, but that’s where the law may require reform before more artists try damaging themselves like this.

“Yes, attempting to publish the Lexicon is capitalism; my point was that protecting one’s property and rights is also capitalism.”

Yeah, I don’t think that anyone here would deny that. But, there comes a time where you need to compromise. The idea of the original article here and my own posts is to point out that absolute protection of one’s own property in order to exclude everyone else is not always a good thing. Money and reputation have been lost and there’s a chilling effect on future such books both inside and outside the Potter universe. There is such a thing as too much protection, and I think this is a good example.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Well, half the argument being put forward is that the publication of these books would lose Rowling something, either financially or creatively.

Yes, there is a financial component, and there’s also the component that she has the right to control her copyright. You may disagree, and you might act completely differently if you were in a similar situation, but she’s within her rights. As I mentioned before, if the author had approached the work differently, and used his own words to describe the “facts” listed in the lexicon, Rowling would have lost her case. Now, he’s permanently enjoined from publishing.

As for the fair use doctrine, that’s more complicated. Most copyright law was created back in a time when the only way to sell a copy of something was to make a physical item. This incurred a substantial cost, so people who profited from copyright infringement would most likely be professional thieves rather than ordinary people and personal copying was such small scale that it didn’t matter.

Actually, the fair use doctrine had little to do with professional thieves, when it first came up in the U.S. in the early 19th century. It developed further in response to the steady expansion of copyright protection throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries to allow re-use of printed material, scholarly criticism, reviews, etc. Most “ordinary” people did not have the means to copy until the late 20th century. Most of the doctrine was developed in response to rival publishers taking advantage in advances in technology and “holes” in the copyright law. Sound familiar?

Vander Ark fits between these two stools because he put in most of his work into compiling the website, then started charging for a version of that work in a different format. He didn’t start charging until he started incurring costs … yet the content was OK in one form and not in another? Maybe that’s legally right, but that’s where the law may require reform before more artists try damaging themselves like this.

That’s not quite the case. Vander Ark put up his lexicon on a web site free of charge over many years and eventually had a number of editors working on it. He sold some advertising but pretty much covered his costs. Rowling had no problem with that. Soon before the publication of the last Potter book, Vander Ark was approached by a publisher about rushing out a print edition to hit stores about 4 months after the Potter book. The publisher started aggressively marketing and pitching the book not only to sales outlets but also to foreign publishers, including the U.K. Included in that marketing and pitch material, as well as the proposed cover for the book (which are produced well in advance as sales material), was a quote from Rowling that she used the Lexicon herself, implying her endorsement of the printed book (she made the statement about the web site).

When contacted by Rowling’s agent and later agent and Warner Bros., the publisher simply ignored them. When he did speak to them, he really wouldn’t discuss the matter. Lawsuit was filed. The court found that Vander Ark copied pretty much verbatim much of Rowling’s original words beyond fair use.

I feel sorry for Vander Ark, as I think he was led astray by his publisher; that he was rushed in preparing the manuscript probably led to too much copying. That the publisher was so eager to cash in, there didn’t seem to be much of an editorial process that might have caught the copying.

The idea of the original article here and my own posts is to point out that absolute protection of one’s own property in order to exclude everyone else is not always a good thing.

This is where we seem to be disconnecting: this really isn’t a case of absolute protection. Rowling was okay with the free web site. She apparently wasn’t okay with an aggressive publisher seeking to exploit the fans’ work.

I agree that “absolute” protection is not a good thing. I’d probably agree that some current protections should be relaxed. But even if this were only a matter of an author’s injured ego (that the publisher wouldn’t even discuss the matter), she’s still within her rights. Hell, duels have been fought over bruised egos!

As with most of these cases, such as the Fox/Warners Watchmen suit, when you dig beneath the surface, the issues are rarely as simple as a brief news article or blog post makes out (though not as complex as lawyers will like to make them).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Attributed and fair use in commentary. Cleary allowed by copyright. However, if Mike objects, he’s free to remove the quote.

Oh, so now your tune changes, eh? Before it was about how someone “can’t just copy another authors words”, but now it’s just “fair use”. You used 46% of Mike’s words from his article verbatim. I bet that’s a lot higher than what Vander Ark used of JKR’s. But when the shoe is one the other foot suddenly you start the back-pedal boogie. Classic hypocrite.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, she was so thrilled that Vander Ark did her research for her as she referenced that she herself used the website for her own use.

Why shouldn’t he be able to make money by providing more value to someone’s content? How is this different than Apple making money with iPods and iTunes by providing various value to the content they sell?

Derek Coward (user link) says:

Has she ever heard of Metallica?

I wonder if she has ever heard of Metallica. She may have won this decision and she may win the appeal, but that’s not when she’ll “pay”. Further down the line when she has rendered her creations irrelevant is when she will pay.

I think it is funny that the remedy for “irreparable harm” is less than $7000.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Has she ever heard of Metallica?

Yeah… Metallica is releasing (tomorrow as a matter of fact) probably their most anticipated disc in 15 years. Metallica pissed off a bunch of people and most of them weren’t actual fans. They did something stupid without understanding a technology in it’s infancy. Times have changed and while there are people that haven’t moved past 2000 Metallica is doing just fine 8 years later.

Kate says:

Re: I wonder if...

Erm… he’s dead. And parody falls under “fair use” anyway because it requires original content. The fault with this whole thread is that so many people didn’t read the court extracts regarding the actual content of the “Lexicon”. It was mostly cut and paste work from JKRs own companion works and heavy quotes from the HP books themselves, arranged alphabetically with little to no original comment or editorial to add to the readers comprehension. Basically, they’d have got as much information from reading the books. Nothing new added. One of Vander Ark’s “definitions” was actually debunked in court by JKR as complete nonsense. Nice research. Basically a crappy book that could have harmed the franchise had people thought it had been approved. And as the cover was expected to show JKRs endorsement for the Lexicon site, there’s a good chance people would have.

The Star wars books are all vetted and authorised by George Lucas who apparently invites the authors to pitch their ideas in personal at Skywalker Ranch if he’s interested. He also closely controls what happens to any characters that have appeared in his work.

Guitar Player says:

get a grip

I’m not especially keen on the ruling myself…BUT, if you’re going to snipe at the legal system, then at least get some basic facts straight. In the first place, the judiciary does not make the laws; instead, judges interpret and apply existing law in accordance with previous decisions and with current statute law (certainly, in the US, Canada, and the UK). Secondly, if you don’t like the copyright system or the way a particular is being applied, try this: quit bitching and whining, get off your backsides, and lobby your congressperson or MP for changes to the statutes. Your elected representatives are the folks who make the laws, not the judges who are called upon to adjudicate disputes. Some of the whiners who have posted here behave as if they had a grade three education to match their 30 point intelligence quotients. Grow up, and deal with problems like adults. Read the full decision; then form an opinion you can justify without having to suggest that authors or anyone else “screw” themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: get a grip

I’m not especially keen on the ruling myself…BUT, if you’re going to snipe at the legal system, then at least get some basic facts straight.

Absolutely. However, that is something you have failed to do.

In the first place, the judiciary does not make the laws; instead, judges interpret and apply existing law in accordance with previous decisions and with current statute law (certainly, in the US, Canada, and the UK).

Wrong (at least in the U.S.). As my my attorney explained it to me in a case I’ve been involved with, there are two kinds of law to be considered: statutory law and case law. Care to guess who makes case law? Judges.

Guitar Player says:

Re: Re: get a grip

Your attorney is right — and wrong. It’s true that judges make case law in the sense that they make decisions based on previous cases from higher courts, and on statute. When judges stray too far in their interpretations of previous cases or statutes, the legislators ultimately intervene. That’s why laws change and evolve. Ask your lawyer — he’ll tell you that judges don’t directly, literally make the law. If you look at changes in any statute over the years, the changes almost always flow, in part, from the legislators’ sense of what the courts have done or not done with earlier versions of the statute in question.

John (profile) says:

How does this affect other books

Can someone explain how this ruling will affect other books? For example, I have a book called “The Essential Guide to Star Wars Vehicles”. Will this book be forced to stop any future printings?

Or is this case really about the fact that the author isn’t paying any kind of royalty to JK Rowling, where the “Essential Star Wars Vehicles” people may be paying licensing fees to Lucas?

But, back to my original question: how does this ruling affect any NON-licensed, NON official fan guides that are for sale?

LostSailor says:

Re: How does this affect other books

Actually, it doesn’t. Nearly all of the Star Wars books are licensed by Lucas Arts. And anyone can write a non-licensed, non-official fan guide as long as the work and words are largely their own (images are another matter).

This Potter lexicon could have been published if there weren’t so much copied material in it (though I doubt it could have been licensed as Rowling was working on her own version).

pawn says:

So obvious. It's just greed.

The Lexicon added value to the HP universe. JK admitted to using it. If there was no value added, why would the creator use it to help with the creation of the series.

Organization is that value.

This is just an issue of JK being a greedy hypocrite. It’s indefensible.

The only greater hypocrisy would be profiting on a book about someone who constantly skirts the rules for everyone’s good (like a Harry Potter) and then utilizing similar rules to punish anyone who wants to improve their own world.

Kate says:

Re: So obvious. It's just greed.

No. JKR used the Lexicon WEBSITE. It’s completely different. It holds timelines, editorials, the a-z (which was what RDR tried to publish as the Lexicon) and much more original content. For free. To anyone. JKR publicly applauded and rewarded the effort. She used the site from time to time when she was away from her office and her books/reference guides. This does not mean that it “helped her in the creation of the series”. Just meant she didn’t have to go to a store and buy her own book to look something up. Far from addding value, from what I understand about the Lexicon book it could have damaged her credibility had they gone ahead with putting her endorsement of the website on the cover as they intended.

I still can’t understand why anyone would have bought the Lexicon book when all the content is available free online anyway *shrug*

Mike42 (profile) says:

Perhaps the source should be considered...

Strange, I always thought that “Copyright” was for exact or nearly-exact works. Then I found out that it could somehow be extended to similar characters, situations, etc. especially in Hollywood. However, if you really want to understand Rowlings’ emotional appeal, check out this link: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C00E2DA143BF93AA3575AC0A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1. She was playing to an emotional judge. This ruling should easily be overturned on appeal.
But of course, if she wanted to keep all her rights, she should have patented the story while it was on her computer. That’s all it takes, right?

ehrichweiss says:

helps me for Xmas time...

Looks like if there is a new H.P. book coming out, my son won’t be getting a copy thanks to her asshattery and I’m going to tell everyone who might consider getting it for him that I already got it so no sale by concerned grandparents or the like either.

Hear that J.K, NOW you’re losing sales. I didn’t like ya in the first place and still tolerated your crap but that just changed. Enjoy your money cause there’ll be no more from my household.

Igau says:

Re: helps me for Xmas time...

I’m sorry Ehrichweiss. You may disagree with her choice to file the suit (Which concerning the Lexicon case, is something you could fairly hold against her), but she’s not the judge. Patterson was the judge, and he felt that she and WB were correct in this. He made that decision.

Don’t take it out on your son. Her asshattery? Quite frankly the one looking like an asshat here is you. Anyways JKR won’t lose a penny thanks to your mean and selfish decision. The charities that receive the proceeds from Beedle the Bard will.

Again: Please, please, PLEASE don’t take it out on your son. It might be okay if you chose to just not purchase the book, but to lie to other relatives and claim that you already bought the book is just wrong.

Kenn North (profile) says:

that doesn't make sense

@arkwin

You may not like the books, and that’s fine, that’s your opinion, but you can’t say ALL her fans are brainless. It’s one of the most popular books in this past decade or two. I will be the first to admit that just because it’s a large group of people doesn’t make them right (look at the UAW, those people are nuts), but this many people loving those books has to carry some merit. You just have to at least acknowledge that.

@Joel

I’m glad you aren’t an author, I wouldn’t buy your books. I also hope you don’t work in patent or copyright industry. Or maybe you do and you are what’s wrong with it. Read a book or two about copyright and creative works.

TheOldFart (profile) says:

Actually it's a good ruling

If you read the press coverage today you’ll see that the complaint was about the fact that lexicon they were going to publish basically lifted the text out of her books and put it into another book. The unpublished lexicon did not add any significant amount of new material it was just quotes from her work, and that was the objection. The lawsuit is completely legit and understandable.

The judge and Rowling seemed to have fairly common sense approaches. She didn’t stomp on the website because they weren’t trying to profit from it. Her gripe was that now he was trying to make money off it.

If the lexicon author had a brain in his head he would have gone back to the drawing board and added enough of his own content to make the lawsuit go away – or at least make it questionable. When Rowling can read a passage from the lexicon and then her original description from the book and it’s nearly word-for-word identical there’s not a lot of defense possible.

And to the off-topic douchebags whining about the books being crappy (as if that has any bearing on the legal issues) here’s the reality: even a poor single mom could get her book published and you can’t. Get over it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Actually it's a good ruling

“When Rowling can read a passage from the lexicon and then her original description from the book and it’s nearly word-for-word identical there’s not a lot of defense possible.”

Again, that’s not the problem, it’s the fact that she was apparently OK with it in one form (the website, which she had commended and even still recommends on jkrowling.com, a website registered to her agents). Yet, transfer that content to a printed for and it’s suddenly evil and cannot be sold? Makes no sense.

Alexa says:

Interesting, people bringing up the Constitution. I wonder which part you’re reading. Because the part I’m reading empowers the legislature “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution; emphasis mine)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution; emphasis mine)

most people here see this (emphasis mine). there were restrictions built into copyright that are being eroded away and we are losing sight of the reason copyright and patents exist

Rob (profile) says:

Rowlings Contends Large Parts Are Direct Copies

I wish TechDirt was more like GrokLaw. You present your opinions with very little evidence. I’m not saying you’re wrong but I am saying that I’d like to see you do more research and present it here.

I heard Rowlings this morning. Here’s my interpretation of what she said. that the book under question consisted almost entirely of excerpts from her writings. She supported other Harry Potter companion pieces where the authors had added value and individual creative additions.

I don’t really know if this is true having not read any Harry Potter books or the others in question. If what she says is true, does this change your opinion?

LDK says:

Again, that’s not the problem, it’s the fact that she was apparently OK with it in one form (the website, which she had commended and even still recommends on jkrowling.com, a website registered to her agents). Yet, transfer that content to a printed for and it’s suddenly evil and cannot be sold? Makes no sense.

It’s wrong because on the internet, they made no money on it. Once it’s published, they’ll make money. Simple. About 90% (At least that’s the statistic I saw) of the stuff in the Lexicon was copied verbatim from Rowling’s work. It’s her legal right to not want someone to make money off the work that she did.

writer2 says:

Think of the fans...

Its a pity for the fans that they will not have Vander Ark’s Lexicon. His heroic efforts to bring order and form to the Harry Potter universe will be missed. To say a lexicon plagiarizes is to utterly miss the object of a lexicon. Of course it quoted its source material. How absurd. Would you buy a lexicon that did not? The truth is, the idea of Harry Potter grew past its author’s abilities to do it justice. If she were wise, she’d let it go and live on rich in the money pouring in from the afterglow of her success. She is not likely to have another.

Anonymous Coward says:

WTF?

Did you actually read any of the court documents? Or, like, do any REAL research? The Lexicon was complied by a ton of volunteers cutting and pasting JK’s own words on to the site. What was not a direct cut and paste was contributed by others (not SVA) and these volunteers were told there original essays would not be in the published version of the Lexicon. All that leaves is… gee… the whole sale copy, cut and pasting of things JK Rowling wrote. Vander Ark didn’t do crap… just tried to make money off of someone else’s work. Thank goodness he lost, the guy’s a greed creep (I’ve met him several times).

Alexa says:

Re: WTF

The only reason that the Lexicon site has as many hits as it does is that it’s ten years old. Had the HP phenomenon been delayed even 5 years, the whole endeavor would have gone straight to wiki, and no one person could or would even try to take all the glory for it.

As it stands, the HP fan wiki is a much cleaner, more comprehensive site that is much more navigable and is easier on the eyes.

Compare these two articles on the same magical concept, the Patronus:

http://www.hplex.info/magic/spells/spells_p.html#patronus

http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Patronus

SVA’s entry is a mere list of appearances of the concept in the book, on an unreadable background. The wiki entry offers more depth and analysis, explains contexts, and is far more readable. Pretty much all of SVA’s entries are like the one linked above. Would you really shell out 30 bucks for that? Do you think he should be paid for that?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: WTF

That’s irrelevant. If Vander Ark released his book and it was shoddy and/or useless, people wouldn’t buy it. If, however, the market is there for a hardcopy version, and enough people think it is worth $30, then it would be successful.

That’s the free market, and there’s no reason for a court to block it just because an author decided to switch formats.

Alexa says:

Re: Re: Re: WTF

I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be published JUST because it’s shoddy work, I was simply explaining why the site had all the hits it did DESPITE being shoddy, as that number was being used as an indication of the site’s quality.

But lack of quality is still relevant, simply because they were trying to argue that the book would be a valuable reference. But without sufficient depth and analysis in their entries, that argument quickly burns out in the face of the real nub of this whole lawsuit: is it transformative enough to qualify as fair use?

JKR is not against guides and encyclopedias in principle, not even for-profit ones, but in this particular case, the writer of the guide was not playing by the same rules as everyone else and breached her copyright. The decision even basically says that if he rewrites it he could still publish it. AS LONG AS he plays ball like the rest of the fans and gets his book vetted by the copyright holders, something RDR refused to do this time around.

Alexa says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ll help! It is well-documented elsewhere on the internet that RDR Books ignored several polite requests from JKR’s people to see a manuscript before it went to print, AND ignored FOUR Cease & Desist letters, and at one point told them that he needed more time to respond to their requests because of a death in the family, when really he was working on selling the foreign publication rights.

Mike42 (profile) says:

It isn't this case...

nearly as much as the precident it sets. From here on, if this decision stands, no unauthorized works on copyrighted material will withstand a lawsuit, regardless of the judges comments on the matter.
I just took a look at the site (used the cached main page from Google, as the main page is down on the site) and I certainly did NOT see “simply a collection of quotes” there. Actually, I saw only a single quote in the 12 pages I looked at. This adds validity to the accusations of corruption I saw earlier.
As I have said before, it was not a jury who pronounced this verdict, but a single judge of questionable character. A court of appeals should overturn this easily, but we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, it is good to see that JK has lost in the court of public opinion.

LostSailor says:

Re: It isn't this case...

From here on, if this decision stands, no unauthorized works on copyrighted material will withstand a lawsuit, regardless of the judges comments on the matter.

Actually, not so much. This case doesn’t set any new precedent. The judge’s decision fairly clearing acknowledges (and cites precedent) that unauthorized works relating to copyrighted material are protected as they have long been. There are many such “unauthorized” works out there that have easily survived legal scrutiny. This Lexicon would almost definitely have survived if the author had been a little more careful, copied less of the original text, and used more of his own words rather than using Rowling’s.

As I have said before, it was not a jury who pronounced this verdict, but a single judge of questionable character.

I have no idea why this was a bench hearing, but usually it’s the defendant who gets to opt for a jury instead of just a judge. Why is the judge “of questionable character”? That’s quite an accusation to make. Do you have evidence of corruption or conflict of interest? Does he hate puppies?

A court of appeals should overturn this easily, but we’ll have to wait and see.

I doubt there will be an appeal. And though I’m not a lawyer, having read the court’s decision, there are scant issues of law that could be appealed.

In the meantime, it is good to see that JK has lost in the court of public opinion.

Well, she’s certainly lost in the Techdirt court of opinion. It remains to be seen whether the general public is even really aware of the case. Personally, I doubt she’s lost anything by winning this case as far as the pubic and most Harry Potter readers and movie-goers.

LDK says:

No, seriously, guys.

Okay, seriously, what is wrong with you people? Have you actually, like, read the ruling? Fair use does not include copying and pasting information that somebody else wrote, and adding very very little of your own content. Alphabetizing and putting it all into categories it doesn’t count. Don’t they have computer programs that can do most of that? SVA infringed the hell out of JKR’s copyright, and tried to sell it. Why in the world would he have won?

And it’s not like the Lexicon isn’t still online. I don’t see how this deprives people of anything. It’s the same thing, except…free.

Mike FitzSimmons (user link) says:

Plagiarism is Illegal

The intended Harry Potter Lexicon was halted because it was clear plagiarism. It contained incredibly large amounts of un-cited extractions from Rowling’s copyrighted books. The ruling made it clear that other Harry Potter reference guides would not be affected by this case.

Everyone seems to view Rowling as a power-hungry, money-grubbing, one-trick pony. The fact is that the Harry Potter Lexicon is the only publication that has been fought, and it was rightfully targeted. Plenty of other Harry Potter reference guides have been published. None of the others have been fought, because they all contained original material.

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