Rowling Wins Lawsuit: Lexicon Is Stopped

News alert: A judge has ruled in favor of J.K. Rowling in her suit against the Harry Potter Lexicon and RDR Books.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson said:

“While the lexicon, in its current state, is not a fair use of the Harry Potter works, reference works that share the lexicon’s purpose of aiding readers of literature generally should be encouraged rather than stifled…”

He added that he ruled in Rowling’s favor because the “Lexicon appropriates too much of Rowling’s creative work for its purposes as a reference guide.”

Thanks to Kalen Hughes for the link.

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The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    JaneyD says:

    Yay!

    She’s a nice lady. Like her muchly.

  2. 2

    Shameful and troubling, IMO. Are works of literary criticism now considered violations of copyright? This sets a dangerous and scary precedent, IMO.

    Why was it okay for the Lexicon to publish all this online and actively and tirelessly promote the books, but now it isn’t?

    The idea that anyone would confuse the Lexicon’s book with one of Ms. Rowling’s, or that anyone wouldn’t buy her encyclopedia because they’ve already bought the Lexicon’s, is ridiculous.

    I lost so much respect for her when she started this. The Lexicon people devoted thousands of hours of their time to her books, and she loved them for it, until they tried to actually get something in return for all that work and devotion. It’s a terrible way to treat your fans.

  3. 3
    Alex says:

    Given how much backwork Rowling put into the series, I’d rather her write a Harry Potter encyclopedia, because she’s the one who knows the setting and its rules best. She can provide information beyond what’s found in the books.

  4. 4
    Suze says:

    Shameful and troubling, IMO. Are works of literary criticism now considered violations of copyright? This sets a dangerous and scary precedent, IMO.

    Why was it okay for the Lexicon to publish all this online and actively and tirelessly promote the books, but now it isn’t?

    I think that works of literary criticism are entirely different from lexicons and backgrounds.  Literary criticism is a response to an author’s work, and is in itself a creative work.  A lexicon is an index / summery / encapsulation of an author’s work.

    It was okay to have it online because nobody was making any money off it, it was a free service to and by the fans.  It’s not okay to publish it because then, the lexicographer is making money off of somebody else’s creative effort.

    Coming up with a whole new world, and writing stories about imaginary people, is a completely different effort, and a different level of effort, than merely re-organizing and cataloguing something that someone else has written.  Having done both, I totally get where Rowling is coming from.  Yes, creating the lexicon is a lot of work, but it’s not world-building, character-building, story-building.  It’s organizing.

    I’m not knocking that, by the way.  It takes a special gift and set of skills to organize somebody else’s universe.

    The other published lexicons I’m aware of were done by fans, but with the cooperation of the original authors, and the original authors got their share of the proceeds (except when they were donated to charity).

    So, I can’t agree with you.  I think Rowling is in the right on this one.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Tamblyn says:

    I agree with Suze.  The decision is quite clear about why this is specifically not fair use.  Essentially, if the Lexicon were more truly transformative—if there were more actual analysis and criticism involved—it would be in the clear.  Because it’s mostly copied almost verbatim from Rowling, it’s not.  The judge goes through every single factor very carefully, and while not every point goes against the Lexicon, the balance does.

    Any sincere effort at literary criticism and even more other kinds of fan works would pass a similar legal test easily.

  7. 7
    Avocado says:

    Having read through the entirety of the judge’s decision, the overwhelming reason for the finding appeared to be the wholesale appropriation of the majority of the content in the companion books—Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages.  These were already encyclopedias, and enough of their material was copied verbatim without being transformative in any way.  Excessive unattributed direct quotations and very close paraphrase from the books themselves were also considered an issue, but they had a closer claim to being transformative.  Basically, the issue is not reference guides in general (and the judge’s opinion spells this out in detail)—it’s *this* reference guide.  He awarded a permanent injunction… but he indicated the book was copyright infringement (and not a derivative work), and awarded the minimum statutory damages to WB ($750 per work infringed).

  8. 8
    Tasha says:

    Shameful and troubling, IMO. Are works of literary criticism now considered violations of copyright? This sets a dangerous and scary precedent, IMO.

    Why was it okay for the Lexicon to publish all this online and actively and tirelessly promote the books, but now it isn’t?

    Part of the paperwork submitted by JK Rowling was a chart showing that 91% – yes, that’s ninety-one percent – of the Lexicon was taken word for word from the Harry Potter books. That means less than ten percent of the Lexicon was original material. That’s not literary criticism, IMHO.

    The online Lexicon included actual criticism—essays, analysis, and so forth—that was not included in the print version.

  9. 9
    Julie Leto says:

    I’m with Suze.  I’m SO GLAD that Jo Rowling won this and that she pursued it.  This is HER work and she alone has the right to make money off of it.  Lexicon as a website was just a service, but the minute he tried to get a book out there using such a huge percentage of HER WORDS, he crossed the line.

    Criticism is something else entirely…and clearly, the judge agreed this wasn’t about fair use.  This was about someone trying to make money off of someone else’s blood, sweat and tears.

  10. 10
    Julie Leto says:

    Oh, this is part of what JK Rowling had to say on the matter, according to quotes from Mugglenet:

    “I took no pleasure at all in bringing legal action and am delighted that this issue has been resolved favourably,” said J.K. Rowling. “I went to court to uphold the right of authors everywhere to protect their own original work. The court has upheld that right.

    The proposed book took an enormous amount of my work and added virtually no original commentary of its own. Now the court has ordered that it must not be published.

    Many books have been published which offer original insights into the world of Harry Potter. The Lexicon just is not one of them.”

  11. 11
    redshoeson says:

    I enjoy reading SBTB not only for the posts, but the comments as well.  Your readers always add something interesting to the discussion.  Well put, SBTB folks!

  12. 12
    snarkhunter says:

    Are works of literary criticism now considered violations of copyright?

    As a literary scholar, I was 100% on JKR’s side.

    C&Ping;a bunch of stuff straight out of a text and calling it “research” is not transformative. It’s plagiarism. At the very least, SVA could’ve tried to incorporate some insightful commentary.

  13. 13
    Marianne McA says:

    Shameful and troubling, IMO. Are works of literary criticism now considered violations of copyright? This sets a dangerous and scary precedent, IMO.

    If you look on Amazon there are dozens of books that tie into HP: ‘The Psychology of Harry Potter’, ‘Reading Harry Potter:Critical Essays’, ‘The Harry Potter Companion’ etc., etc. – so it seems that in general literary criticisms and companion books aren’t regarded as violations of copyright – that it’s the content of this particular book that is problematic.

    I also think it’s problematic to argue that effort and devotion deserve financial reward. It would be hard to argue that it’s okay to publish derivative non-fiction without also accepting that it’s okay to publish derivative fiction.  And it would seem unfair to authors if it was legal to publish fanfic without the author’s consent.

  14. 14
    Devonna Wick says:

    I’m so glad that JK won this!!!  The Lexicon, I think, is a blatant act of plagiarism and if the encyclopedia would have been allowed to be published, I would have wondered why we even bother with having a copyright.

  15. 15
    Robin says:

    Pissed postless.

    (not speechless, just polite-company commentless).

    Enjoy it while it lasts.

  16. 16

    The online Lexicon included actual criticism—essays, analysis, and so forth—that was not included in the print version.

    Okay, then. This is where my confusion came in. It was my understanding based on numerous earlier articles about the case that the print version would essentially be all the website articles and info with some new essays and stuff added.

    None of the other articles I saw mentioned anything like 91%, and having spent a significant amount of time on the Lexicon website several years ago I was fairly familiar with what was there (and thus had what I thought was a good idea of what the book would contain.)

    So based on the info I had—that the book would be mostly original articles and analysis, along the lines of “Mysteries of Harry Potter” (or whatever that book was called) but also with quotes, and that it wasn’t the amount of quotes causing the problem, but any quotes at all—I still think my opinion was correct. Now that I have the rest of the info, it wasn’t. If that makes sense.

  17. 17
    Sparky says:

    December:
    There’s a huge difference between criticism and making money taking somneone’s work. He used a lot of her content and just extracted her work basically. They didn’t analyse, examine, criticise or add to – they copied

    The reason why it’s acceptable on the net but not in print is because he wasn’t making money off her work when it was on the net. That makes it acceptable and non-threatening. JKR weakens her Intellectual property by not defending it – and really, why should he make money selling her work? Letting it remain on the net was an act of tolerance on her part – why should she then have a duty to tolerate more and for it to become a commerical venture?

    I think it was a terrible way for fans to treat her. They spent hours revelling in a world she created that they loved so much – and then they tried to steal it and profit from it and use it as if it were theirs. Just because you love an author’s work doesn’t mean that you own it or the author owes you something.

    When I first heard of this law suit I was cheering JKR and outraged that her “fans” would treat her and her work so cavalierly.

  18. 18
    Emmy says:

    As other people have pointed out, there are numerous pblished HP fanfics out there. The problem with this one is that it would be in direct competition with her own planned lexicon.

  19. 19
    Julia Sullivan says:

    It was my understanding based on numerous earlier articles about the case that the print version would essentially be all the website articles and info with some new essays and stuff added.

    Steve Vander Ark didn’t write all the website articles—the Lexicon was a wiki-style fan-community joint endeavor.  The manuscript he proposed to publish would be to his financial benefit only, and was simply a glossary.

    Add to that the documented preponderance of cut-and-paste which was laid out in the JKR/WB pleadings, and you see why this decision went the way it did.

    The judge’s opinion, which is available at the Wall Street Journal website, is very clear on this.

  20. 20
    CherylPangolin says:

    Okay, then. This is where my confusion came in. It was my understanding based on numerous earlier articles about the case that the print version would essentially be all the website articles and info with some new essays and stuff added.

    My understanding from following this lawsuit was that none of that stuff was ever going to be included, as SVA (owner of the Lexicon site and “author” of the proposed book) wasn’t the one that wrote the bulk of that content. 

    Or, if SVA had ever thought of including it, he was shut down pretty quickly on that score by the actual authors of those articles/analyses.

  21. 21

    December:
    There’s a huge difference between criticism and making money taking somneone’s work. He used a lot of her content and just extracted her work basically. They didn’t analyse, examine, criticise or add to – they copied.

    Yes, I’m well aware of the differences between analysis and copyright infringement. I am well aware of the need to defend copyright. I am well aware of the impact of profit motives on Fair Use.

    As I said in my second post, the information I had and on which I based my opinion was incorrect. I understand the facts now.  I have read the judge’s decision in full. So there is no need to continue to correct me, everyone, okay? :)

  22. 22
    Sparky says:

    Awwww but this dead horse needs more floggin’! It’s fun :) 

    I had to add my 2 cents as it’s been something I’ve been ranting and raving about for some time now (battling against rabid Harry Potter fanpoodles)

  23. 23
    Arethusa says:

    Pissed postless.

    (not speechless, just polite-company commentless).

    Enjoy it while it lasts.

    I am looking forward to it since, from my current position, I sided more with Rowling than the Lexicon feller, especially since books like Fantastic Beasts and so on already exist.

  24. 24
    Joanne says:

    oh, I love a dead horse! I prefer a live horse but it’s been a busy day and I’m late.

    So once again: NO cutting and pasting from an author’s work to your book and then trying to sell it as original. Stop It.

    I understand fan devotion and all the things that fans can do for a writer’s popularity, but there is a line and I think it’s wide enough that everyone should be able to see it before they cross it.

    So Yay, J.K. Rowlings, whoever you are.
    Oh, just kidding…

  25. 25
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~The proposed book took an enormous amount of my work and added virtually no original commentary of its own. Now the court has ordered that it must not be published. ~

    This sounds exactly right to me.

  26. 26
    michelle says:

    I was so happy to see this decision.  It was so disrespectful to J.K. Rowling.  She provides so much to charity it really irritated me to see the people who called her greedy. 

    Also if you choose to post an opinion based on an incorrect understanding of the facts don’t act suprised when you get your wrists slapped.

  27. 27

    Also if you choose to post an opinion based on an incorrect understanding of the facts don’t act suprised when you get your wrists slapped.

    Um… I don’t believe I did “act surprised when [my] wrists got slapped”. I explained the misunderstanding. I admitted I’d been wrong and that the information I’d had was wrong. I didn’t slink away or whine or complain, I didn’t call anyone names or scream or start a fight or get huffy, I stood up and owned my mistake.

    All I said in my second post was that there was no need to keep disagreeing with my first and explaining copyright laws to me, as I had already changed my opinion and am aware of what the laws are.

    If you want to keep slapping someone after they’ve admitted their mistake, or treat them like idiots for owning up to them, you go ahead. I was simply trying to save everyone some time.

  28. 28
    DS says:

    I suppose it is too soon to hear about an appeal.  I hope they decide to take it on up.  That is when the fun begins.

  29. 29
    Suze says:

    Pissed postless

    Holy cow, Robin. Given that you’re the Goddess of Clearly Articulating What I’m Actually Trying To Say, I can’t wait to see what about the decision pissed you off.  (Admittedly, I didn’t READ the decision, just the summarizing article, but it seemed fair to me.)

    perhaps78: perhaps I missed a detail or 78…

  30. 30
    Gabi says:

    AH.. it took so much time to settle this, because the poor judge and team had to read all 7 books, and check the web site in question and read the proposed lexicon.. -lol!

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