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Revised Unauthorized Lexicon Set to Hit Shelves

Steve Vander Ark and Publisher Rapoport are having the last laugh. Rowling sued to enjoin the sale of the first iteration of the Harry Potter Lexicon. Judge Patterson issued a thoughtful (although I disagreed with the lack of emphasis on the market issue) opinion and VanderArk used the opinion as a guideline and rewrote much of the Lexicon. The revised version has over 30,000 pre-orders and will go on sale on January 16. Apparently Rowling and her band of attorneys see a suit against the revised Lexicon as fruitless as she has seen the revised book and no suit to enjoin the sale is forthcoming.

Via Booksquare.

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

16 Comments

  1. MCHalliday
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 22:28:36

    Following this case for some time, the verdict warms to cockles of my heart…why JK Rowling’s legal team instigated this in the first instance, I cannot fathom.

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  2. Julia
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 22:41:33

    Because the original was JK Rowling’s exact words repackaged for someone else to make money off of, MCHalliday?

    In any case, this new, non-copyright violated book will sell a helluva lot more than it would have originally so VanderArk should be pleased.

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  3. Kat
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 00:24:12

    I’m not sure I agree that Vander Ark is “having the last laugh” nor that Rowling is necessarily distressed by this news. My understanding is that Vander Ark didn’t put much personal effort into writing the original book. So now he’s rewritten it and will actually have worked significantly for the money he’ll be paid. If anything, readers will have the last laugh because a product will now be offered that contains new information without making us feel like the original author (or the fans who may have written some of the original material) are being disrespected/ripped off.

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  4. Ann Somerville
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 01:54:10

    @MCHalliday:

    I don’t get why people are so hostile to Rowling protecting her copyright. She’s become very successful and wealthy – that doesn’t mean she has fewer rights than any other author, or that she should allow someone else to exploit her. That’s like saying it was okay for wotsherface to plagiarise Nora Roberts because Nora wouldn’t miss the money.

    I think Kat’s position is closest to my own. No author should have to fight constantly to defend the principle that the creator controls the use and reproduction of the creation for the life of copyright.

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  5. Anion
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 03:39:49

    I suspect MC Halliday saw the same articles in the beginning that quite a few people I know saw; articles that strongly implied, and in some cases flat-out said, that the published Lexicon was essentially the website content (analysis with a few very short excerpts for illustration.)

    If you only saw the initial coverage and didn’t follow the story closely, it was easy to cast JKR as the villain, suing fans for trying to publish what she was happy to allow them to do for free to boost her own sales; to earn a little money to compensate for the hours upon hours of their time they freely gave.

    It wasn’t until later, smaller stories that the truth of the proposed Lexicon’s content came out (in fact a Google search when the verdict occurred only found a few, on small blogs or sites. Yahoo News never mentioned it.)

    I’m just guessing here, but I know at least four or five other people, all of them intelligent and passionate about copyright protection, who had the wrong end of the stick simply because the initial coverage–on which they based their opinions–didn’t provide the full story.

    Just a thought.

    MC, the proposed version of the Lexicon actually was something like 90% quotes from the Potter books; it was not the same content as the website at all, and its publication really would have been a serious violation of copyright. It’s not an issue of publishing analysis of the Potter books, it’s that the Lexicon was short on analysis and very, very long on listed Potter passages.

    Hope that helps.

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  6. Ann Somerville
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 05:34:18

    @Anion:

    Even if the truth were as originally supposed, I can’t see why Rowling’s right to license or permit use of her words/characters in some situations, and withdraw it in others, should be abrogated. So what if she used it for publicity? The fans benefited from that too. Her copyright is hers, and she can do as she chooses with it. Unlike some authors, she’s been pretty open and generous in allowing others to paddle in her pond. That shouldn’t be taken as permission to do whatever the fans want with her property.

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  7. ilona andrews
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 07:18:25

    I don’t see this as having the last laugh. It’s not that she didn’t want him to publish the Lexicon. It’s that she didn’t want him to plagiarize and make money with the text she had written.

    Huge chunks of the Lexicon were copied verbatim from her work.

    Now that it is revised, she doesn’t see the problem with it being published.

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  8. DS
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 08:17:06

    Copyright and fair use are important legal issues that haven’t been addressed enough by the courts IMO with the rise of the internets and the changes (made and proposed) in copyright law. I’m disappointed that Vander Ark did not appeal the original decision because it would be interesting to read an appellant decision on this case. I agree with Jane that the decision handed down was thoughtful, but I, also, had some issues with it.

    I have no affection for either litigant– never read Harry Potter or visited the Lexicon web site and no dislike of them either– but this would have been a high profile case that might have resulted in more guidance for those who face similar situations in the future.

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  9. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 08:54:16

    I don't see this as having the last laugh. It's not that she didn't want him to publish the Lexicon. It's that she didn't want him to plagiarize and make money with the text she had written.

    Huge chunks of the Lexicon were copied verbatim from her work.

    Ditto, ditto, and ditto.

    I don’t see it as her trying to ‘get’ the author of the Lexicon or keep him from putting his book out.

    But as it was, his original ‘book’ wasn’t really ‘his’, was it? Wasn’t like 90% of the text just passages from her books? He stood/stands to make a hell of a lot of money off the book…and if he actually works, not just ‘copy/paste’, then he’s entitled.

    But to make a boatload of money just copying her material and only tossing in a few bits and pieces here and there? That’s not writing and he’s not, IMO, entitled to a red cent, much less hundreds of thousands (or more).

    Now it seems he’s revised it and actually done work, I have no problem with him reaping the financial rewards.

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  10. Jane
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 10:01:54

    I’m viewing Rowling’s actions in light of her past overly aggressive attempts to stifle any expression related to her books including the building of some Hogwart’s like thing in India and other suits brought by Rowling based on IP violations. The Vander Ark case was very important and I, too, wished he would have appealed. There are far too broad copyright protections and while the public is hurt, those that are content creators will have a hard time going forward unless some of those protections are narrowed. It’s easy to be myopic about copyright when you are resting your monetary future on earning income from your creative work, but broad copyright limits content creators a great deal.

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  11. MCHalliday
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 12:30:01

    I was pleased because, well, Jane said it so perfectly:

    I'm viewing Rowling's actions in light of her past overly aggressive attempts to stifle any expression related to her books including the building of some Hogwart's like thing in India and other suits brought by Rowling based on IP violations.

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  12. Ann Somerville
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 13:20:01

    I'm viewing Rowling's actions in light of her past overly aggressive attempts to stifle any expression related to her books including the building of some Hogwart's like thing in India and other suits brought by Rowling based on IP violations.

    If you mean the ‘Hari Puttar’ film, the case was actually brought by Warner Bros, not Rowling. The case against the Hogwarts castle was also jointly brought by WB.

    That’s the problem for Rowling, isn’t it? Her name is being used as the banner in these suits, but the engine driving it is the rights of her publishers and the movie companies, and other licensees. I see a lot of animus against her for doing what she is undoubtedly contractually obliged to do – even little old me is not allowed to grant someone else the right to issue material dealing with the same time line and characters as any of my novels.

    But in any event, the lexicon case didn’t strike me as trying to extend copyright. The principle that no one gets to reproduce your art without your permission is at the heart of what copyright law is about. Rowling is still alive, the books recent, she’s still writing in the universe. It’s not a Disney-like situation. This was straight out reproduction of text, and she can grant or withhold permission to do that as she wishes. If that right is denied, then copyright law is pointless – and without that protection, making a living out of writing is going to be impossible.

    Or am I missing something?

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  13. Stingey Jo Rowling
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 23:14:29

    Jkr has made a lot more money from all the free advertising Sva gave her on his site over the years and by sueing him than he would ever have made or will make. There was an awful meanness about her taking the case in the first place. She should be grateful to him for publishing the revised version because it redeems her to a small extent. But I don’t know if I will ever regard her with the same fondness I used to before she stomped on one of her fans through sheer greed.

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  14. CHH
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:12:41

    The Lexicon website made JKR all that money? I thought it was the massive sales figures which probably brought people to the Lexicon site rather than the other way around. This idea that JKR somehow owes Vander Ark money for a website he created as a hobby is fan entitlement at its worst.

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  15. Stingey Jo Rowling
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 12:04:56

    Oh ffs of course I’m not saying his site made her popular. He did help provide a focal point for fans to gather on the internet and increase their enthusiasm which they passed onto others thus helping increase sales. He also helped Jo herself to write her books as she admitted to using the site to check facts on occasion. If you don’t think he helped her by creating the massively popular site you are sticking your head in the sand or just plain uninformed. She should have turned a blind eye and let the book through. It’s not like she was a struggling author whose children’s food he was stealing which would have been a totally different matter. It was a very mean act by her. People defending her need to look at the bigger picture and stop looking at the nitty gritty of the law. No one was ever under the illusion that anyone other than her owned the characters. a blind eye should have been turned for him on this one occasion, simple as.

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  16. Randi
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 16:12:30

    stingey: I don’t even know how to respond to your arguements.

    “She should have turned a blind eye and let the book through. It's not like she was a struggling author whose children's food he was stealing which would have been a totally different matter. It was a very mean act by her.”

    So, authors should turn a blind eye to people who are stealing their material? But only authors who are not starving? It would be OK if JKR sued ONLY if her children were starving? And by standing up to someone who was stealing her material, that makes her a big meany?

    I am just…speechless.

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