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, 8 Sep 2008 @ 6:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: 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.

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