Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

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

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the slap-it-into-gringott's-bank dept.

The Courts 521

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.

cancel ×

521 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Poor Harry... (4, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949415)

"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!"

Lookie! Steve Jobs' Hand: Death's Door for sure!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949469)

http://i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/ne/p/2008/newnano2_550x367.jpg [com.com]

Whowa! Maybe his "imminent death" was a bit off the mark before but this does not bode well for his saying that

http://i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/ne/p/2008/appleeventstart_550x367.jpg [com.com]

next year.

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

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Poor Harry... (1, Flamebait)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949727)

Imagine Rowling as a pimp whoring out everyones favorite beloved bespectacled orphan wizard boy.

Re:Poor Harry... (3, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949897)

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.

Re:Poor Harry... (1)

shankarunni (1002529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949927)

It's not just a question of pride or vindictiveness. It's a matter of protecting the entire copyright in the first place.

If Rowling had let this slide, then the next person who copies the character or settings wholesale, and tries to publish "Harry Potter" sequels, would have a valid defense that Rowling didn't protect the copyright for this guy, so she effectively has given up the copyright.

Blame the courts and the law.

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

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949965)

Copyright is not trademark. You don't have to defend copyright to keep it.

Re:Poor Harry... (3, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#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... (4, Interesting)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949995)

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.

What does her wealth have to do with it? (5, Insightful)

cartman94501 (454060) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949523)

Yes, of course law still stands, but applying it makes her greedy and looking stupid.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949633)

Yes, of course law still stands, but applying it makes her greedy and looking stupid.

If she doesn't enforce it, though, she could lose her standing to sue in court. A valid affirmative defense in a copyright suit is to say that the copyright holder knew that infringement was taking place and failed to do anything about it.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (4, Informative)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949753)

That is true when it comes to trademark protection and patent protection, but NOT copyright protection.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949873)

You're confusing 'standing to sue' with 'losing a trademark'.

In the U.S. (and probably in the U.K., too), if you become financially damaged in a given situation, and you knowingly allowed that situation to occur, you lose your standing to sue by failing to mitigate your own damages. This is called the 'doctrine of laches [wikipedia.org] ' and is a form of estoppel.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949941)

For that one particular instance of infringement, yes, but you do not lose your copyright on it as you would your trademark protection -- or am I mistaken? Estoppel is different from losing your copyright.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (3, Insightful)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949755)

The ancillary to this is she could have given him tacit permission to make his lexicon, or worked out an exclusive licensing scheme. Of course, she's not always in control of who gets sued - just because she owns the IP doesn't mean she retains all publishing rights everywhere.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949783)

>A valid affirmative defense in a copyright suit is to say that the copyright holder knew that infringement was taking place and failed to do anything
>about it.

I suppose that is a UK thing, but not true at all in the USA.

You may have certain interpretations of trademark law confused with copyright.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949575)

From a legal point of view, Rowling's wealth and success are irrelevant. However, Rowling, trying to pursuit "justice" made herself look like a complete asshole, which, I believe, is not far from the truth.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0, Troll)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949579)

"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."

That's because rich people are inherently evil, and have no rights under any civilized system of law.

Sorry, NYCL - you blew this call.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949625)

If she didn't plan to make money on her own encyclopedia then why would she care about the "Lexicon"? Seriously, it had nothing to do with "copyright" except as an excuse.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949655)

Rowling's megalomaniacal desire for absolute control over her cash cow is understandable in a Metallica kind of way.

A more pressing question is, why is there such a demand for her infantile shit? A friend once asked me to read Harry Potter to her and I found that it is without a doubt the most sophomoric and overrated shiterature I'd ever laid my eyes on. Come to think of it, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis also suck-ass overrated authors.

Harry Potter fanbois should pick up some Dostoevsky -- I promise that will make their nuts drop and put hair on their chests! Why spend life daydreaming in fairyland when real life is so much more interesting?

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (1)

uberjack (1311219) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949809)

While I agree about Harry Potter being sophomoric, the Tolkien comment suggests that you haven't read enough of his works to understand the author. Tolkien didn't just write; he created worlds. In this regard he's different from most fantasy authors - not until Star Trek: TNG was something of that scale attempted (languages created, cultures defined, etc...) While Rowling's (inexplicable) success rests on the few books she wrote, the staggering mass of Tolkien's works is still not completely published. Narnia may have been something close to LOTR, if it wasn't thinly veiled religious drivel that made me want to retch.

Literature? (1, Troll)

deck (201035) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950065)

You both sound as if the highlights of literature to you are the letters in the front of a Penthouse magazine. Anything else is just drivel.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950077)

Ever take an argument class? Because you're terrible.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949675)

Some would say that it's a reasonable heuristic to "promote ... arts and sciences" *, while regulating as little as possible, by tapering off the benefit of a government-granted monopoly after a certain amount of success.

We are seeing a very reasonable reaction to the over-extension of length of the copyright term. Going to a shorter period of time, instead of "success", would be more objective and certainly simpler, the same way the fair tax would be. That doesn't necessarily mean it's the right way to do it. For one, different kinds of works have different "use curves" over times; the Harry Potters burn bright and fade fairly quickly, whereas encyclopedias have a more gradual impact.

*: I left out the "useful" because let's face it, Harry Potter isn't very. The principle still holds.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (5, Insightful)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949709)

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.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949719)

Damn posting, Kdawson is an idiot for not removing the personal bias from the blurb.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (5, Insightful)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949771)

Kdawson is an idiot for not removing the personal bias from the blurb.

Point of order. Why is it wrong for a Slashdot post to express an opinion? Especially where the submitter provided the actual, 68-page, decision so that readers can make up their own mind.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (5, Funny)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949837)

"Why is it wrong for a Slashdot post to express an opinion?"

Because of the borg, you will be assimilated, resistance is futile. opinion must be shared by all, or not exist. there can be no bias, except that of the slashdrone. there must be no argument on what is right, for the slashdrones can not argue.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (4, Insightful)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950069)

First, because few people read the article (especially when it's the size of a small novel), so making a hugely biased summary distorts the facts. Second, it's supposed to be a news site. Maybe CNN and Fox don't worry about showing their bias, but that doesn't make it right, and it'd be nice if there were slightly higher standards here.

Also, in this case specifically, the "didn't make enough money" comment is just plain stupid, not to mention irrelevant. Is it legal to commit crimes against the wealthy now? Or maybe there's a new law saying you can only make so much money? What does it even mean to make too much money, and who are you to make the determination?

Not really what I expect from a highly over-paid lawyer. ;-)

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949961)

What's wrong with a slashdot editor (or the submitter, for that matter, who I have a great deal of respect for) putting personal bias in a submission? This isn't the New Yourk Times; it's news for nerds. Nobody does objective reporting here; it's a site with links to news items that we nerds find interesting/informative/humorous/whatever, and a venue for we nerds to express our opinions/expound on/joke about/whatever on said items.

The "as if J. K. Rowling didn't make enough money on Harry Potter" is a slam, but it's a slam I agree with. Not all of us worship the almighty dollar, not all of us are Ferengis. I daresay most of us are more a United Federation of Planets type, who write FOSS software or post art (writing, music, etc) for free on the internet.

It's hard to say whether it was NYCL or kdawson who slammed Rowling, as when I've submitted stories that got posted sometimes they get posted verbatim and sometimes it's as if someone else submitted it.

But at any rate, dude, you had too much Jolt today. Lay off and get some sleep.

-mcgrew

OTPS- I've been posting as sm62704; there will be one more journal and no more comments from that account. I got an email from samzepus, I should be able to get the password for my old "mcgrew" nick back. AC as I still can't get into either account)

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949883)

Rowling's wealth and success means she can't be a victim?

Legally, it's more the reverse. Her wealth, fame, and reputation pretty much ensures she'll always be the victim if going up against someone without the money to afford equal representation. Which is where some of the unfair, but understandable, bitterness comes in.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949733)

It's only irrelevant to the case. It's not irrelevant to what we think of her. The case is decided so there's no point in talking about that so she's the only thing left to talk about.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (5, Informative)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949785)

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:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949799)

She was in contact off and on with the Lexicon creators for years now, and gave them a nod of approval, occasionally correcting them or telling them where they were incorrect on something.

Honestly, I'm pissed off that Rowling sued them. Without her fans, she wouldn't have made a dime.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (2, Insightful)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949811)

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 relevant, even though they do not play into the proper interpretation and application of the law as it stands.

No system of intellectual property rights is going to be perfect; when rights are based on social benefit rather than an inherant moral theory, there are always going to be edge cases where the system works against its ideals. The question is, how broken is the current system? Can we do better? Does society find that the system does more good than harm?

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

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (4, Interesting)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949925)

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.

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (0)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949833)

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.

Unfortunately, it's not.

Slashdot - Editorials for Nerds. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949955)

"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."

So much for "News for Nerds," huh?

Re:What does her wealth have to do with it? (4, Insightful)

blantonl (784786) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949991)

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

Hold your horses! (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949451)

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.

Re:Hold your horses! (5, Insightful)

Rayeth (1335201) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Hold your horses! (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949715)

Bingo. Coppying excerpts for purposes of ccommentary and criticism of a work is generally an acceptable practice that is considered fair use. Compiling a bunch of excerpts and publishing them as a lexicon without adding anything original and of value is a clear case of infringement.

Re:Hold your horses! (2, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949659)

Oh please.

The judge granted summary judgement on the flimsiest of grounds - a reference work for a multiple-volume work of fiction, by definition, will be "a dry reference."

Most reference books contain unique descriptions and commentary above and beyond the information presented in the source material.

And if you've ever looked at the Lexicon website, you know that it does precisely that. The judge fucked up on this point of law, because the Lexicon writer was a little guy and Rowling carries around an army of lawyers.

It's a sad day for the legal system and I hope this gets overturned on appeal - of course, by that point the damage is done.

Re:Hold your horses! (2, Insightful)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949731)

Oh please. The judge granted summary judgement on the flimsiest of grounds - a reference work for a multiple-volume work of fiction, by definition, will be "a dry reference." Most reference books contain unique descriptions and commentary above and beyond the information presented in the source material. And if you've ever looked at the Lexicon website, you know that it does precisely that. The judge fucked up on this point of law, because the Lexicon writer was a little guy and Rowling carries around an army of lawyers. It's a sad day for the legal system and I hope this gets overturned on appeal - of course, by that point the damage is done.

Thank you, Moryath. It's always a pleasure to hear from someone who actually knows something about copyright law.

Re:Hold your horses! (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949907)

NYCL, are you trying to lose all respect? Moryath's post was way off base based on the evidence presented in this case. If you believe otherwise, you need to present a reasonable argument to the contrary. Not simply cherry pick those who agree with you and pat them on the back. Rather than building up that individual, you are dragging your own reputation through the mud.

If you want more support on your side, then I suggest you treat Slashdot as you would a courtroom: Argue your case!

You never know. If you actually have a case, you might gain more support. If you don't, it will become clear very quickly. Either way you'll have a much better chance at gaining respect for your beliefs than by making defamatory statements like, "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." As a lawyer, you should know better.

Here's a better idea (-1, Troll)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950035)

I have a better idea for you.

Read my response to your bullshit below, and stop flaming people (especially Mr. Beckerman), you disgusting little troll.

The law is clear. The fact that the judge was an idiot who didn't pay attention to the points of law is also clear.

Re:Hold your horses! (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949801)

The judge granted summary judgement on the flimsiest of grounds - a reference work for a multiple-volume work of fiction, by definition, will be "a dry reference."

You hinged your argument on the wrong part of that sentence. "Dry reference" is not illegal, nor is it the judge's words. "Reorganized", however, IS illegal when we are speaking about copyrighted works. That is what the judge found against.

And if you've ever looked at the Lexicon website, you know that it does precisely that

Hardly. The lexicon was read aloud in court, along with the source material it pulled from. The book was a clear case of plagiarism to the court. The publisher can feel free to appeal the decision, but I doubt they'll find much sympathy from an appeals judge.

The crux of your defense appears to be that a website previously existed that Rowling was happy with. Yet one has to be clear on one aspect here: There is a large gulf between publishing large pieces of someone's work for a no-cost reference and publishing someone else's work for profit. The defendant may have had a website that Rowling was happy with and thus not inclined to take legal action against (effectively giving approval for the use), but the book should have either added significantly more value over the source material OR have sought approval from the Rowling before attempting to go to press.

FWIW, PJ does an excellent job in reaching the same conclusion in her Groklaw post. Kudos to kdawson for adding that useful link to balance out an otherwise defamatory post.

Re:Hold your horses! (2, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950007)

Hardly. The lexicon was read aloud in court, along with the source material it pulled from. The book was a clear case of plagiarism to the court.

You mean selected snippets of the Lexicon were read in order to trick the judge into believing that that was all there was. A clear logical fallacy, but common tactic in cases like this.

The crux of your defense appears to be that a website previously existed that Rowling was happy with. Yet one has to be clear on one aspect here: There is a large gulf between publishing large pieces of someone's work for a no-cost reference and publishing someone else's work for profit.

Which is funny, considering the HP Lexicon website itself had advertising revenue [gothamist.com] associated with it.

And of course, there's the fact that the research was obviously independent, given that Rowling started attacking them for "getting things wrong":

Vander Ark's frown did turn upside down at one point during his three hour testimony when an attorney said Rowling had criticized his Lexicon's erroneous etymology for the door-opening charm "Alohomora;" Vander Ark had speculated that the word originated from "aloha" and the Latin word "mora." In fact, Rowling testified, Alohomora comes from a West African dialect.

In summary: the judge was dazzled by Rowling's star power and way too much lawyering, and should never be let near a copyright case again because he's proven himself utterly incompetent in the area.

Re:Hold your horses! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949981)

Can you explain what a 'dry reference' is? I'm not familiar with the term, and a quick googling doesn't find anything very informative, so I suspect there are others here who might like to know as well.

Re:Hold your horses! (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950097)

Every fiction reference book I've ever looked through (LotR oriented, mostly) has also been decidedly light on verbatim-quoted material. What I've read so far about this lexicon indicates that, whatever else it has, it contains masses of the author's own text.

Also, is it certain that the book contains all the supposed extra commentary and whatnot that exists on the site? (one thing that comes to mind is that anything user added may be omitted) Again (and I can't check the website from work) the impression i get is that whatever value-add the site has, the book is more like an index of quoted material.

Enders Game anyone? (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949913)

Harry Potter lifts material shamelessly from Enders Game, but she seems to have not noticed this..

Orson Scott Card has, but unlike her, he doesn't feel the need to take issue with it.

Like what? (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950029)

I've read both. What was lifted exactly?

Just like the books... (4, Funny)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949475)

*JK points wand at lexicon project*

Avada Kedavra!

Re:Just like the books... (0, Troll)

PawNtheSandman (1238854) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949635)

Celebra cadabra?

Re:Just like the books... (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950015)

Harry Potter and the Case of the Greedy Writer, in stores soon!

Re:Just like the books... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950031)

Shouldn't you pay royalties for the use of that phrase?

The odd part is (2, Funny)

theverylastperson (1208224) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949493)

When the verdict was announced in court, there was a big puff of smoke. I notice most of the media forgot to mention that part. You'd think someone would have pointed out that smoking in a public building isn't polite...

Thanks, NewYorkCountryLawyer! (5, Funny)

crenshawsgc (1228894) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Thanks, NewYorkCountryLawyer! (0, Redundant)

Starlet Monroe (512664) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949551)

I wish I could mod myself -1 Complainy, but I gotta agree here...this is a deeply biased and agendized summary. Mod the summary -1 Disappointed. :(

Re:Thanks, NewYorkCountryLawyer! (2, Funny)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949615)

I wish I could mod myself -1 Complainy, but I gotta agree here...this is a deeply biased and agendized summary. Mod the summary -1 Disappointed. :(

Yes but I did provide you with the actual 68-page decision, so that you could decide for yourself that my post was "biased" and "agendized". Who, other than Groklaw [groklaw.net] , gives you that kind of service? And with a :).

Re:Thanks, NewYorkCountryLawyer! (4, Funny)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949559)

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.

Before the outrage starts... (3, Informative)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Before the outrage starts... (4, Funny)

edittard (805475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949617)

How does that NOT fail the "fair use" test?

Because she's got lots of money and that's not fair? Somebody better call a waaaaghmbulance for NewYorkCountryLawyer!

Re:Before the outrage starts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949867)

The average person who sets up a fan site isn't looking to make a buck. They are looking to share what they enjoy with other people. Rowling, being an intelligent woman, understands this. Rowling really supports fan sites of Harry Potter, and has in the past supported Lexicon. However, the creation of a book for profit that adds nothing what so ever to the Harry Potter universe does violate the copyright on the novels. Rowling did the right thing to defend authors every where. An enthusiastic fan is fine, but the line has to be drawn some where.

Re:Before the outrage starts... (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949985)

And if that's the case, then it's not fair use. However, very few people have read the book up to this point, and I'm guessing that you got your information from a biased viewpoint. In addition, many of Rowling's statements about the case made it sound like she thought she had exclusive rights to all things Harry Potter. Finally, she used the website as a reference while writing the later books, made statements praising it and the author, and made overtures to have him write and/or edit the official one she was going to do.

In the end, the lexicon author looks like he acted in good faith through the whole proceedings while JK Rowling acted like a bitch.

I wonder.... (1)

theBully (1056930) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949561)

is the /. crowd so out of topics that you need to take it to the intellectual level of a 50c magazine capable of nothing but celebrity gossip?

Re:I wonder.... (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949763)

actually it has to do with lazy editors who rely on quality story submissions from a handful of 'power' submitters who rarely get their summaries wrong and often stimulate topics of discussion, while being in general related to the main page.

NYCL has submitted tons of YRO type content including front page material, so the editor probably only checked the subject and submitter before approving this for front page.

if i had submitted this it would have gotten rejected, easily. but it was NYCL. so, yeah. also, this subject has been covered on front page in the past, and this sort of adds a conclusion. I'm actually surprised that a publisher was actually willing to publish a non-official lexicon in the first place, they're generally poorly selling books that only die hard fans buy, and as this case demonstrates, significant added value has to be added to avoid lawsuits, which usually means getting access to authors notes to flesh out details that they just couldn't put in a 'interesting' fun to read book.

Re:I wonder.... (2, Funny)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949821)

If it makes you feel any better, most of my submissions get rejected.

Re:I wonder.... (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949989)

well, i've gotten 2 ask slashdot articles on slow news days. in comparison to me, you get a lot of submissions that get front page.

i used to try to find interesting geek news and link summaries and have good links about the information, but after my 20th rejection i just kinda quit. the new automatic journal submission model makes it a bit easier than in the past, but i still don't get stuff about tech that i journal about to make main page.

Good Grief (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949573)

Once again, NewYorkCountryLawyer chimes up with a twat opinion. Has this guy actually ever WON a case? Or is he just another PUBLICITY seeking nut job like RMS?

Rowling the Fraud! (-1, Troll)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949577)

Gee J.K., aren't you rich enough already? The only thing you personally can't buy in England these days is Royalty, and that's somewhat overrated anyway.

And Warner Brothers, why is it your name on the suit? Oh right, you really Really REALLY hate fair use and derivative works now, don't you?

And back to you J.K., why is it that you never even hinted about your own encyclopedia until publication of this lexicon was announced? And why was it never a problem when it was available for the low low price of FREE on the web, which is even more compelling competition than a published version?

But most of all J.K. do you believe even for a moment that anyone is going to choose someone else's version over the version with Your Name On It? Get fsking real here! When yours comes out all your little fans will buy it even if they have everyone else's version already on their bookshelf. YOU AREN'T, AND NEVER WERE, DAMAGED BY THIS BOOK COMPETING AGAINST A BOOK YOU'VE NEVER EVEN WRITTEN, AND PROBABLY NEVER WILL. IF ANYTHING, A GOOD LEXICON *HELPS* YOUR SALES!

J.K. Rowling, you suck! (And I don't mean it in the British sense.)

Mr. Judge, you suck too! Go back to law school and actually learn something about fair use, derivative works, and copyright law!

Re:Rowling the Fraud! (3, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949703)

"Mr. Judge, you suck too! Go back to law school and actually learn something about fair use, derivative works, and copyright law!"

Sigh. RTFJ - he DID cite caselaw and Supreme Court rulings regarding fair use, and in his "judgement" (you know, where the title comes from), this work failed to qualify. Something like 80% of the book was copied verbatim from the HP books - that's not a lexicon, it's a Reader's Digest condensed version.

not quite all that (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949593)

I would like to point out that Rowling has not gone after any of the other dozens of books written about the Harry Potter universe; she went after this one because it DID infringe on her copyright.

Erm...What? (4, Insightful)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949621)

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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949911)

Hi, welcome to CULTURE. You should try it sometime. It's pretty much entirely based on ridding on someone else's coat tails.

If the first world practiced intelligent CopyWrite and Trademark this wouldn't be an issue for the courts it would be a free market issue.

You sir fail at civics, intelligence and in fact law. Bad troll.

Re:Erm...What? (4, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949917)

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.

Re:Erm...What? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950053)

Rowling herself is a fan and a user of the original Lexicon website (which appears to be dead right now) so clearly it's the commercial aspect of the infringement which irks her.

Amazingly slanted summary (4, Informative)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Who here really cares about this? (0)

2names (531755) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949631)

I mean, really cares whether this lexicon is published or not? I am a fan, but Christ, do you mean to tell me that this decision makes a shit's bit of difference to anyone other than the poor fucks who had to pay the $6k? What the fuck has the world become where even Nerds have been tricked into the "bread and circuses" mentality. Makes me want to burn my dork card.

Re:Who here really cares about this? (2, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949839)

"Makes me want to burn my dork card."

Just don't burn your dork - I've heard that REALLY hurts.

Unless you're into that sort of thing.

Re:Who here really cares about this? (1)

turtleAJ (910000) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949971)

Who here really cares whether this lexicon is published or not?

I collect lexicons for a living you insensitive clod!

Sounds to me... (2, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949681)

That if there was more original text, and less direct copying from the books, this would not have infringed.

I guess the judge has actually seen the lexicon. He knows how much is original and how much is copied.

Plagerism, yes.......but the root of the issue? (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949705)

I wonder, if Rowling had not had a similar product in the works, if the decision to sue would have been different.

Although it appears the fair-use of the subject matter was rightfully in question, I imagine that had Rowling not had plans for a similar "lexicon", then it would have probably been in her best interest to NOT sue, as the chance that it would actually INCREASE sales of her novels, had it been published, could be significant.

Hopefully, I am wrong on that, and Rowling sued as a matter of taking a stand on plagiarism.

Re:Plagerism, yes.......but the root of the issue? (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949779)

No, actually. There are other similar products that have not been sued. The problem with the Harry Potter lexicon is that the person basically copied things directly from the books with no additional content.

Re:Plagerism, yes.......but the root of the issue? (1)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950043)

I wonder, if Rowling had not had a similar product in the works, if the decision to sue would have been different.

No. The judgement actually specifies this:

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.

Emphasis mine. So the Judge recognizes that the money involved is irrelevant, and that anyone is free to compile and publish a reference work for Harry Potter. But according to the judgement, this particular work went too far and therefore does not qualify for fair use protections. Ergo, infringement.

No one here on Slashdot should give you their opinion of whether this was a fair judgement without first reading the unpublished Lexicon book (probably hard to do under the circumstances) and comparing it to the content of the Harry Potter books. While the tendency around here is to yell "Copyright - Bad!" it's entirely possible that no injustice was done in this case.

Rags to riches (-1, Flamebait)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949713)

I guess all that money went to her head. It's a shame she's proven herself to be a greedy, selfish bitch. I hope her daughter is gruesomely killed so she can see that money is ultimately worthless.

Re:Rags to riches (1)

rk (6314) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949843)

Wow, that's a proportionate response. You're a real piece of work, ain't ya?

can you say imperio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24949765)

am I the only one wondering if the judge isn't under the influence of a well-executed imperius curse? and for that matter how do we know this so-called "judge" isn't Ms. Rowling's agent using polyjuice potion? I think DNA testing is in order.

I smell a rat - an animagous rat!!!

man, I could go on for hours... :D

Ok, let's look at this clearly (5, Insightful)

arikol (728226) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949767)

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

Competing negates fair use? (2, Informative)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949875)

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?

Re:Competing negates fair use? (1)

Legion_SB (1300215) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949969)

More to the point, can someone explain why anyone would need a Harry Potter reference book?

Isn't it sufficient to just read the books? Is it really necessary to nerd the sh*t out of everything?

Re:Competing negates fair use? (1)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949987)

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?/quote?Seriously. No.

What's wrong with competition? (1)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949933)

And what is wrong with competition? So what if the site competes with Rowling's planned encyclopedia? Copyright is supposed to be about form, not about ideas. You can't copyright an idea. Others should be allowed to compete with Rowling. Otherwise, what incentive does she have to create something of quality? Does she now have a monopoly on anything that has the idea of Harry Potter in it? Does this mean that when someone wrote the Great Gatsby, no one else had the right to write about the characters or mention them by name? What nonsense that others cannot compete with her!!

You just spoiled the ending (1)

OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) | more than 5 years ago | (#24949979)

of "Harry Potter and the Lawsuit of the Lexicon".

You people are ridiculous (1)

feuerfalke (1034288) | more than 5 years ago | (#24950079)

I guess it's typical with the Slashdot crowd to immediately favour the poor, defenseless little guy over the big scary corporation and rich author with their team of lawyers, no matter what the facts are. For those of you who couldn't be bothered reading four pages into the document before sharing your malformed opinions on Slashdot:

Rowling has stated on a number of occasions since 1998 that, in addition to the two companion books, she plans to publish a "Harry Potter encyclopedia" after the completion of the series and again donate the proceeds to charity.

Oh, shit! Could this be a case where the intentions of the "big guy" were actually better than the intentions of the "little guy"? It can't be!

money is irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950095)

How much money J. K. Rowling made or didn't make is irrelevant to the infringement.

JK Rowling = Idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24950105)

If anyone's undeserving of their success it's her. She's been sue happy ever since rising to fame and is misguided enough to believe she's above everyone else including the law.

She held up a plane because she didn't want one of her manuscripts to go in the hold as luggage despite it breaching the airport security carry on rules, she's sued over this, she sued over a newspaper publishing parts of the story of one of the new potter books before release, she's sued ebay for allowing sales of leaked books, she's sued over a Bollywood spin off.

She really is arguably the greediest bitch in existence right now, it's worth pointing out she was the highest earning celebrity on earth and is the richest woman in the UK and yet she still feels the need to sue everything from fans to newspapers to websites.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>