JK Rowling Accused Of Plagiarizing Harry Potter… Yet Again

from the not-again? dept

For years, there have been various accusations that JK Rowling “stole” the characters or ideas for her series of Harry Potter books. The claim that got the most attention was Nancy Stouffer’s book “The Legend Of RAH And The Muggles” which not only uses the word “muggles” (used in Rowling’s work as well) but also has a character named Larry Potter (who has some resemblance to Harry’s character). But, of course, that wasn’t all. Last year, we wrote about a 1986 movie called Troll that also had a character named “Harry Potter.” But apparently, that’s not enough. The latest is that Rowling’s publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing, has been sued again for plagiarism over the Potter books, this time by the estate of Adrian Jacobs. It seems that Jacobs once wrote a book about a boy wizard called Willy The Wizard that has some distant similarities to some stuff that happens in the Potter books.

The whole thing is pretty silly, of course. The publisher is vehemently denying any copying, and it seems unlikely that any copying did actually happen. However even if you did grant the premise and say that Rowling was “inspired” by some other book, so what? Did it really change the economics of the original book? If anything, this latest claim is just a clear money grab, designed to give new attention to a long-ignored book. No one could claim with a straight face that Rowling’s work took away any value from the other book.

Of course, the side note to all of this is how aggressive Rowling has been about trying to “protect” her own copyright on the Potter books. Last year, author Orson Scott Card tore apart Rowling for her aggressive enforcement of copyright, while noting some amusing “similarities” between his own classic, Ender’s Game, and the Harry Potter series — pointing out that lots of people have similar ideas or are inspired by others — and trying to shut them down is a mistake.

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Comments on “JK Rowling Accused Of Plagiarizing Harry Potter… Yet Again”

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55 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Hmmm

“Last year, author Orson Scott Card tore apart Rowling for her aggressive enforcement of copyright, while noting some amusing “similarities” between his own classic, Ender’s Game, and the Harry Potter series”

Ok, first of all, Flying Speghetti Monster bless Orson Scott Card. Great writing, great sense of humore, analytical thinking.

2nd of all, I like her stories (although not really the writing style), but am I the only one that is starting to see repeated signs that JK is kind of a douche?

Bob V says:

Over the course of man’s history pretty much every way of putting together a story has been used countless times. Every book will have elements from another book whether intentional, subconciouly or just plain accidentally. The genre doesn’t matter. So that my opinion which may or may not (and usually doesnt) have any basis in reality.

What I’m curious about and maybe the lawyers can answer is in a book what is copyrighted and how far. For example if John wrote a book about a boy’s adventures walking from new york to LA and I took that book changed the names and places and rewrote the basics is that copyright infringement. What about if i took the same book but added fantasy elements like magic. If I wrote a SciFi story about a girl traveling across the ruined wastelands from LA to New york is it still copyright infingment, when is it not.

JAy. says:

Re: Re:

Ahh! Bob has it upon the biggest dilemma facing copyright law. And, unfortunately, the answer is not alway clear.

Satire has always been allowable under copyright law. More recently, derivatives have been ruled as safe (e. g. The Wind Done Gone).

If the plot line is obviously the same, and you have added no new qualities to the work, it is most likely copyright violation. How far you have to go to ensure that there isn’t copyright violation is a very hard to define line.

So for your theoretical book, most likely the answers would be “infringement”, “questionable infringement”, and “not infringement.”

Ima Fish (profile) says:

As pointed out here many times, copyright does not protect ideas. For example, the idea of a TV show about an innocent person on the run from the law who helps people each and every week, only to escape in the nick of time to start off in a new town the next week, has been done numerous times: The Fugitive (TV show), the Hulk (70s TV show), Renegade, Kung Fu, The Pretender, just to name a few.

Despite all of these shows using the same basic idea, i.e., the identical underlying plot, absolutely no one “owns” the idea or the plot.

In the same way, no one owns the idea of a boy wizard.

BlahBlah says:

Not quite

The Legend of RAH and The Muggles does not have a character named Larry Potter. This keeps getting repeated as fact.

Larry Potter was a character in a separate activity book by Nancy Stouffer that had nothing to do with The Legend of RAH and the Muggles.

I’ve never seen a Larry Potter activity book (I don’t think anyone has), but I have read through The Legend of RAH and the Muggles and there are absolutely no similarities between it and the Harry Potter series. On top of that, it is utter rubbish.

Kevin (profile) says:

It's Happened Before

In 1983 novelist Dimitri Gat released a mystery called “Nevsky’s Demon”. It was, he admitted, based on the structure of John D. McDonald’s “The Dreadful Lemon Sky”.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1356&dat=19830807&id=MewTAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iQYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7128,3712778

Avon (the publisher) issued a recall-and-destroy order for 60,000 copies of the book. The current WorldCat entry for the book has a note to this effect.

http://www.worldcat.org/isbn/0380822482

Despite all of this (and one wonders how one mystery can be sooo much like another as to be actionable) there are still plenty of used copies available for a couple of bucks.

Rekrul says:

What about The Worst Witch? A young girl at a magical school, taking classes such as potions? I’m not quite sure when it was first published, but it was made into a an HBO movie back in 1986, 12 years before the first Harry Potter book came out.

There used to be a web site comparing the similarities between the two, but I don’t remember the URL.

Kmax says:

Two days in a row

Yesterday you claimed that a financial analyst made a statement that Hulu was anti-american. But your readers commented that they could not find such a statement by the analyst you were screwing. Today you state that there is a book called the Legend of RAH that has a character named Larry Potter and again one of your readers has disputed this.
I love this blog and read it everyday, but the past few days our research is getting a little loose. I need to start reading the comments section a little more closely.

Capable of reading says:

Re: Two days in a row

Yesterday you claimed that a financial analyst made a statement that Hulu was anti-american. But your readers commented that they could not find such a statement by the analyst you were screwing.

You are a retard. Go back to those comments and same readers found the paper in which the financial analyst made an ass of herself.

Kelly Brown (profile) says:

lolwut

This is pure comedy. All authors are asked the same questions: “Where do you get your ideas from? What inspires you?” I have NEVER seen an author respond, “Nowhere. It is completely original. It spawned from the dark depths of my mind. From nothing, I created something.” EVERYONE takes existing ideas, remixes them in their minds, and publishes them in a new form. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying. JK Rowling simply did a brilliant job of presenting her ideas in a way that everyone loved. She needs to return the favor and let new content creators take inspiration from her creations. Being inspired by prior art does NOT reduce the value of that prior art.

snowy bear (user link) says:

Rowling

The case alleges that Rowling copied a substantial part of this small book into her larger book-thus rendering valuelss
Adrian Jacobs work. No one sues Rowling-lightly-in fact if you did your homework no one sues Rowling at all-it’s always always the other way round.Even the Stouffer case was JKR suing for defamation. Show your readers where else Rowling has been sued! It don’t happen. A millions of bucks a throw that sure is an expensive way to promote a small obscure book!

Steve Morrison says:

I disagree with the last paragraph and with OSC. The Warner vs. RDR lawsuit wasn’t about some other work of fiction taking too many ideas from Harry Potter, it was about whether a reference work explicitly about the Potter books directly took so much material from them as to infringe. Similarly, the defendants in the lawsuits about a Bollywood film called Hari Puttar and the Hogwarts replica at the Hindu religious festive had openly taken names or visuals or whatnot from the novels, and their defense was that it was fair use. Whatever you think about the merits of these cases, they just aren’t analogous to the lawsuits against Rowling/Bloomsbury.

The Bogside Artists (profile) says:

Jacobs and Rowling

The entire mystery of Rowlings, Harry Potter et al is quietly and efficiently laid to rest right here- http://www.bogsideartists.com/lipo/index.html. Once you have read it you will understand all. You will understand the Rowling camp’s terror of public scrutiny and the ‘legal’ attempts to prevent it; Rowling’s self-deluded manic attempts to protect ‘authorship’; her agent Little’s and his partner Blair’s scrupulous absence from the public eye, Rowling’s carefully choreographed interviews and timed insertions in the media and indeed the entire smokescreen that surrounds Harry Potter. The truth, if you can handle it, is here. Jacobs we believe was ripped off but the engine of the story, its real essence and the philosophy behind it is the brainchild of one of us, The Bogside Artists. William conceived of the story and unwittingly handed it on a plate to Rowling never thinking for an instant, until it was too late, that his story was at risk. That is the truth.

Ignored, trivialized or crucified… the truth goes marching on. All else is so much whistling in the storm.

Hannah says:

Wow there are a lot of shallowed minded people out there who thrive on the idea of someone successful being a fraud. Come on. Haven’t you ever watched television? How many shows are out that revolve around a team of detectives who solve crimes on a weekly basis? Jo got an idea and created a legacy out of it. The Harry Potter is very well written and influenced my own childhood greatly. HP is successful so people want money for something they claim is “their” idea.
I am proud to call myself a huge fan of J.K. Rowling and if you doubt her writing skills watch the speech she gave at Harvard! AMAZING!!!

John (profile) says:

Re: Comment By Hannah

Hannah I dont think people are saying that Rowling is a fraud are that HP is not well written. The problem as I see it is that rowling takes a very snotty attitude towards others and their ideas. Do I believe that she took inspiration from others – Yes I do. is that a crime no not to me. But if anyone writes anything that is to close to her work such as the russian writer she is very quick to either throw money at the problem or sue. Take “The Worst Witch” I enjoyed it were their some similarities – yes. When the copy right holder started making noise about it Warner Bros quickly bought up the rights and killed it cant have anything competing with HP can we. Rowlings crime as it were is that her attitude is that copy right is only for her and not others and that angers people. She is allowed to sue people because of similarities in a story but others are not allowed to disparage her or sue her. Using her guidelines I can make the case that she had to many similarities in her movie and the worst witch and there for it should be shot down and put in the kill file. I think that its that attitude and the legal profession that have done so much damage to the intelectual property rights.

SillySillyPeople says:

well……ive read “The legend of RAH and the muggles” my self god ther is no character by the name Larry Potter. And if theres any type of similarity wth any other publication (please registered copyright publication) its just basic storyline…..i mean the producers CSI can’t sue NCIS for stealing any type of content beacause its a typical story line (this could include any type of forensic~ish series *cold case for example) i mean in the CSI~NCIS possible case even the dam name is similar (just a note these are REAL state organization CSI being crime scene investigation). So theres no real problem here just some “not so famous authors” wanting to make some fame out of JKR’s in a court room.

Tai Mi Shu says:

RE: GO HERE EVRYBODY

Wow, you are really bitter, Kathy. Or making a such statements as a quick grab for attention.

Whether we like it or not, there are certain themes in stories that have little change over time.

The Harry Potter series could be considered just as much (in the style of) Greek Tragedy as it could modern Fantasy Literature.

Yes, ideas are examined, and re-examined. But that happens in the course of human story telling. Story themes are told and re-told, updated for audiences.

There are tales of “witches and sorcerers” that date all the way back to the novels of ancient Greece and Egypt.
The battle between good and evil is also a common theme, and even pre-dates biblical literature. (Gilgamesh)

The Harry Potter novels have as much in common with Homer as it does Tolkien. BTW, Tolkien did his own fair bit of borrowing from Norse and Celtic Mythology.

Justin says:

Bogside artists: That is the single most pathetic proof of “plagiarism” I have ever had the displeasure of reading. Reading it, it is clear that a narcissistic writer is bitter that nobody cares about his Great and Important work. He’s jealous of Rowling’s success, so he’s latching on in a desperate hope for glory. After all, if Rowling got where she is by stealing from him it means he is the Great and Important writer he so desperately hopes he is. Newsflash: his story is trash.

This will blow your minds, but the concept of a boy hero from humble beginnings has been around a good deal longer than the 90s. So has magic, and the Philosopher’s Stone. The wannabe hack who wrote Li Po could be accused of stealing hundreds of well known stories using his dream world definition of plagiarism. It’s far more likely Rowling drew inspiration from one of them, instead of a slush pile piece of garbage that was rejected twenty years ago.

Kathy: I see the name Harry Potter, and that’s about it. I must have missed the part of Harry Potter where a fuzzy troll king rampaged around a city for his lost ring of power all while turning people into plants.

Wait, a ring of power. Oh my god! The movie Troll is a total rip off of Lord of the Rings. The Tolkien Estate should sue!

Leo From says:

Adrain Jacobs

All his life a gambler, boiler room share operator, stock market manipulator could never have had an original thought in his life.

He operated in cahoots with Michael Preston and peter Smith to squeeze investment funds out of so called founder shareholders in an a company known as Structural development Group PLC between 1984 and 1987 using an invention of John Williams to produce asbestos free fire boards named temec and temstone. Everyone except Adrain Jacobs and Michael preston lost money when it went bust in around 1990. Michael preston and peter Smith bought the operation back from the liquidators and in so doing acquired a wonderful piece of industrial freehold down near the old kentish coalfields.

Everyone apart from these scoundrels lost money

Jacobs was an ex lag of Ford Open Jail and met the markson family there as well as the drug dealing Sansom family in Hove who later used Jacobs to set up a boiler room operation for another con known as Urban Fuels PLC

Adrain Jacobs was always a scum bag, crook and fraud as was everyone around him. His forfeiture of his magnificent home in Cavendish Avenue was as a result of gambling all his money and wasting it on women whom he thought liked him.

It will be the greatest travesty of Justice if anything is awarded to the so called executors of his estate who want only a free ride based on wishful thinking.

If he had an original thought in his life it would only be in relation to some clever way of ripping off someone trusting and innocent. His executors would appear to be of the same genetic makeup – frauds, liars, and perjurers

Yours Sincerely,

leo Fromm

Frank Persol (profile) says:

J.K.Rowling

Leo Fromm !what a nasty lying vituperative piece of excrement you are-accusing everyone by name
Involved on the Jacobs Estate side of Rowling’s plagiarism court cases of everything from drug dealing to lying.
Methinks you are screaming out in pain upon Ms Rowling’s behalf-are you on her payroll?-What a scumbag you must be and are yourself-and how do you pretend know so much about it all? Who is vomiting venom in your poisonous little brain? Chris Little-is that old fraudster your source?
Leo Fromm-you can run but you cannot hide behind Techdirt and other blogs spewing Goebbels’ type lies for long-Herr Fromm-whoever you are-the forces of light now have you in their eye!

William Hardy says:

Re: J.K.Rowling

The reason there might be so many similarities is because their so many common ideas in fiction writing. Wizards is a common idea in fiction like in Sword in the Stone, Lord of the Rings and many more examples on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_magicians_in_fantasy#Television_and_film and http://www.allbookstores.com/Juvenile-Fiction-Books/General/Wizards-Fiction. Having a fictional series going long enough, then series is very likely to have a competition, just like Star Wars, the Dragon Ball series, Gundam series and many more examples on http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TournamentArc. Another evidence against Rowling is that both works have a protagonist receiving help from helpers. That evidence can be debunk very easily because a protagonist receiving help happens most of the time, so more than 90% fiction writers and other fictionist are guilty of ‘copying’ that idea. It happened in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, the Three Musketeers and many more examples at http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FiveManBand.

harry potters nuts says:

jk rowlings

there’s a lot of moron in here. csi and ncsi and all the other spin-offs clearly arn’t suing anyone because they are made by the same ppl and company so obviously thats not happening, why is that even brought up. what idiots. its simple. jk rowlings is a plagarizing cunt. the movie troll has the exact character names and ideas that she just magically thought up of in her head. ya, NOT!! she says she was riding on a train in like 93 or 96 some shit and harry potter and wizards n trolls n goblins and sorcery and characters just popped into her head. well guess what thats because there is a movie out in 86 called TROLL with everyone of those ideas in it. ya, obviously morons you can take things from other ppls ideas and change them around which she has and write them out perfectly which she has. yes, u can make csi. yes, u can make ncis. it spin offs taking the same premise putting it somewhere different and new characters. its like pawn stars on a&e channel and pawn wars on real tv. its same show obviously but they can’t call it the same n have the same characters. thats basically plagarizing, so ya, they make it different. there can’t be price is right for 70 years with plinko as a game on it and then i come along and create a show called the right price and put plinko in it. because then i copied (plagarized) that from them and they sue me. if jk rowlings used some other name than harry potter, ya, i’ll giv it to her that she created her own thing, but she didn’t she used the exact name in the exact premise of what she trying to do years later. so she copied off it and used the same name even. she been suin ppl left n right tryin to keep ppl from copyin off her hp series n cashin in on its success. she suin ppl non stop for sayin she plagerized it doin whatever she can to keep ppl from knowin she a fraud. she a con artist. its a fact ppl. troll was in 86 years upon years b4 she ever came up with the idea that she tries to say she came up with on her own. she’s a liar and anyone who believes her and thinks she cool n the books n movies are good are morons. if u were all smart you’ld do like her and pick 1 character from her book, use the exact same name and then write your own series with the exact same premise ghouls wizards whitches students castles sorcery and then go “oh i never heard of that character b4, i just came up with that name its very common.” then you could be a millionaire too. until jk rowlings sues you for stealing her ideas, then u won’t be defending her ass.

Joshua says:

JK Rowling

The book Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen was published in 1991, I read it as a kid and later on in the years I had forgotten about it until I seen the first Harry Potter movie. I thought they had made a movie about the book until I realized JK Rowling was the author of Harry Potter and it wasn’t Jane Yolen. I think JK had read Wizard’s Hall and decided to change the names a little and small parts of the Wizard’s Hall universe to make Harry Potter.

Mylord (user link) says:

A Message From The Creator Of Harry Potter

Read: “Some ‘Facts’ You Haven’t Heard From JK Rowling” at
http://mylord.amplify.com/The_True_Origins_Of_Harry_Potter

harrypotterextra.wordpress.com
jkrawling.wordpress.com

Several thousand technical and product design drawings, including many stories in the form of story-boards, were stolen from my home prior to any publications by Jo Rowling. Jo Rowling is not the creator of Harry Potter, I am. This is one reason why she found it hard to get the people believe she wrote the Harry Potter story. It is also why the first few stories in the Harry Potter series of titles was able to be quickly written up into books… because the first three titles were well developed in story-board form when they got lifted from my home in Australia! If you think Joanne Rowling is a plagiarist then ‘Don?t’ change your mind… it is working as it should. For all others; Jo Rowling is a plagiarist!

Mylord

Matt says:

Bottom line: she plagiarized, big time. She stood on the shoulders of giants and liberally stole their ideas. What’s worse, she regurgitated them in the most banal way possible. Owls? Flying broomsticks? Wands? Come on. I feel sick to my stomach when I read a truly great work like Le Guin’s “Earthsea”, and then hear people compare it to Rowling (who stole it, laughing all the way to the bank). Sorry, saying the Tolkien stole liberally from the Celtic and Norse mythology is NOT the same thing. But (and here I contradict myself) I suppose it doesn’t matter: she’s a bazillionaire and 99% of the folk out there are too stupid to know crap from cream.

m says:

Seriously?

Everyone steals from everyone. I have read many stories that basically is just another version of another that I read before and I still love it anyways. This whole plagiarism is crap unless it is definitely 100% for sure it is plagiarized.There are way more worse problems to deal with in our societies. Rowling’s books have a big fanbase that loves them, as does any other book. It’s not worth fussing over.

craxd says:

Really

I do believe that JKR borrowed some things, but copyright law is vague and hard to prove, unless it is direct plagiarism. There have been many stories written over similar things, but the plot is what counts, and how she wrote it, proving no direct plagiarism. If copyright law was the way some think, then no scholarly books could be written, many times over, on the same subject.

However, by her using a name that has already been used, such as Harry Potter and his son Harry jr. in Troll, it makes it hard for her to bring suit against anyone using that name, especially using it in a story tied to the supernatural. The same would go for the word muggle.

Technically, if someone wanted to completely publish each of her books, online, quoting everything, and critically commenting on each paragraph and chapter, there is not a thing she could do, as the law allows for this. The reader could read the critique, thus the entire book, and not cost them a jot, nor any law be broken. It was a critique on an entire book.

P.F. says:

Really

no. Fair use for critical commentary may not contain a substantial portion of the original work so as to devalue the original; rather it must confine itself to such passages as are necessary for authentic critique. As such, a criticism of Harry Potter might cite and criticize the entire work paragraph by paragraph but would be intended as a companion to, not a replacement for the original work.

If one wished to create an “annotated edition” it would require permission of the author and, presumably, the publisher.

Interestingly, this is essentially what occurred in the suit Rowling’s agency filed against the Harry Potter fan-cyclopedia, that it, rather than offering a fair-use glossary with original explication and speculation, merely reproduced her own writing, in quote or paraphrase, chopped into bits and rearranged in alphabetical order. Which in my understanding she was willing to overlook as long as it was a fan-site online, but drew the line with publishing such a derivative work for profit.

jade says:

harry potter plagurism

Has anyone ever seen or remember the movie Troll from 1986?
The characters names where Harry Potter junior and Harry Potter senior with a witch who lived in the same house as them and they had all kinds of magical and mythical creatures and Julia Louis Dreyfus played a naked wood nymph or something like that. Rowlands totally based her crap novels off of this and many others ideas to write books but I guess that kind of thing is ok in this day and age as long as the kiddies are happy

Flick says:

I don’t believe Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series. It has nothing to do with copying other books but I have seen 2 posts on the internet that state she was not the author but was given the book outlines through a family debt or has stole them from an Australian male. Where there is smoke there is fire.
It makes more sense that the author would be a male as the story is about a boy.
I seriously doubt that another book in the Potter series would be successfull as this time it would be written by Rowling. I do not expect her success in the Potter series will be repeated by any work of fiction she herself writes.
i am sorry that the true author is not given credit but it may be karmic.

Flick says:

Further reason why I don’t believe Rowling wrote the series.
The ideas sprang from her fully developed all at once.
This is highly unlikely as most authors are evolving the story as they write. Look at the widely popular Game of Thrones series. The author the series is based on is still writing the books. He can’t write fast enough for the film crew who are delayed in production waiting for his final novel so they can write a screenplay.
It is more likely that another writer wrote this series on a contract. Why would that author wait until all the works were done, that author would naturally publish a work at once to make income and insure the success of following work. Some dirty deal was worked out wherein the author was forced to write without credit. Some day the truth will out no matter how much money and influence JK Rowling’s parents or family may have.

reginabee (profile) says:

JK Rowling

Of all the books listed here, Jane Yolen’s work is the one that seems closest to the Rowling books. It seems that Rowling used Yolen’s work as a jumping board and developed the world that Jane Yolen began writing about in Wizard’s Hall. I do enjoy Rowlings book and her characters and sense of humor are what made it work Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors, so if Rowling chose to use Yolen’s work to expand upon, she was very savvy in doing so!

c lewis says:

Worst Witch

I am really interested to read your comment, because my 7-year-old introduced me to the Worst Witch books not long ago and I was immediately struck by the similarity between the school for wizards of JKR and the school for witches of the other author (magic broomsticks and all). I had already noted the similarity between platform 13 and a half (I forget the actual number!) and the same idea appearing some years ago in one of the late Eva Ibbotson’s books, When the latter was asked whether she regarded this as plagiarism, she laughed and said words to the effect of ‘Who cares? we all get ideas from our colleagues!’.
For what it is worth, I have always regarded the Potter books as weary stuff, both as to the imagination and as to the writing, compared to CS Lewis or Tolkien and many others.

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