More About That J.K. Rowling Lawsuit


At Slate, Tim Wu offers J.K. Rowling’s Dark Mark: Why She Should Lose Her Copyright Lawsuit Against the Harry Potter Lexicon.

Meanwhile, RDR books, the defendant, is quoted at RDR Books Files Response to JKR/WB in Lexicon Suit as stating in its defense these interesting facts:

4. The brief says it is “far too late” for JKR to be the “first to publish” a Potter companion books, citing “nearly 200 Harry Potter companion guides,” “many of which incorporate A to Z listings.” RDR provides six of these books as evidence:

a. The Unofficial Harry Potter Encyclopedia: Harry Potter A-Z, by Kristina Benson

b. Field Guide to Harry Potter, by Colin Duriez

c. The J.K. Rowling Encyclopedia, by Connie Ann Kirk

d. A Muggle’s Guide to Exploring the Wizarding World by Fiona Boyle

e. Fact, Fiction and Folklore in Harry Potter’s World, by George Beahm

f. The End of Harry Potter? by David Langford

Plaintiff’s legal brief here. Entire collection of legal briefs here.

Similar legal actions:

This Means Warcraft!, recounts that the publisher of a guide to the World of Warcraft game was sued for copyright and trademark infringement. The case was handled by Public Citizen, for a win in the publisher-author’s favor: In Settlement Victory, Software Company Allows eBay Sale of Guide to Popular Video Game.

“Beanie Babies” Collector’s Guide: Another Study in Fair Use brings up some interesting issues, especially since the Guide had to use photos of the dolls, which presented another dimension for an allegation of infringement.

Someone in the Comments for the original post pointed out:

I think J.K. Rowling is right. Creating a web site is one thing, but putting a book together to profit from her work is wrong.

No. A for-profit venture is beside the point in Copyright cases. See The Seinfeld and The Wind Done Gone Cases: Studies in Fair Use:

Nature and Purpose of the Work: TWDG was clearly a commercial venture but commercialism, in and of itself, does not rule out the defense of fair use if other elements are present.

Emphasis added by me.

Someone else in the Comments stated:

I wonder if you need to put the word “Unauthorized” in the title to be allowed to do it.

And he might be closer to the truth:

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant

Early in the production of the musical, the president of the Church of Scientology in New York sent a letter to the producer pointing out the Church’s history of litigation. This led Timbers and Jarrow to insert the word “Unauthorized” into the title, upon the advice of legal counsel.

I’m not certain about the legal issues involved with Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star: An Unauthorised Biography of the Big G

Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star is the first complete guide to the Godzilla legend published in North America. It is also the first totally unauthorized Godzilla book to be successfully published (legal challenges from Toho Co. Ltd.have previously snuffed out two others by Fantasma Books in 1996 and Quill Publishing in 1998).

Perhaps the other two publishers simply withdrew the books from publication. Book publishers are sometimes weasels like that.

There have also been a number of books riding on the popularity of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. One of them is Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code.

I still believe Rowling is wrong. Even if she wins this case, she’s bound to lose on appeal.

Previously here:

J.K. Rowling Is Wrong
J.K. Rowling: A Year In The Life
Quote: J.K. Rowling

Explore posts in the same categories: Books - Bio, Books - Fiction, Books - Nonfiction, Reference - Writing, Writers - Living, Writing

7 Comments on “More About That J.K. Rowling Lawsuit”

  1. Jani Says:

    rowling has stolen the whole structured wizard school thing from LeGuin down to the hero scarred by the his arch nemesis in childhood, almost wor by word…,6194,1048795,00.html

    Rowling lawsuits even the living trees, but nobody slaps her on the face to wake her up at last for amoment and look into the mirror… biatch…

  2. Aemi Says:

    Actually, Rowling stole the whole story from Astrid Lindgren. Summary of Mio min Mio (1954): An orphan living with his nasty aunt and uncle who tell him his father’s a worthless drunk is taken by a not very bright genie in a bottle to a magical kingdom where he is told of his true inheritance: he is the son of the King, but also subject to a prophesy that makes him the only one able to kill the baddie whose name people are afraid to mention, and who happens to be unkillable because of his heart of stone. With his flying horse, his loyal friend and his invisibility cloak the hero manages to acquire the one weapon able to kill the baddie and, with tremendous deus ex machina luck, does so. And if you have not been shouting ‘stop thief’ halfway through, you’re extremely indulgent. Lindgren also wrote meaningful books about death, years before La Rowling proudly proclaimed she does, and anyone literate knows that children’s litrerature is riddled with character death ever since Andersen’s little matchstick girl snuffed it on Christmas Eve. Also, La Rowling plays the ‘poor single mum’ card completely uncalled for: she was on welfare and got a grant to write HP. Now, take Lindgren again : 18, unmarried, pregnant, kicked out of the house by her parents; gave her child to charity, got a job, was sacked when she slipped out an hour earlier from her job to travel all the way to denmark to visit her child with foster parents…I say bang goes the Rowling sob-story by comparison. Oh, and HP isn’t even well-written. One day soon, one hopes, that woman will be exposed, like the Emeror in the Andersen tale…

  3. mikecane Says:

    Stories for children are often very similar. There’s only so much that can be done with kids, unless you’re doing a cookbook.

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    I agree, Mike. (And, personally, I like ’em deep fried, little bastards.;)

  5. mikecane Says:

    Studies have shown that deep-fried children clog arteries faster than any other junk food. Try boiled. Like lobster!

  6. Aunt Flow Says:

    Hi Mike, glad to see someone else is on this side of the issue. Rowling has many defenders among her fans, but many of them have a delusional notion of copyright law and think that she is within her rights here.
    My thoughts here:

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