Originally posted 2008-01-21 12:02:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

We wrote about the piggish nature of billionairess J. K. Rowling last fall in connection with her Death Eater-like persecution of an unauthorized fan site. Nowvoldemort-poster.jpg copyright maven Tim Wu (yes, him again!) weighs in:

Author J.K. Rowling and publisher Warner Brothers have sued the Lexicon for copyright infringement, exposing the big unanswered question: Are fan guides actually illegal?

As sympathetic as I am to Rowling and her rights as an author, the answer is no. There is a necessary and healthy line between what the initial author owns and what follow-on, or “secondary,” authors get to do, and Rowling is running over that line like the Hogwarts Express. The creators of H.P. Lexicon may not be as creative as Rowling, but they are authors, too, and deserve a little respect from the law. . . .

No one would read the Lexicon as a substitute for the Potter books; it is useless unless you’ve read the original, and that makes all the difference. . . .

No one would read the Lexicon as a substitute for the Potter books; it is useless unless you’ve read the original, and that makes all the difference.

Like we — well, okay, we were mostly quoting Bill Patry — said. For someone who holds herself out as quite the enlightened, politically-correct lady, Rowling (whether it’s just her or “her people”) should drop the Dudley Dursley imitation and fly off on her broomstick. Hat tip to Walter Olson.

UPDATE:  Marc Randazza, always the legal realist, says trial-level fact trumps ivory-tower theory — and that despite our learned opinions, Rowling is likely to win.

UPDATE AND WRAPPED: Marco was right — mainly.  Here’s all the updating.

By Ron Coleman

LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION blog author Ron Coleman is a member of Dhillon Law Group in their New York City and Montclair, New Jersey offices. He is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law and Princeton University.

4 thoughts on “Lady Voldemart”
  1. Not having read the Lexicon – although on some blog or other I saw a note that alleged the print version would be quite a bit different than the online version, which may be relevant – I can’t form an opinion on the instant case.

    However, I would distinguish between a “mere rearrangement” and a scholarly work. If the Lexicon is just a Harry Potter Dictionary, composed of nothing significantly more than a collection of terms with quoted definitions from the books, I would say that that was a pretty weak argument to scholarship/reporting/etc. If it is more of an encyclopedia, with discussions of the underlying meaning of words and phrases, analysis of metaphor, or commentary on literary device, the defense becomes much stronger.

    Rowling is being vilified for this – perhaps justly, perhaps unjustly. In the broader view, she has been quite tolerant of fansites and fanfic, much more so than most other authors who have taken notice of the phenomenon. I think she’s being treated rather harshly, and with no credit for her general good faith, in a situation where all the facts are not yet in.


  2. I thought Hillary Clinton would make a perfect “Lady Voldemart” when she finally drops out of the presidential race. Ralph Fiennes is too good looking…and a much better actor/actress.

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    What needs “moderation”?

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