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Litigious J.K. Rowling Files Suit to Keep Previously Approved Fan Site...

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The great thing about being a children’s celebrity is that you can act like a jerk and the majority of your fans aren’t going to be the least bit aware. Rowlings non stop attempts to prevent anyone from doing anything that remotely resembles her work is becoming tiresome.

Last month, news of JK Rowling’s lawsuit against a organisers of a religious event in India based on a lifesize replica of Hogwarts Castle hit the news wire. This month, its a suit against RDR Books, a Michigan based publisher, who is set to publish a book based on information culled from the Harry Potter Lexicon. The Harry Potter Lexicon is a fansite established by former middle grade librarian, Steve Vander Ark. The site contains thousands of pages of information including plot summaries, news, essays, message boards, character and object listings, detailed quotations from interviews that provide backstory to the world of Harry Potter. The information is categorized and indexed making all of the factoids related to Potter easy to find.

These type of fan sites help to create and foster excitement about the series, particularly during the long waiting periods between books. Rowling herself has praised the award winning site for being a “one-stop” place for Potter information. Vander Ark has even been asked in the past to participate in Warner Bros’ marketing campaigns for the Potter films. Now that he plans to make some money off this endeavor that has likely taken hundreds of hours to maintain since the site went live in 2000, Rowling has pulled her approval and plans to sue for the site contains her “original creative expression with minimal additional commentary.”

Of course, Rowling doesn’t want to shut down the site; only prevent any profit made from it. Essentially Rowling wants all the publicity and promotional results she gets from the site without compensating them; but she doesn’t want anyone to make any money from it but her.

This is not what the copyright law intended to protect and I hope that RDR Books makes a stand and doesn’t allow itself to be cowed by Rowling and Warner Bros.

Via E Online and Yahoo News.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

10 Comments

  1. MCHalliday
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 10:20:43

    Perhaps Rowling has advisors proposing these lawsuits as a means to protect her interests and she is stupidly going along with them; I’d like to believe a woman with her billions couldn’t be so incredibly mean and greedy.

  2. Sarah McCarty
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 11:15:43

    Would allowing RDR to use the the info for profit set some precedent that would open the door for other things?

    If so, I can see why she’d have to be vigilant.

  3. DS
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 12:23:01

    Coca Cola successfully maintained their trademark for yea on how many years by jumping on any possible infringement no matter how small, then compiling a book of all of the cases they won and donating a copy to every law school library.

    Don’t know if it ever hurt them but I definitely don’t have the warm fuzzies about Coke. On the other hand a children’s author needs to be a bit more careful about their public image.

  4. MCHalliday
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 14:59:40

    Would allowing RDR to use the the info for profit set some precedent that would open the door for other things?

    If we go with that, it still doesn’t justify a lawsuit against against organisers of a religious event in India based on a lifesize replica of Hogwarts Castle.

  5. Jane
    Nov 01, 2007 @ 22:12:20

    I think that if defending her copyright (v a trademark which has different legal principles attached, i.e., if you don’t protect it, you can lose your right to it which is not the same as a copyright), was her thing then she wouldn’t have spoken with approval about it before. I.e, she should have had the site shut down when it started back in 2000. It bothers me that she and her publisher and movie company decide that its fine for them to benefit from the hardwork of the site in promoting Rowling but the site can’t earn any money from the actual work they put into it.

    I really hope that this is fought because I think a case like this could make good law.

  6. Sarah
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 01:23:18

    This post has a lot of useful information beyond the shock reaction. It’s not as simple as her suing the book; the lawsuit came after repeated refusals by the publisher to explicitly state the content of the book and almost no contact with the site owner.

    There’s also the issue barely touched-on in that post and not at all in yours about the ownership of the essays and fanart hosted on hp-lexicon. The site owner has allegedly claimed rights to all content on his site, even what isn’t his own work. Given the lack of any information on the contents of the book, it’s entirely possible that it contains those essays and pieces of artwork, included without the original authors’ and artists’ permission.

  7. Pyre
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 02:53:47

    There’s also the consideration that giving permission to use her material on a not-for-pay website is not the same as giving permission to use her material in a published-for-profit book, especially when the latter would be competing directly with her own next book for readers’ money.

    Surely she has the right to make that distinction when giving or withholding her permission to use her material.

  8. skatergurljubulee
    Jan 07, 2008 @ 12:59:14

    I think that if she had these feelings (or her lawyers did) about her work before, she should have went after the website back in 2000. What I mean is, she can’t be easy on the fansites if they’re making fanfiction for seven years and then when they decide to publish these works and others regarding the Harry Potter world (which isn’t exactly a leap that the site would do this especially since the last book just popped out), then get angry and sue.
    She should’ve been like J.R Ward ( I believe she’s like this) and say a big NO to any and all fanfiction and the like so that it prevents this stuff from happening. Ms. Rowling was screwed way back when her people decided to use the lexicon website to promote the upcoming books.
    That’s just my opinion.

  9. 'Harry Potter' Web Series Made by Hardcore Potter Fans with Skills
    May 19, 2012 @ 17:45:53

    [...] most popular piece of fan-made Harry Potter entertainment produced outside the litigious confines of the JK Rowling empire involves puppet theater, a mysterious ticking noise, and one [...]

  10. Anonymous
    May 20, 2012 @ 12:11:54

    [...] most popular piece of fan-made Harry Potter entertainment produced outside the litigious confines of the JK Rowling empire involves puppet theater, a mysterious ticking noise, and one [...]

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