Photo: JP Masclet.
Author J.K. Rowling won her lawsuit against Michigan-based publisher RDR Books on Monday, blocking the publication of The Harry Potter Lexicon by Steven Vander Ark. Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment held that the planned publication of the book, based on a Web site of the same name maintained by Vander Ark, would infringe on Rowling’s copyright to her bestselling Harry Potter series.
“I took no pleasure at all in bringing legal action and am delighted that this issue has been resolved favourably,” said Rowling in a statement. “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 Now the court has ordered that it must not be published.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.”
In his opinion, U.S. district court judge Robert Patterson said that RDR “had failed to establish an affirmative defense of fair use” and issued a permanent injunction against the Lexicon. According to Reuters, Patterson awarded the plaintiffs $750 for each of Rowling’s seven Harry Potter novels, as well as $750 each of the Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, for damages totaling $6,750.
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. said in a statement, “We are obviously pleased with today’s ruling by Judge Patterson supporting the position that the proposed lexicon book infringes on Ms. Rowling’s rights. As a content company, it is imperative that we work vigorously on all fronts to protect the intellectual property rights of those who create the stories and characters, words, pictures and music that entertain and benefit the worldwide audience.”
Rowling and Warner Bros. filed suit against RDR in fall 2007; the trial itself took place over the span of three days in April, with Judge Patterson deliberating the case for more than four months.
RDR Books’ legal team included lawyers from Stanford University Law School’s Fair Use Project, as well as support from the Right to Read Fund, which recently announced that it is raising money to help other artists facing legal threats against their works. “We are encouraged by the fact the Court recognized that as a general matter authors do not have the right to stop the publication of reference guides and companion books about literary works,” said a statement from RDR. “As for the Lexicon, we are obviously disappointed with the result, and RDR is considering all of its options.”