Wednesday, September 17, 2008


A suit was filed by J.K. Rowling (author of Harry Potter series) and Times Warner against RDR Books for infringement of their Intellectual Property Rights. A website called Harry Potter Lexicon was created by Steven Jan Vander Ark, who is a librarian by profession. The lexicon lists characters, places, creatures, spells, potions and even a time line. The website is a very popular one among Harry Potter fans and Rowling had even given it an award as the best fan site. Mr. Vander Ark with the help of RDR Books decided to make a hard copy of the contents of the website. This induced Rowling along with Times Warner, who own the trade marks and copyright for Harry Potter file a case against RDR Books claiming that such a publication would hurt and infringe upon Rowling’s own copyright as she wanted to publish a lexicon of the same order in the near future.

The principle in law which is in question is the fair use doctrine, which allows the limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the right holders. Has Mr. Vander Ark infringed upon the rights of Rowling? 

The judge had ruled that Vander Ark had indeed infringed the rights of J.K. Rowling, thereby giving ruling the case in her favour. The matter seemed to have gone agisnt the defendents due the fact that a lot of material seems to have been copied verbatim by Vader Ark.

This judgement has created a serious precedent for derivative works as the original authors will try to stop people from publishing works based on the original content, thereby not recognising the work and labour of people who put in their own skill and labour to create derivate works. They too have rights and this must be recognised as well.

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