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. identicon
    LostSailor, 11 Sep 2008 @ 11:19am

    Re: Re: No, seriously, guys.

    Fair use does not include copying and pasting information that somebody else wrote, and adding very very little of your own content.

    It most certainly can. ....Darn. There goes your argument

    Not so fast, Mike. The argument is quite valid, and the Bill Graham case in the link actually goes a long way to supporting it.

    Copying and pasting another's content can be fair use, depending on the 4-part test. You may disagree with the test and the results in the Rowling case, but it is certainly well within the bounds of reasonability.

    I agree that the Graham case was reasonably decided, because it took into account the nature and amount of the copying (IIRC, small or thumbnail size reproductions of concert posters) and the context (as part of a discussion of the history of concert posters and the Grateful Dead). The fact that it was a commercial publication is relevant, but much less of a factor because the first two weigh so heavily in favor of the defendant publisher.

    In the Rowling case, the defendant was found to have copied too much while not adding enough original work (added "value") in a context that too closely mirrored the author's work (the two ancillary books). That, factored in with the commercial nature of the book was enough.

    Finally, "a sizable portion of the world"? Really, "the world"? You got numbers? And anyway, what does that matter? An even more sizable number of people think O.J. was guilty, but that's not going to change the verdict.

    It's Rowling's option to not only complain about the publication, but to sue as she did. I'm assuming you understand the difference between a free, web-based fan site and a commerically distributed published book.

    As commenter Kate pointed out, the act of trying to cash in on the fan site could equally have the chilling effect of other authors aggressively quashing free, fan-based sites on their work for fear that everyone will try to cash in. From that perspective, Vander Ark was wrong because he potentially put all web-based fan writings using copyrighted property at risk.

    This was not a terrible ruling; it was a close call that was appropriately decided.

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