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, 9 Sep 2008 @ 5:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: get a grip

    Thanks for the link to the Slate article. I don't necessarily disagree with anything Prof. Wu has written there, but would point out that he was writing, apparently, based on Rowling's original filing and before the trial, and certainly before the decision. A key passage is

    As long as a guide does not copy the original work verbatim, it falls outside the category of "adaptation." And that's why it is largely unnecessary to discuss the more complex copyright doctrine of "fair use." Rowling's rights over the guide don't exist to begin with, so we don't need to go there.


    The court found that too much of Rowling's work was copied verbatim, and did an analysis of fair use.

    The judge, I think, makes a reasonable judgement on fair use, and while you're free to disagree with his rationale of the fourth factor, I'd be interested to know how he twists it, in your view. He was fairly specific that the market harm to the novels was minimal (and if that's all there was, Vander Ark may well have prevailed), but the amount of copying from the two ancilliary books and thus the market harm was substantial.

    How do you think he twisted his reasoning?

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