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J.K. Rowling sues over Harry Potter Lexicon.

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Matilda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-16-08 11:44 PM
Original message
J.K. Rowling sues over Harry Potter Lexicon.
A lot more may hang on the decision that will be handed down in New York than might be supposed at
first glance. Rowling and Warner Bros. are sueing Steve Vander Ark and RDR books over the proposed
publication of Vander Ark's "Harry Potter Lexicon", already well-known to Potter fans through the
online version.

My first thought was that Vander Ark was mad to think he could publish and get away with it, given
that Rowling and Warner Bros. were prepared to prosecute teenagers over Harry Potter websites just
a few years ago. But reading further, I learned that there is an issue of "fair use", whereby
authors have long been permitted to publish books that discuss the works of other authors. RDR books
is calling academics and experts on copyright law and fair use to the stand in support of Vander Ark,
arguing that a decision against publication of the Lexicon will limit future publicaiton of many
works of scholarship devoted to discussion of famous authors and their works.

Rowling is arguing that Vander Ark's Lexicon is simply a copy of her work and is "sloppy and lazy".
I've often referred to the online Lexicon, particularly for timelines and family trees, and I think
Vander Ark has done an amazing job. Everything in it is referenced and cross-referenced, and I think
it can be trusted sometimes more than Rowling herself, who has been guilty of many errors and
inconsistencies that have been picked up by fans over the years. And Rowling has in the past praised
the website, and admitted to referring to it herself to check facts, rather than looking up one of
her own books. Her major argument is that the Lexicon pre-empts, and will take away the value of,
her own proposed Harry Potter Encyclopaedia.

There's a little bit of "David and Goliath" about this case, and I wonder if JKR might live to regret
it. I do understand her principle, but as Rowling's Encyclopaedia proposes to include many facts
and notes about the series that never made it into the books, it's a moot point as to whether it
would actually be in conflict with a book that never pretends to be more than a reference guide to
the Potter books. I wasn't particularly interested at first, and just thought that Vander Ark has
no chance, but now I've read a bit more, I can see there's rather more to it, and it's much more
interesting than I first thought.

A few links to news items on the case:

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hIGNIcztySvpGhm95iGP...

http://www.livenews.com.au/Articles/2008/04/15/JK_Rowli...

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2008/04/at_the_har...




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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-17-08 12:44 PM
Response to Original message
1. She's in a tough spot
One one hand, she's created a once-in-a-generation phenomenon and has certainly earned the right to be protective of it, but on the other hand it has become a cultural phenomenon beyond her control. Over-eager attempts to rein it in can make her seem like a money-hungry bully, which I seriously doubt is actually the case.

However, I flatly reject her argument that his "sloppy and lazy" work will damage her own billion-dollar industry. At most, it might foster some incorrect notions about the Potter universe, but so what? Every discussion between two ten-year-olds runs the same risk. Vander Ark can't seriously damage her brand's strength simply because her brand is so huge that no single encyclopedia--no matter how ambitious--would be sufficient to harm it. He certainly can't give away any secret facts or spoil the next book in the Potter series!

I also reject her claim that he's stifling her creativity. If poverty and an apartment without heat couldn't stifle her creativity, then I doubt that a guy with a website can do it. She's a much stronger person than that, and it seems more likely to me that she's confronting the very real and very intimidating truth that her next work will be judged against her Potter stories, and Vander Ark's work simply highlights the challenge that she must face.

IMO, Vander Ark should be required to display some prominent disclaimer indicating that his is not an official work endorsed by Rowling.
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-19-08 02:25 PM
Response to Original message
2. I think the basis for her argument is that it would take away value from her own planned
potterpedia, and I don't think that argument holds water at all.

I can't see someone who bought this Lexicon not STAMPEDING to the store to get a similar book by Rowling. It's just not going to take away business from her, especially since her planned encyclopedia is still years away.
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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-19-08 09:54 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. That's a good way to look at it
I suspect that a good many fans will actually buy Rowling's encyclopedia specifically to fact-check what they've read online.
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-20-08 05:35 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. The disingenuous part here
is that Rowling has admitted that some of her fans, including the author of this Lexicon, have a better handle on her creation than she does. She's even said she looked some stuff up on the Lexicon when she needed to fact-check stuff for the books.

With her book, she could add MORE information, but I don't know if it would be more accurate with regards to the existing information than the Lexicon.
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Matilda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-20-08 10:57 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Rowling has said that she intends to include in her encyclopaedia
facts about her characters that never made it into the books, and that's what fans will buy her
book for. I can't see that publication of the Lexicon, especially given that it's already available
online and has been for some years, can possibly have a negative effect on Rowling's own proposed
work.

And as you've said (and there is a previous thread devoted to this subject), Rowling has made errors
in her books, particularly in regard to dates, and there are many inconsistencies in every one of
the books - most minor, but some quite major. She certainly doesn't have a monopoly on accuracy.

Warner Bros. is a force behind this as well, and remembering how they tried to shut down various fan
sites some years ago, I'd love to see a victory for the "little guy".

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Orsino Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-01-08 09:39 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. And whether or not she includes bonus "official" info...
...I doubt she has a case against a legitimately compiled concordance. Her rights as author do not include the power to suppress scholarship. Unless someone has lifted her copyrighted text or appropriated her trade dress, this affair will make her look petty and ignorant.
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Mist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-06-08 12:05 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. Good point about Warner Bros.--I've also wondered if her American publisher,
Edited on Tue May-06-08 12:05 AM by lulu in NC
Scholastic, has something to do with it. They've milked the HP phenomenon themselves, to the extent of making pointless changes in the books, to increase their percentage, due to their "editing work." I'd really like to think that Rowling's not the heavy in all this. Or not the major heavy.

At the same time, I wondered why Van Ark was bothering to publish something already online.
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Matilda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-06-08 04:38 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. It seems to have all been the idea of RDR Books.
Edited on Tue May-06-08 04:38 AM by Matilda
Vander Ark comes across as a bit naive - rather touchingly so - who had
doubts, but allowed himself to be swayed by the publisher.

At least he's not being sued himself, only RDR books, but many fans at
Potter websites are ostracising him, which is so sad. I'll be there's
hardly a fan, child or adult, who hasn't checked facts in the Lexicon
at some time. And he still has the quote from JKR praising the site,
with a link to her own site with the original statement. I wonder how
long before she takes it down?

There are some interesting quotes in an article by The Chicago Tribune:

"The lawsuit by Rowling and Warner Brothers is part of a growing trend by big-name authors and other successful artists (and their corporate affiliates) to use the copyright law to gain greater control of what can be said about or done with their works. For instance, initially, copyright protection lasted 14 years; now, under 1998's so-called Mickey Mouse Protection Act, prompted by Disney lobbyists, it extends for 95 years."

(Note the phrase "and their corporate affiliates")

...

"Throughout the trial, the judge urged the two sides to settle the case rather than force him to rule in what he described as a "murky" area of the law. Rowling seemed willing to compromise on the witness stand, saying, "I never ever once wanted to stop Mr. Vander Ark from doing his own guide, never ever. Do your book, but, please, change it so it does not take as much of my work."

I don't know how he could write the Lexicon *without* quoting extensively
from the original, but I'd like to know whether Warner Bros. would be in
agreement with JKR's statement. I suspect not.


Link to the article:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-publisher-po...





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Mist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-06-08 07:05 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. OK, so it's ALL about the "corporate affiliates." I didn't realize that Van Ark
had been seduced into a deal. I wonder if Rowling and Van Ark can come to an agreement that doesn't involve RDR and WB. Probably not--sounds like the corporates are running the whole thing. Van Ark may be naive, but Rowling isn't. They must have really leaned on her, as she seems willing to let it go if it were up to her. It's creepy how much corporate greed taints this.
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Matilda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-07-08 02:00 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. The judge has been urging them to make a deal, so he thinks it can be done.
Van der Ark himself can't, as he's not the defendant, just a witness. But Rowling is half of the
plaintiff team, so she could put some pressure on Warners - they need her more than she needs them
at this point in her career. It would depend on the level of confidence she has when dealing with
all the suits from Warners. I'm sure they could get very nasty if they saw dollars slipping from
their fingers.

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Matilda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-31-08 07:30 AM
Response to Original message
11. It appears that the HP Lexicon website has been taken down.
For the past week, I've been unable to get more than the home page, and
that has all graphics and pictures marked with a cross. If you try to
click on any of the buttons, you get either a parked website linking to
various Harry Potter sale sites, or a "404" error message.

Until today, the French language site was available, and I have just
enough French to make sense of anything I was looking for, but today
that site and the Spanish site have gone.

It looks as though the trial over the book has been too much for Steven
Vander Ark, and he's just given up completely. It's sad - he put so
much heart into it, and I hate seeing the big guys squash the little
guys. Not to mention that it was an excellent reference for any little
fact you wanted to check without trawling through the books.
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Matilda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-08-08 10:43 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Rowling has won her case, unsurprisingly.
"The magic still works for author J.K. Rowling, who has won her US court battle to block publication of an unauthorised Harry Potter encyclopedia.

The so-called Harry Potter Lexicon was to have been published by a minor US publisher, RDR Books, based on the work of a fan website, until it was challenged in an April court hearing in downtown New York.

Rowling declared herself delighted with the judge's ruling that the Lexicon was unfair in its widespread copying of her work."

http://www.smh.com.au/news/books/magic-still-works-for-...


There is room for appeal, but as the Lexicon has now disappeared completely from the Internet, I
wouldn't imagine that Vander Ark is interested in taking this further. He obviously saw the writing
on the wall when he took down the website.

And a valuable reference site, free to all, has been lost. The only way anyone will have access to
such information in the future will be through buying Rowling's own, and no doubt expensive, still-
to-be-written work.
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Mist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-26-08 05:32 AM
Response to Reply #12
13. The Lexicon is back up, at least this morning. nt
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Matilda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-28-08 09:59 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. Yes, praise be!
Apparently they were changing servers, and it was slower than anticipated so they were left without
the original server and not yet on the new one.

I didn't realise how often I referred to it until it wasn't there.
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