Thursday, March 13, 2008

Librarian Steve Vander Ark, RDR Books, Warner Bros., J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Lexicon : Can the Online Material be Published as a Book?

Librarian Steve Vander Ark and his Harry Potter Lexicon is in the news, and how.

As written at UrbanWire:

"Steve Vander Ark, 46, a librarian for a K-8 school in Michigan and the resident director for the Caledonia Community Players, and published compiler of an encyclopaedia of Star Trek the Next Generation, is renowned throughout the Harry Potter Fandom online for creating The Harry Potter Lexicon - the first, and only complete online encyclopaedic companion to the Harry Potter books. Started in the year 2000, The Harry Potter Lexicon contains every single fact, feature, character and detail from the books in a systematic catalogue, and was recently awarded the third prestigious Fan Site Award [by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling on her official site]. Steve is also an active speaker at Harry Potter-related academic symposiums held in America."

Read the rest here at UrbanWire.

RDR Books writes:

"HARRY POTTER LEXICON CASE UPDATE
New York Federal District Court Judge Robert Patterson has scheduled a trial for March 24, 25 and 26 in the matter of Warner Bros. Entertainment and J.K. Rowling v. RDR Books. The judge consolidated a previously scheduled injunction hearing with the trial. The plaintiffs want to block publication of librarian Steve Vander Ark's Harry Potter Lexicon. Here is the RDR Books statement on the case:

In this action, a distinguished and tremendously successful novelist demands the suppression of a reference guide to her works. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, asserts that this reference guide infringes both her copyright in the seven Potter novels and her right to publish, at some unidentified point in the future, a reference guide of her own. In support of her position she appears to claim a monopoly on the right to publish literary reference guides, and other non-academic research, relating to her own fiction.

This is a right no court has ever recognized. It has little to recommend it. If accepted, it would dramatically extend the reach of copyright protection, and eliminate an entire genre of literary supplements: third party reference guides to fiction, which for centuries have helped readers better access, understand and enjoy literary works. By extension, it would threaten not just reference guides, but encyclopedias, glossaries, indexes, and other tools that provide useful information about copyrighted works. Ms. Rowling's intellectual property rights simply do not extend so far and, even if they did, she has not shown that the publication of this reference guide poses a sufficient threat of irreparable harm to justify an injunction. Her preliminary injunction motion should be denied.

Read RDR Books' Opposition Brief filed by our attorneys David Hammer, Lizbeth Hasse, Anthony Falzone, Julie Ahrens and Robert Handelsman. Also filed was expert witness testimony on the Harry Potter Lexicon by Professor Janet Sorenson of the English faculty at the University of California at Berkeley. Have a look at this exhibit, a thank you note from Scholastic Publication Potterologist and editor Cheryl Klein to Steve Vander Ark. All available background information on the Harry Potter Lexicon lawsuit is available here.

Media contacts for the Harry Potter Lexicon Case


One of the great intellectual property law cases of our time, a dramatic work with a platinum cast, has been underway for some time now in the trademark and copyright infringement action by Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling against RDR Books, makers of an allegedly unauthorized Harry Potter Encyclopedia, who we here thus dub the Cyclopians.

Joe Nocera at the New York Times in A Tight Grip Can Choke Creativity wrote on February 9, 2008:

"On Friday, a lawyer named Anthony Falzone filed his side’s first big brief in the case of Warner Bros. Entertainment and J. K. Rowling v. RDR Books. Mr. Falzone is employed by Stanford Law School, where he heads up the Fair Use Project, which was founded several years ago by Lawrence Lessig, perhaps the law school’s best-known professor. Mr. Falzone and the other lawyers at the Fair Use Project are siding with the defendant, RDR Books, a small book publisher based in Muskegon, Mich. As you can see from the titans who have brought the suit, RDR Books needs all the legal firepower it can muster."

The Leaky Cauldron informs us that a trial date has now been set.

The Guardian writes on March 11, 2008:

"On one side: global-celebrity author JK Rowling. On the other: an amateur fan site devoted to the world's favourite boy wizard. At stake: the soul of Harry Potter."

We saw a vision of Hedwig bringing in the last issues of US Reports by mail the other day to deal with a case of mysterious first impression?
WHOO can be sure?



As The Guardian writes, all wizards of the legal powers convene:

"[O]n March 24 when a New York court considers the injunction that Rowling and Warner Brothers have taken out against a small, Michigan-based publisher, RDR Books, to prevent publication of the Harry Potter Lexicon, an A-Z guide to all things Hogwarts. It could also be a landmark case, because what is at stake is not just an author's right to control the publication of secondary works but also the right to publish in book form information that has been previously available on the web."

Keep your dragons at bay!

What does the law of superheros tell us about the rights of mere mortals?

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

Update with some links about the case found online:

From Stanford's Fair Use Project
Nice posting and lots of comments at Crooked Timber.
P2PNet and P2PNet-again
The Online Harry Potter Lexicon of the Challenged Book
The J.K. Rowling Official Site praising the online website
RDR Books
Steve Vander Ark at the UrbanWire
Library Journal where Rowling says the book is a "Harry Potter rip-off"
Beattie's Book Blog

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