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Rowling Sues Harry Potter Lexicon 527

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-first-rule-of-potter-is-you-don't-talk-about-potter dept.
Snape kills Trinity with Rosebud writes "Apparently famous authors don't like it if you try to make a buck using their imaginary property because J.K. Rowling is suing the publishers of the Harry Potter Lexicon for infringement. This should prove an interesting test case for fair use given that the lexicon contains mostly factual information about the series, not copies of the books' text. Of course, both sides seem a bit touchy about imaginary property rights, with Rowling's lawyers being miffed after being told to print it themselves when they asked for a paper copy of the lexicon's website, and the lexicon website itself using one of those insipid right click disabling scripts."
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Rowling Sues Harry Potter Lexicon

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  • well that's funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deathtopaulw (1032050) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:35AM (#21361021) Homepage
    the first thing I see on the main page is a quote from JKR:
    "This is such a great site...my natural home." - JK Rowling
    I assume this is a lawyer thing
    • Re:well that's funny (Score:5, Informative)

      by burne (686114) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:54AM (#21361127)
      If you read on and visit Rowling's site you will notice something. The story is quite different from what the grandfather-post suggests. Rowling has been helping the lexicon so for. But now the makers of the lexicon intend to make money by publishing a book, and that is where Rowling has to draw the line. She's happy helping fans, but selling books based on her work is a bridge to far.

      I take no pleasure in the fact that publication has been prevented for the present. On the contrary, I feel massively disappointed that this matter had to come to court at all. Despite repeated requests, the publishers have refused to even countenance making any changes to the book to ensure that it does not infringe my rights. (source [jkrowling.com]
      • by edwardpickman (965122) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @05:55AM (#21361497)
        It was her choice to stop writing Harry Potter books and she had planned this for a decade so it has nothing to do with running out of ideas.

        A lot of people seem to feel the situation is different because she made a billion or so off the Potter series. Why legally has her situation changed since she was an out of work single mother handwriting a novel? She worked for more than a decade creating the characters so why shouldn't she have the right to control her work? If she allows people to freely expand on her work then she looses control and it becomes something she never intended. It happened with Robert E Howard's work after his death. Many other authors added to his mythologies but none of them equaled the original and most were just trying to make a buck off something popular. Nothing is stopping any of these people from creating original works but they know it's easier to get noticed if you lift from something popular. This is more about taking the easy road to success than creating something. She didn't take the easy road so why should others be allowed to ride her coat tails? Rowlings got lucky with the success of the series but I'm thrilled for her. She's not part of the evil empire she's a little person that made good and crossed over. She should be an axample to everyone not some one to villify when she tries to protect her creation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        This is an example where copyright is fundamentally broken and hinders our culture*. Every work that has been ever been created by humankind is a derivative work of our culture, that is how building a culture works. Copyright criminalizes that process, which is akin to shooting ourselves in the foot.

        *Some would say Harry Potter is not the best example of culture.
    • by rvw (755107)

      the first thing I see on the main page is a quote from JKR:
      "This is such a great site...my natural home." - JK Rowling
      Direct link to the J.K.Rowling Official Site, Section: Fan Sites [jkrowling.com].
  • by MikeFM (12491) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:39AM (#21361057) Homepage Journal
    Well - she seems to have ran out of stuff to write about Harry Potter so I guess her creative abilities have came and gone leaving her with only a few billion dollars to show for it. Time to start getting sue crazy over IP. Evidently she doesn't realize how much like Voldemort SCO was and how like Harry Potter Linux is. She is on the wrong side. Never thought she'd become a Death Eater.
    • by heinousjay (683506) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:46AM (#21361085) Journal
      Seriously, who does this woman think she is? All she did was all the hard work in creating something. Who is she to profit from it?
      • by LingNoi (1066278)

        Seriously, who does this woman think she is? All she did was all the hard work in creating something. Who is she to profit from it?
        She's a billionaire who has profited from it. It's not like she is in the gutter eating scraps of food.
        • by NickCatal (865805) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @05:12AM (#21361249)
          Obviously you did not see the sarcasm in jay's post

          I support the idea of having a lexicon/wiki/whatever. But going out and trying to sell the information that is inside the books is taking it too far.

          If you wrote a book, would you want someone taking all the facts out of your book and publishing it for their own profit? This isn't fair use here. If these people wanted to make the sparknotes of Harry Potter, helping the reader understand the books, that is fine. The writer of the notes isn't taking away any money from the author and is adding their own content. This is literally taking every fact out of all 7 books and publishing them for a profit, and not sharing that money with the author.
          • by LingNoi (1066278)
            I agree that is going too far to sell someone else's work but if you were a billionaire would you really care that much? All it's going to get you is negative publicity to the point where it's not even worth it.

            Hence why I said it's not like she is hardly making any money from her work. She, her children, her children's children, her children's children's children, etc, etc are set for life. None of her familey will ever have to work for at least 500 years maybe longer on that money.

            So why go for the jugula
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by arose (644256)

            But going out and trying to sell the information that is inside the books is taking it too far.
            No it's not, factual information isn't and shouldn't be protected.
          • by elFisico (877213) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @07:58AM (#21362105)

            I support the idea of having a lexicon/wiki/whatever. But going out and trying to sell the information that is inside the books is taking it too far.
            Wrong. Information is free (well, it used to be and it definitely should). It is the physical representation of that information that gets protection, via copyright or patents.

            So Rowling is clearly in the wrong if she insists that the whole H.P. universe is protected because she invented it. Only her words describing that universe are protected. The lexicon has every right to collect and write about each and every item in that universe, using the exact names and concepts and so forth. But it must not use any of Rowlings sentences to do so...
          • Seriously? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by supercrisp (936036)
            I'm an English prof. My shelves are full of books that regurgitate the facts of the books they address. They're called "reference works." A lot work goes into them, and they're often quite useful. Yet they can in no way replace the books they are about. Novels and such are textual works of art. Reference books are not. They are references to works of art, useful for study, which is what I'm guessing Rowling fanatics do with this info on Hairy Pooter. But those reference books, useful they may be, just aren'
        • by fractoid (1076465) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @05:15AM (#21361265) Homepage

          She's a billionaire who has profited from it. It's not like she is in the gutter eating scraps of food.
          Let me rephrase the GP's post:

          Seriously, who does this woman think she is? All she did was all the hard work in creating something. Who is she to profit more than you say she should from it?
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by LingNoi (1066278)
            Are you seriously proposing that she wouldn't make any more money because of this website?
            • by jotok (728554)
              She's not suing because of the website. She's suing because they're trying to make money off the website by publishing a book.

              Capisce?
              • by LingNoi (1066278)
                You didn't answer my question. Are you proposing she wouldn't make any more money from her creative works? Are you saying that this book would sell so many copies that it is worth it for her to take legal action?
          • Seriously, who does this woman think she is? All she did was all the hard work in creating something. Who is she to profit more than you say she should from it?

            Actually, he's just the person to say. You see, copyright is a bargain between the government - in the name of the people - and the author. In any other case, for example if the government would aquire toilet seats for billions of pounds, the people would be rightly outraged at both the government and at the company selling the toilet seats for bill

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jotok (728554)
          Ok. So, how much money should I get to make off of my IP before I don't get to profit anymore?
          • by LingNoi (1066278)
            You can profit as much as you want, but why go after your fans that use your work to fund their fan site?

            It doesn't make sense since she wouldn't benefit from taking them down and would actually effect her negatively from all the publicity.
            • by jotok (728554)
              You're totally correct, but the original question was why should she profit more when she's already worth billions?

              It's the wrong question to ask because it implies she's being immoral for profiting. The correct question is, why alienate your fans? This merely implies that she's being shortsighted (or even stupid).

              Also, once again, let me point out that she's not trying to "take down" the site. She contributes to the site. But she does not want them to make money by publishing a book.
              • by LingNoi (1066278)
                Well sucks to be her because after looking at the wiki [hp-lexicon.org] which they want to re-package it looks like fair use to me. I can't see any large blobs of text taken from the book.

                The only reason she is putting up this lawsuit is because she wants to re-package the wiki herself which is probably why she was contributing to it in the first place.
        • Are you saying it's OK to steal from the rich but not from the poor? That sounds like the politics of envy to me.
        • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @08:47AM (#21362355)
          She's a billionaire who has profited from it. It's not like she is in the gutter eating scraps of food.

          Well, technically she is, but British cuisine has always been rather peculiar.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Them's the breaks when you create something that enters the popular culture. Do you believe that third-parties shouldn't be allowed to sell "unauthorised" software for Windows because that would be preventing Microsoft from making a profit from all the hard work they did creating Windows? If so, then fine; I disagree, but at least you have a consistent position. If you disagree with that, then how is this different?

        The content on the Lexicon seems to have taken a lot of time, effort and attention to detai

        • by jotok (728554)
          Oh, goody. I was wondering when the poor analogies would show up.

          Microsoft releases APIs and so forth allowing other entities to produce software: It is explicitly allowed because it adds value.

          Rowling explicitly allowed these folks to add value with their fan work. She does not explicitly allow them to make a profit by selling books.

          The only "point" in your post is that she would be a lot smarter to try other options. This is correct. But nowhere do you state a case that she is legally or morally obli
  • by FredDC (1048502) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:41AM (#21361063)

    ... with Rowling's lawyers being miffed after being told to print it themselves when they asked for a paper copy of the lexicon's website, and the lexicon website itself using one of those insipid right click disabling scripts."

    This will probably keep them busy for a while!
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:44AM (#21361075)

    the lexicon contains mostly factual information

    And all this time I thought it was a work of fiction. You mean magic is real!?!?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mrjb (547783)
      You mean magic is real!?!?
      What do you mean real? If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then "real" is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:56AM (#21361141) Journal

    Other popular universes might be Star Wars, Star Trek, the Discworld etc etc. How many of these have books published that are NOT sanctioned by the original copyright holder?

    All those Star Trek tech manuals, or star wars art books, or the discworld science books are ALL published with the blessing of Paramount, Lucasfilm and Terry Pratchet. (The ones I got at least)

    So are there any books out there that do something similar that were NOT officially sanctioned. I am not talking about parodies like Star Wrecked, these fall under different laws.

    Movies spawn novells, these also seem to be often written with the blessing of the studio.

    So where is the evidence that this kinda of thing is common practice?

    This site is NOT a synopsis or a review or even a discussion site. It is clearly a product designed to work of the original content by extending it. Selling it for money makes it clear they are profitting of someone elses work.

    While some one slashdot favor a more lenient copyright system, I think even the most rabid filesharer usually is against people who pirate for profit.

    There is a real issue here, who owns the rights to for instance a 3D model of an x-wing. Worse, who owns the rights to a picture of a light-saber. Does it become a Star Wars image because someone hold a sword of light OR does it have to have Jedi written all over it before it becomes a Star Wars image.

    But as intresting a discussion as that is, it doesn't apply here. If you browse the site you can clearly see that this is a 100% ripoff of the original work that would have no value on its own. It doesn't fall under the rules for a biography, it is not parody. Fair use is about using a limited amount of someone elses work in your own work.

    So how much of this site is their own work and how much that of the original author? I don't think it is a simple measurement, if I produce a detailed layout of the Enterprise, then the resulting blueprint may well be 99% my own work, but that 1% that makes it the enterprise also puts it firmly in the hands of Paramount. Without that 1% it wouldjust be a blueprint, it is their original work that makes it 'worth' something.

    Look at it that way, would this site be worth anything without the original work. No, I don't think so.

    So I think in this case the copyright/trademark? holder is correct. They tolerated the site because it wasn't commericial, but printing it is clearly designed to earn money. Sorry, but if you want to profit of someone elses original work to such a degree, you got to get their permission first.

    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      Other popular universes might be Star Wars, Star Trek, the Discworld etc etc. How many of these have books published that are NOT sanctioned by the original copyright holder? All those Star Trek tech manuals, or star wars art books, or the discworld science books are ALL published with the blessing of Paramount, Lucasfilm and Terry Pratchet. (The ones I got at least) So are there any books out there that do something similar that were NOT officially sanctioned. I am not talking about parodies like Star Wr
      • I think that is the key difference. I can write a book ABOUT Harry Potter and Rowling would have no case. This site is based ON her work, not ABOUT her work.

        A book that shows you a made up layout of Q's lab (sorry not a James Bond fan so don't hang me if I get it wrong)n is different then a book that tells you about when the movies were made or talks about the people involved.

        Lots of people have written a shit load of articles ABOUT Trek. Discussions of the women in spocks live, who would have been a good

    • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @05:50AM (#21361481) Homepage
      Let's be clear and simple on this point:

      Copyright is about the right to copy something. There are rules about fair use and how much copying versus original content is allowed. In this case, it would seem NO amount of copyrighted material was extracted and used, but rather statistics and facts about the series of works are being written.

      And the question of "who owns the facts" has been up in the air for a while. Let's look at sports statistics and facts. The various parties in control of profiting from baseball, for example, have started lawsuits against publication of histories, stats, facts and figures related to baseball. "Who owns the facts" is a big deal.

      Initially, I was thinking "not copyright -- it can't apply! they must be talking about trademark or some other intellectual property." This is not the case either. This is a [potentially] useful collection of information about the series.

      And to pick another slashdot favorite parallel reference: The Church of Scientology often threatens and sues for copyright infringement for very similar activities. Often listing facts, histories and statistics about the CoS results in "copyright" related legal activity where the CoS is the plaintiff.

      Who owns the facts?! How far can this "fact owning" notion go? Can people get sued by paramount for the creation and listing of the number of times that Spock says the word "Logic" or "Logical" for the purposes of a drinking game?

      This is an important issue and it should really be put to the test and laid out clearly in precedent or law for it to be clear to everyone. "WHO OWNS THE FACTS?"
    • Selling it for money makes it clear they are profitting of someone elses work.

      And that would be bad because? Remember the 'work' in this case is just information!

      This entire society wouldn't exist if copyright would have existed since ancient times. The creation of derivative works is the cornerstone of a healthy culture, since almost everything is a derivative work, just not always blatantly obvious.

      If copyright would have gotten abolished in the early 20th century, we would be possibly not only cultu

  • A journalist should be allowed to write a review on a book, and be paid for it.
    A professor should be able to publish an article interpreting the newest published literature.
    A Harry Potter junkie should be able to write a book analyzing the lexicon in the novels.

    It's a double standard; the journalist and professor are safe, but the Harry Potter fan gets sued.
  • [...], that's not the weirdest thing of all. That honor is reserved for the Lexicon itself, which certainly takes liberal advantage of fair use to print hundreds of little snippets from the Harry Potter books. But try to copy one line from the site for purposes of commentary and criticism, and you're met with the dialog box, "copyright 2001-2006 The Harry Potter Lexicon." Nice.
    I have no problems copying snippets off the HP Lexicon site, do you?
  • Good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zorque (894011)
    Sure, sure, mod me down, but I don't agree with them trying to make money off of her name. Sure, if it was free (which it was in website form, and of which Rowling herself approved), it'd be great. But I really don't think it's OK for them to profit off of this. I'm sure many people here would be incensed to find out they'd paid money for a pirated copy of an album (I know this is different, but they're both IP issues), and I know if you'd created a bunch of highly successful books you wouldn't make them pu
    • I don't understand that attitude. It's one thing to own the copyright for a specific work of fiction you created. It's another thing to own a copyright on the world and characters that you created. Sure, sue anyone who grabs text wholesale from the books. But I have never understood why there is any rational reason that I can't go and write (and sell) a book about hobbits who learn magic at Hogwarts in an attempt to prevent Goldfinger from making another death star.

      I've been making a little list of constitu
  • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @05:21AM (#21361305) Homepage Journal
    I think we should use the phrase imaginary property much more often.
  • There are few professional writers I've seen lately that are greedier than her... :-p
  • by Orthuberra (1145497) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @05:29AM (#21361355)
    No Slashdot thread is complete without RMS's opinion [stallman.org] on the matter.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's one of those internet rules. The party with the right-click disabling script is always wrong no matter what. No exceptions. Kill it with fire.
  • Not Surprised (Score:2, Informative)

    by libcrypto (599315)
    J. K. Rowling's lawyers seems to be on a suing spree.. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=487334&in_page_id=1811 [dailymail.co.uk] This one they lost.
  • by Tyrannosaurs (1148605) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @08:58AM (#21362443)
    If you look at Rowling's history in matters of licensing, you'll tend to find that if she's anything she's a control freak rather than greedy. The contract with WB for the films gives her a near unprecidented level of control over the films, and she personally reviews many of the merchandising proposals.

    Her concerns tend to be around keeping Harry "pure" - that is retaining control over how everything around it is presented, rather than wringing every last penny out of it.

    In this instance it will be about wanting a single authorative lexicon, rather than multiple competing ones, some of which will not fit her vision of things, meet the quality standards she wants or whatever.

    I'm not saying that this is right/legal/good, just that claims of greed show little understanding about the individual they are being made against and are probably wrong.
  • by sadangel (702907) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @09:02AM (#21362471)
    Simple. Re-title the book "The Lexicon of the Godless World of the Evil Harry Potter and his Stupid Friends". Presto! Suddenly it's satire and protected speech.
  • Ego (Score:5, Funny)

    by microTodd (240390) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @09:41AM (#21362933) Homepage Journal
    All discussion here about how much right an author/imaginer has to "protect" their property, I suspect a lot of this is ego. Ms. Rowling is probably very protective of her work because she thinks she's the greatest writer since Charles Dickens.

    See following quote: "In February 2007 Rowling issued a statement on her website about finishing the final book, in which she compared her mixed feelings of "mourning" and "incredible sense of achievement" to those expressed by Charles Dickens in the preface of the 1850 edition of David Copperfield, "a two-years' imaginative task." "To which," she added, "I can only sigh, try seventeen years, Charles..."" [usatoday.com]

    I mean, wow. That's like me reading John Carmack's .plan and saying, "Oh John, if only you had to work on my XML-driven timesheet application..."
  • very simple case (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drDugan (219551) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:13PM (#21366221) Homepage
    Rowling and her lawyers don't "own" the harry potter universe. There is no legal vehicle for owning whole concepts - save patents which restrict the practice to specific claims. She has copyright and trademarks and other legal rights defined by states who have (until recently) the monopoly on military force to enforce it. Copyright does not apply here, unless she is pressing the fair use limits which on my read of the site, this is clearly within a reasonable legal scope. In no place have I seen diligent enforcement of trademarks on the content I read in the site, so I assume the book will not violate her trademarks.

    So, the premise of the lawsuit is flawed, and will most likely fail. ironically, the effect is exactly opposite to the seemingly intended result - stopping the book. Rowling's dogs have given a bunch of free press for the effort and the book will have much better sales as a result.

    Balance.

  • Cliff Notes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MooseTick (895855) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:31PM (#21366587) Homepage
    I wonder how Cliff Notes fall into this category. I'm sure they don't get approval for every book they summarize, analyze, quote, and review.
  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:48PM (#21369873) Homepage
    She visits the site. She is aware of its existence. She has participated in its development. She has given implied consent to its existence.

    Now all of a sudden she has decided it is a copyright violation. Apparently it wasn't yesterday, but today it is because the owners want to make money from it.

    The intent of the owners does NOT change whether the site is a copyright violation. If it wasn't a violation yesterday, its not a violation today just because someone might make a penny.

    Haven't you made enough fucking money off this crap anyway?

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