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J. K. Rowling Wins $6,750 In Infringement Case 521

Posted by kdawson
from the slap-it-into-gringott's-bank dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "J. K. Rowling didn't make enough money on Harry Potter, so she had to make sure that the 'Harry Potter Lexicon' was shut down. After a trial in Manhattan in Warner Bros. v. RDR Books, she won, getting the judge to agree with her (and her friends at Warner Bros. Entertainment) that the 'Lexicon' did not qualify for fair use protection. In a 68-page decision (PDF) the judge concluded that the Lexicon did a little too much 'verbatim copying,' competed with Ms. Rowling's planned encyclopedia, and might compete with her exploitation of songs and poems from the Harry Potter books, although she never made any such claim in presenting her evidence. The judge awarded her $6,750 and granted her an injunction that would prevent the 'Lexicon' from seeing the light of day." Groklaw has an exhaustive discussion of the judgement.
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J. K. Rowling Wins $6,750 In Infringement Case

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  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:38PM (#24949415) Journal

    "Please, Ms. Rowling, I'm so tired and bleeding from both ends..."

    "Is J.K. gonna have to choke a bitch? Get me my money!"

    • Re:Poor Harry... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:53PM (#24949665)

      "Please, Ms. Rowling, I'm so tired and bleeding from both ends..."

      "Is J.K. gonna have to choke a bitch? Get me my money!"

      Whoosh! That went over my head.

      Rowling, I believe is a billionaire. This isn't about money; it's about control. I'm guessing here, but I get the impression that these books mean much more to her than as something that got her out of poverty and made her one of the richest women in the World. Like many creative types, their creation is almost like a one of their children. And I'd be pretty pissed too if someone copied things from me and published them as their own work.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        And I'd be pretty pissed too if someone copied things from me and published them as their own work.

        I would side more with Rowling if the lexicon weren't so clearly a work of love from the author, a work that could arguably be fair use (as mentioned in groklaw, there's a good possibility that if he'd just stuck to the main books, he would have won), and if she hadn't come out and said that she'd used the website as a reference guide.

        I haven't read the lexicon so I don't know how much of it really is copying, but she's been a bitch about the situation while he's been nice and tried to do the right thin

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Aladrin (926209)

          I haven't read it either, but I've heard it's mostly copying, with a little bad paraphrasing thrown in. He didn't even use any user-provided content because he didn't want to share his profits.

          She did the right thing here. He was clearly using her work as his own.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by R2.0 (532027)

          "I hope that he can edit the lexicon some more and try to publish it again, this time without including the reference works that Rowling's put out and with more of his own words than hers."

          Of course, he could have done that in the first place and avoided the whole mess - just like the OTHER authors of Potter oriented books did.

        • Re:Poor Harry... (Score:5, Informative)

          by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @02:07PM (#24950745)

          In the decision the judge wrote that though the Lexicon was a "work of love from the author" as you put it, the amount of verbatim copying was so pervasive as to disqualify it from Fair Use. I can't, for example, create Bob's Encyclopedia by directly quoting the majority of the Encyclopedia Britannica and pass it off as Fair Use even if I spend years doing it. In her NPR interview she mentioned other reference books she did not sue because they did not directly copy her work.

          Also a part of Fair Use is the term "for public good". She did not object that much to the website because presenting information to the public served a public good. Trying to make money off of it, is not "for public good".

          From what I read, it was RDR Books that was unwilling to negotiate and advised the Lexicon author not to negotiate. Even if your events are correct, if you wrote a series of books over 20 years, and someone came along and copied your work and tried to sell it, you wouldn't be bitchy about it? "Listen, it looks like I've copied your work. You want to discuss this. No? Bitch."

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by lgw (121541)

            Of course, early American encyclopedias did actually copy the majority of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the resulting lawsuit, the American judge said basically "bah, that's a British copyright, we don't care about those here". Times have changed.

        • Re:Poor Harry... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by _KiTA_ (241027) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @03:52PM (#24952243) Homepage

          And I'd be pretty pissed too if someone copied things from me and published them as their own work.

          I would side more with Rowling if the lexicon weren't so clearly a work of love from the author, a work that could arguably be fair use (as mentioned in groklaw, there's a good possibility that if he'd just stuck to the main books, he would have won), and if she hadn't come out and said that she'd used the website as a reference guide.

          I haven't read the lexicon so I don't know how much of it really is copying, but she's been a bitch about the situation while he's been nice and tried to do the right thing. He tried to work with her, she seemed hopeful for a while and then pulled all support. That was a pretty dick move on her part. I hope that he can edit the lexicon some more and try to publish it again, this time without including the reference works that Rowling's put out and with more of his own words than hers.

          I'm pretty sure she even admitted that she used this same freaking lexicon in researching her own convoluted backstory.

          Lets put this another way. If this story wasn't about a BILLIONARE suing the operator of

          The Harry Potter Lexicon

          and instead suing

          Harry Potter Wiki [wikia.com]

          Well, i think there would be a bit more /. rage going around, eh?

        • Re:Poor Harry... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Bieeanda (961632) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @04:06PM (#24952479)
          She gave him permission to put the site up on the Web. RDR books waved a wad of cash under his nose, and he went for it. Rowling put her foot down. RDR, still sensing the potential for scads of money, decided to claw at it and failed miserably.

          This is not a fight between a Big Author and a Little Guy, this is a Scummy Company getting Bitchslapped.

      • Re:Poor Harry... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:10PM (#24949929)

        Like many creative types, their creation is almost like a one of their children.

        And just like with children, if you attempt to enact perfect control, you will stifle and destroy that which you love.

        Ultimately, every parent has to learn to let their child grown up, and find their own way in the world (the alternative produces hopelessly needy and/or bitter children). Similarly, every artist has to learn to let their art be distributed, and be built-upon by others (the alternative produces hopelessly sterile art and/or a restriction on cultural freedom).

        (To take the analogy further: I'm not advocating a complete lack of parenting; nor am I advocating that artists retain no control over their art. But in both cases, they must eventually "let go.")

        • Re:Poor Harry... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Firehed (942385) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:57PM (#24950647) Homepage

          I agree. But the Lexicon, unlike most similar publications, failed to build upon the original works. WB/Rowling/Scholastic had no issue with the MuggleNet book, for instance, as it contained primarily analysis rather than just reprinting what Rowling had already written in slightly different wording.

      • Re:Poor Harry... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by retchdog (1319261) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:14PM (#24949995) Journal

        It's typical to show contempt for those artists you consider crass or over-commercialized, by depicting them as metaphorically abusing their creations.

        For example, Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes) famously sent Berkeley Breathed (of Bloom County) a comic of Breathed laughing in a powerboat and whipping Opus the penguin, who was frantically shoveling sackfuls of cash into the outboard motor. (I wish I could find this online, it's in one of the collections of C&H.) I don't think he even bothered with Jim Davis, who is beyond parody as a commercial artist.

        All artists have a connection to their work; some establish the connection primarily to make money. I don't know where J.K. stands.

        • Re:Poor Harry... (Score:4, Informative)

          by reddburn (1109121) <<redburn1> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:29PM (#24950245)

          It's typical to show contempt for those artists you consider crass or over-commercialized, by depicting them as metaphorically abusing their creations.

          This is called "parody." It is protected fair use. Creating your own comic strip series starring Opus would not be. You can profit from the former. You may not from the latter. The authors of the Lexicon were trying to profit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by aiken_d (127097)

        Well, thank God you have the legal right not to be pissed, then.

        All that silly stuff like actual copyright law, fair use, and even the original intent of copyright -- to promote creation of works, not to enrich authors -- is just meaningless crap in the face of your emotional responses.

        So says JK, so says you, so says a judge. Apparently I'm the odd man out here. Me, I don't believe in copyright of fictional facts -- what happens in books -- any more than I believe in copyright on store prices or baseball

  • by cartman94501 (454060) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:39PM (#24949431)

    I was not aware that society's subjective judgment of whether someone has made "enough" money from one's intellectual property was a factor in copyright law. Either there's a copyright infringement or there isn't. Rowling's wealth and success are irrelevant.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:44PM (#24949519)

      Of course society's subjective judgment is important - if you don't make "enough" from your "intellectual property" you can't very well pay the lawyers to defend it, can you?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356)
        Of course society's subjective judgment is important - if you don't make "enough" from your "intellectual property" you can't very well pay the lawyers to defend it, can you?
        .

        You could defend it yourself.

        Lawyers have, however, been known work "pro bono" - or for a share of the proceeds.

        Just as writers have been known to form unions, guilds and other forms of trade associations to protect their own interests.

        Who defends - your - rights under the GPL?

        If your only answer is "me, myself, and I" then why h

    • by CrackedButter (646746) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:55PM (#24949709) Homepage Journal
      The opening sentence is terrible, talk about putting a personal spin on it. Rowling's wealth and success means she can't be a victim? Kdawson is an idiot.
      • by westlake (615356) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @03:58PM (#24952355)
        The opening sentence is terrible, talk about putting a personal spin on it. Rowling's wealth and success means she can't be a victim? Kdawson is an idiot.
        .

        NewYorkCountryLawyer is also an idiot. Because he knows that kind of rabble rousing nonsense wouldn't be tolerated inside a courtroom.

        The defendant lost because it was trivially easy to prove that his Lexicon was simply pasted together from passages in the books.

        The thief remains a thief no matter how rich his victim.

    • by sammy baby (14909) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:00PM (#24949785) Journal

      Not only that, but Ms. Rowling explicitly said that she had no objection if the Lexicon continues to be published for free on the web.

      It's really, really hard for me to get worked up over this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mea37 (1201159)

      That's true; but it's beside the point that I think NYCL was trying to make.

      Copyright exists for a specific reason -- to ensure compensation for creative work, thereby promoting such creative work. That's how copyright is used in theory; to the extent that differs from how copyright is used in practice, copyright is broken (or at least imperfect).

      When we discuss "how copyright gets used in practice", society's subjective judgement about who's made "enough" money or other notions of fairness are perfectly r

      • I think NYCL's sarcasm, though perhaps a bit on the snarky side, is at least relevant to the conversation.

        It's not the first time I've been called snarky on Slashdot. So it must be so.

        I just find it offensive for a woman who was once poor, and who knows what poverty is, who is now a gazillionaire, to prevent some other person from trying to make a living, not by publishing books that try to compete with her novels and movies or try to rip her off in any way, but for doing a 'lexicon', which is exactly the type of secondary work she has been encouraging people to do these past years because it helps to promote her books and movies, and it is something she has never done, based on the premise that she's been planning to do one some day.

        As a legal matter, every United States copyright lawyer knows the judge screwed up here.

        As a matter of fairness and morality and decency, only on Slashdot could you find anyone willing to take a stab at justifying her disgusting behavior.

        • by AndersOSU (873247) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:24PM (#24950161)

          Care to elaborate on why the judge screwed up? After reading the groklaw analysis, I'm having a hard time being outraged, as does the defendant's lawyer:

          I'm sorry about the result, that the lexicon was not found to be sufficiently transformative, But I am happy the judge endorsed the genre of reference works and companion books as valuable and important and that authors don't have an automatic right to control what's written about their works."

          As much as I generally fawn on your analysis of copyright law, I'm finding myself disagreeing on this one. If groklaw is to believed, the defendant copied a lot, especially from the companion books. I don't see why reorganizing original details verbatim should be protected under fair use, but I'd be interested to read why you think they should - or why you don't think that is what the lexicon did.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196)

          In 14 years, you will have a point.

          For now, you are just making excuses for a mooch.

          This action (and verdict) was well within the 1812 notion of what copyright should be.

    • by blantonl (784786) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:14PM (#24949991) Homepage

      Exactly,

      And the fact that the judgment wasn't for more that about 6,750 bucks goes to show that this was about principle, not the money.

      The submission's author's bias, coupled with someone tagging the article with "greed" is just disgusting.

      Mod Parent up +115

      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:50PM (#24950575)

        And the fact that the judgment wasn't for more that about 6,750 bucks goes to show that this was about principle, not the money.

        $6,750 is what was awarded, not necessarily what was demanded. Although the judge, who did the awarding, obviously determined the amount based on principle, Rowling could have asked for astronomical monetary damages out of greed and been rejected -- we (or at least, I) don't know.

    • by Geof (153857) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:21PM (#24950107) Homepage

      wealth and success are irrelevant

      They are far from irrelevant if you listen to those arguing for extending copyright laws. They cite the need of creators to earn a living from their work. Here [arstechnica.com] is EU Commissioner McCreevy arguing for term extension: "Copyright represents a moral right of the performer to control the use of his work and earn a living from his performance." Then it's perfectly reasonable to argue that this purpose of the law has already been fulfilled.

      More importantly, the law is meant to serve us, not the other way around. We have every business talking about what the law should be, not only what it is. Laws are created and changed by our elected representatives. Limiting one's vision to the letter of the law is infantile and irresponsible for a citizen in a democracy.

      Whether our representatives really represent us is a different matter. They certainly won't if we treat their actions - including legislation - as beyond criticism.

    • excuse me, it is (Score:3, Interesting)

      by unity100 (970058)
      society's perception does matter. because it sets the standard of the day for creating laws.

      200 years before, slavery was legal. people perceived it as a normal thing. despite it was totally immoral.

      230 years ago, aristocracy was the elite in france, with a god given right. it was legal, but it was totally wrong.

      now here we are, in a world that has very bad distribution of wealth, and an abusable law system.

      and we have greedy whores, greedy bitches, greedy fat cats, whatever you name.

      literall
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by notabaggins (1099403)

      I was not aware that society's subjective judgment of whether someone has made "enough" money from one's intellectual property was a factor in copyright law. Either there's a copyright infringement or there isn't. Rowling's wealth and success are irrelevant.

      Of course it is. What is so often forgotten in this matter is we grant the monopoly called "copyright". While the Constitution allows for these grants, they are not mandated nor are they consider a "right". We, the public, could abolish them if we so chose. Or at least drastically curtail them.

      As the point was "to encourage the useful arts and sciences", we do have the right to say, "you've made enough". Particularly because we are giving them something. Something we are under no obligation to give them.

  • Hold your horses! (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <.akaimbatman. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:40PM (#24949451) Homepage Journal

    J. K. Rowling didn't make enough money on Harry Potter, so she had to make sure that the 'Harry Potter Lexicon' was shut down.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up a moment! NewYorkCountryLawyer, I normally respect your posts, but this one is in need of some serious scrutiny.

    As it happens, I was listening to the details of the case this morning on NPR. The problem with this specific book is not that it focuses on the Harry Potter series. The problem is that nearly every description was lifted from the books in a reasonably clear case of plagerism and/or derivitive works. Most reference books contain unique descriptions and commentary above and beyond the information presented in the source material. However, this particular lexicon made no effort to add such value over the books themselves.

    In effect, it was merely a reorganization of J.K. Rowling's books into a dry reference. Something for which only the author has a legal right to grant.

    THAT is why the judge found against the lexicon. And he did so with a strong warning that this book is an exception to the usually legal practice:

    Issuing an injunction in this case both benefits and harms the public interest. 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. As the Supreme Court suggested in Campbell, "[b]ecause the fair use enquiry often requires close questions of judgment as to the extent of permissible borrowing" in cases involving transformative uses, granting an injunction does not always serve the goals of copyright law, when the secondary use, though edifying in some way, has been found to surpass the bounds of fair use. Campbell, 510 U.S. at 578 n.10. On the other hand, to serve the public interest, copyright law must "prevent[] the misappropriation of the skills, creative energies, and resources which are invested in the protected work." Apple Computer, 714 F.2d at 1255. Ultimately, because the Lexicon appropriates too much of Rowling's creative work for its purposes as a reference guide, a permanent injunction must issue to prevent the possible proliferation of works that do the same25 and thus deplete the incentive for original authors to create new
    works.

    • by Rayeth (1335201) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:43PM (#24949505)
      As evidenced by the thousands of Harry Potter supplement books that are already on the market, all this judge has done is slapped down a lazy, plagiarizing author.
    • Link to NPR Audio (Score:5, Informative)

      by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:59PM (#24949757)
      I heard the same story on NPR yesterday. Here's a link to the story summary and the full audio with Rowling's explanation:

      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94407484 [npr.org]
  • by pwizard2 (920421) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:41PM (#24949475)
    *JK points wand at lexicon project*

    Avada Kedavra!
  • by crenshawsgc (1228894) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:43PM (#24949501)
    But I noticed you accidently wrote at least one sentence that doesn't totally drip with contempt for this ruling. Please don't let this happen again - you know we /.ers don't know what opinions to have unless you spell it out for us.
    • I noticed you accidently wrote at least one sentence that doesn't totally drip with contempt for this ruling.

      Dammit. Sorry about that. I don't know how I let that slip through.

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:43PM (#24949503)

    It's my understanding that 80% the contents of the website on which the encyclopedia is based is copied verbatim from the HP books. How does that NOT fail the "fair use" test?

  • Erm...What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sj0 (472011) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:51PM (#24949621) Homepage Journal

    Why the bad attitude in the submission post?

    Someone was trying to release a commercial product whose premise was stealing content from an established work.

    If they didn't get hit hard on copyright infringement, they'd get hit hard on trademark infringement, and rightly so.

    Like it nor not, J. K. Rowling created the series, and decided to turn it into a commercial enterprise. It's well within her moral and legal rights to make sure a bunch of idiots don't cling to her coattails trying to milk dollars from a popular franchise that they have no legitimate claim to.

    • Re:Erm...What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by langelgjm (860756) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:09PM (#24949917) Journal

      Like it nor not, J. K. Rowling created the series, and decided to turn it into a commercial enterprise. It's well within her moral and legal rights to make sure a bunch of idiots don't cling to her coattails trying to milk dollars from a popular franchise that they have no legitimate claim to.

      Well, the judge seems to think there's room for at least some idiots to cling to her coattails and milk dollars from a franchise they have no legitimate claim to. From Groklaw:

      Notwithstanding Rowling's public statements of her intention to publish her own encyclopedia, the market for reference guides to the Harry Potter works is not exclusively hers to exploit or license, no matter the commercial success attributable to the popularity of the original works. See Twin Peaks, 996 F.2d at 1377 ("The author of 'Twin Peaks' cannot preserve for itself the entire field of publishable works that wish to cash in on the 'Twin Peaks' phenomenon"). The market for reference guides does not become derivative simply because the copyright holder seeks to produce or license one.

      I.e., no, it's not within her legal rights to prevent other people from making money off her work. There are reasons for why this case wasn't fair use, but that doesn't speak to the issue of people riding her wave as a whole.

  • by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @12:51PM (#24949623)
    I heard J.K. Rowling interviewed on NPR about this. She listed many of the books that are derivative works that she is thrilled about. The commonality with acceptable books is that they add original thoughts. The targeted book contained no original thoughts but just indexed material from her books, in many cases copying the content and even indexes from her books verbatim.

    The lawsuit was to stop the publication of the book; it had nothing to do with the $6k.
  • by arikol (728226) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:00PM (#24949767) Journal
    As stated above, copyright law has nothing to do with whether someone is successful. The fact is that Rowling had given them permission to have their verbatim copied lexicon as long as it was only free on the web. As soon as they tried to change it into a published work the whole thing changed. She made them absolutely clear from the beginning that no permission was extended to copying her work directly and selling it. So, this is one of very few of these cases where I would side with the super rich, mostly because that's fair in this case but also because it's the actual creator of the work who owns the copyright. This is what copyright is for, protect the CREATOR of stuff from freeloaders so that original creators have an incentive to keep on creating. It is usually abused by corporations who have half enslaved a bunch of creators (music business), but in this case the rights reside with the author. And as the judge states, works like this lexicon are usually protected, except it just copies too much directly, therefore it is not protected. Fair cop
  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:06PM (#24949875) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, can someone explain why competing reference books rule out fair use, especially given that she admits she hasn't even started on her version, years after his has been done?

  • by yar (170650) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:31PM (#24950269)

    actually read it, please. It's linked there. The judge relied on VERY fair-use unfriendly Second Circuit case law to come to his conclusion.

    While the judge does admit that the author does not have control of these types of works, and the judge states that some types of works should be encouraged, the actual analysis of what would constitute transformation really does make the likelihood of such works being published less likely.

    The judge left a pretty darned high threshold for what is considered "substantial" copying, and mentioned things like "fictional facts" and "paraphrasing" used to determine infringement.

    In any rate, the ruling is vague enough in its analysis that I'm confident it will act as a bar towards publishing similar works, even when verbatim copying does not occur. I expect publishers and potential authors will be more reluctant to pursue such works in the future.

  • by Spencerian (465343) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:39PM (#24950405) Homepage Journal

    There are fans out there who associate so deeply with their favorite writers that they mistake themselves as "owners" of the work. We see that all-too-often in the fan fiction arena.

    Some writers and their publishers will jump all over these people with cease-and-desists. Viacom did that on fan-based Star Trek web sites for a time until CBS took control of the Original Series rights as well as (through their official magazine) lauding notable fan fiction such as the Star Trek: New Voyages episode project.

    I'm a contributor on the Battlestar Wiki, which, as that lexicon web site did, serves as an unofficial encyclopedia on all aspects of the three Galactica series. We even have cast and crew visit and answer questions when they have time. It's a nice site. Plenty of equally great sites like it, too.

    But the contributors on Battlestar Wiki, and Memory Alpha, and Wookieepedia know very well that we always enjoy what we do so long as we do not profit in any way, don't claim data as our own, or make derivative works (such as what that lexicon does). If any of these were done, the results that occurred for that lexicon would have been the same.

    And I don't want to tick off NBC. They're grouchy.

    The fact she only sued for a few thousand dollars shows she was out to prove her rights, not to soak the defendant. I'd be surprised if she bothers to collect.

    • Hmm. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yar (170650)

      The courts AWARDED the minimum statutory balance, but that was the judge's decision.

      The Battlestar Wiki and Wookiepedia are technically derivative works. We're pretty much relying on fair use for the legality of the wikis, and those arguments were weakened by this case somewhat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The fact she only sued for a few thousand dollars shows she was out to prove her rights, not to soak the defendant. I'd be surprised if she bothers to collect.

      Negative. She was out for more, the judge was the one that decided the actual amount.

      From the article:

      As for damages, the court awarded the statutory minimum. First, the Lexicon hadn't been published yet, so there was no harm beyond the infringement. So, that meant $750.00 for each of the seven Harry Potter novels and each of the two companion books

  • by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @01:43PM (#24950477) Homepage

    I'm reading this blurb like this, "Judges, in a remarkably stupid an uninformed decision, said that JK Rowlings can be a greedy bitch." Wow.

  • by DnemoniX (31461) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @02:09PM (#24950785)

    For those of you who missed this the first time, you should really read his take on this whole mess. [hatrack.com]

  • by mschuyler (197441) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @02:29PM (#24951047) Homepage Journal

    The thing is, this ruling, which may be entirely proper in this particular case, has a chilling effect on other similar types of endeavors. I wrote a book I called "The Falco Dictionary" covering the Falco mystery novels. It has a tremendous amount of value-added information not found in the books. I have Google Earth coordinates of every single location mentioned in the books. When Falco mentions Troy, for example, I give you the precise geographical coordinates of the model of the Trojan Horse standing outside the visitor center. You can actually see and recognize it in Google Earth. When Falco says he walks past the Forum in Rome, I show you the building, which is still standing.

    I show where the author made a few mistakes, having Falco go through a gate in the Aurelian Wall, for example, that was built several hundred years after when he lived. I talk about historical events, dissect names, both real and imagined, point out allusions, and identify mythological characters. From what I have read of the Potter case my book comes nowhere near that state of infringement and amounts to a critical work. But the author objected on the grounds that she might want to do such a companion piece in the future and if her publisher refused her publication on the grounds there was already something out there, this would amount to loss of income, therefore she would sue.

    So, given the Potter decision, my publisher freaked out and withdrew the book. Now it's my loss of income.

  • I Fail to See... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @03:15PM (#24951621)
    By the points:

    1) I fail to see how JKR is "damaged" by this lexicon, unless it misrepresents her books, which there is no argument that ever did.

    2) For JKR to claim that this "discouraged" her from writing her own encyclopedia (and giving all that money to charity, which is supposed to melt our hearts in sympathy for her), appears spurious and said to bolster her case is simply because it is so hard to prove false. One is left to believe that JKR has killed a superior work because she fears she can't compete with a better author here.

    3) Despite the large amount of copying that weighed against the lexicon author I find his work transformative rather than mere cut & paste because:
    a) A huge amount of original research, organization, and sheer effort was put into its creation.
    b) How can you write any lexicon without referring directly to and quoting the original facts in their most original (hence correct) form?
    c) This is not intended to, nor would it ever be confused with, being a new, unauthorized HP novel.

    4) JKR is a very controlling author. You need only refer to her tightly demanded release dates for each new book and their draconian enforcement of early released copies for no apparent reason more than to bring additional fame to herself and allow her to read a couple chapters to a few children on the first night of official release.

    5) How could this have ever been infringement at all when it was never published due to prior restraint shown here? There should have been no statutory damages at all!

    To me, when JKR put HP out in the world (and was rewarded more than handsomely for it) it became part of the world at large. It succeeded because we cared about it so much. To then say that only JKR can dictate who is allowed to comment on it afterwards defys logic, humanity, and reason.

    That JKR found a judge to agree with her is equally sad.
    • Re:I Fail to See... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Wednesday September 10, 2008 @03:26PM (#24951775) Homepage Journal

      By the points: 1) I fail to see how JKR is "damaged" by this lexicon, unless it misrepresents her books, which there is no argument that ever did.

      There was no damage, hence the $6750 statutory damages award.

      2) For JKR to claim that this "discouraged" her from writing her own encyclopedia (and giving all that money to charity, which is supposed to melt our hearts in sympathy for her), appears spurious and said to bolster her case is simply because it is so hard to prove false. One is left to believe that JKR has killed a superior work because she fears she can't compete with a better author here.

      One of the most bizarre arguments ever made, that it competed with something she was thinking of writing.

      3) Despite the large amount of copying that weighed against the lexicon author I find his work transformative rather than mere cut & paste because: a) A huge amount of original research, organization, and sheer effort was put into its creation. b) How can you write any lexicon without referring directly to and quoting the original facts in their most original (hence correct) form? c) This is not intended to, nor would it ever be confused with, being a new, unauthorized HP novel.

      Even the judge agreed it was mostly transformative. Only a lunatic would buy the 'lexicon' rather than the novel.

      4) JKR is a very controlling author. You need only refer to her tightly demanded release dates for each new book and their draconian enforcement of early released copies for no apparent reason more than to bring additional fame to herself and allow her to read a couple chapters to a few children on the first night of official release.

      Well her bringing such a mean-spirited lawsuit certainly supports that notion.

      5) How could this have ever been infringement at all when it was never published due to prior restraint shown here? There should have been no statutory damages at all!

      Should have been a defendant's verdict.

      To me, when JKR put HP out in the world (and was rewarded more than handsomely for it) it became part of the world at large. It succeeded because we cared about it so much. To then say that only JKR can dictate who is allowed to comment on it afterwards def[ie]s logic, humanity, and reason.

      ... and the law.

      That JKR found a judge to agree with her is equally sad.

      Very.

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