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.

Filed Under: copyright, fair use, guidebook, harry potter, harry potter lexicon, j.k. rowling


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 9 Sep 2008 @ 11:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

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