Publisher Appeals Ruling Against Harry Potter Lexicon

from the good-for-RDR dept

We were somewhat dismayed by the ruling against the Harry Potter Lexicon, a guidebook of sorts for the universe created in the Harry Potter series of books. J.K. Rowling argued against the book on emotional, rather than legal, grounds, but the judge still found it to be a violation of copyright, and not covered by fair use. For a variety of reasons many copyright scholars felt this to be a bad decision. However, since the judge put in place a rather low fine, it wasn't clear if the publisher would bother appealing.

A bunch of folks have been submitting the fact that RDR Books has, in fact, decided to appeal the ruling and to argue that publishing such a guidebook is, indeed, fair use. Hopefully the Appeals Court recognizes the problems of the lower court ruling and protects fair use for such guidebooks. Of course, some of us are still hopeful that even J.K. Rowling realizes that pursuing this case only serves to damage her reputation, and that she realizes (as she did when the Lexicon was just a website) that allowing fans to help explain and expand the universe she created only increases the value of her works.

Filed Under: copyright, harry potter, j.k. rowling

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  1. identicon
    Commentator, 12 Nov 2008 @ 7:35am

    Re: misguided

    Don't know about the remix world, but if the majors own the copyrights, then they have the right to pay somebody to re-release the content, in original or re-mixed format. If the remixer gets paid a flat sum, then they're basically an engineer. If they get paid residuals, I'd assume that it's more than a technical job, and requires some artistic judgement to turn it into a good track.

    Ownership is precisely the point. Rowling doesn't own the cultural heritage - you're perfectly within your rights to wirte about Nicholas Flamel, or to compare broomsticks in Harry Potter to real world myths. You can even quote from the Harry Potter books and put it in your text.

    But if the vast majority of your text is nothing BUT quotes - which is apparently the case - that's where the line crosses. If the remixing had involved significant creative effort, that probably would have counted. ie, writing a poem and rhyming "Dumbledore" and "Hellebore" isn't simply a remix, even if all words in your poem can be found in the books - otherwise every book would be derivative from websters. But simply arranging the terms in alphabetical order is not sufficient original content.

    JK Rowling would have been within her legal rights to have the free website closed down. She chose not to, presumably wishing to support the fan-base. But when it comes to finances, she decided you have to enforce your rights somewhere, or you lose them.

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