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J.K. Rowling Wins Copyright Claim

LARRY NEUMEISTER | September 8, 2008 06:38 PM EST | AP

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NEW YORK — A judge ruled Monday in favor of "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling in her copyright infringement lawsuit against a fan and Web site operator who was set to publish a Potter encyclopedia.

U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson said Rowling had proven that Steven Vander Ark's "Harry Potter Lexicon" would cause her irreparable harm as a writer. He permanently blocked publication of the reference guide and awarded Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. $6,750 in statutory damages.

"I took no pleasure at all in bringing legal action and am delighted that this issue has been resolved favorably," Rowling said Monday 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. ... Many books have been published which offer original insights into the world of Harry Potter. The Lexicon just is not one of them."

Rowling and Warner Bros., maker of the Harry Potter films and owner of intellectual property rights to the Potter books and movies, sued Michigan-based RDR Books last year to stop publication of material from the Harry Potter Lexicon Web site. Vander Ark, a former school librarian, runs the site, which is a guide to the seven Potter books and includes detailed descriptions of characters, creatures, spells and potions.

The small publisher agreed that nearly everything in the lexicon came from Rowling but argued that it was a fair use allowable by law for reference books. In his ruling, Patterson noted that reference materials are generally useful to the public but that in this case, Vander Ark went too far.

"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," he said.

He added that he ruled in Rowling's favor because the "Lexicon appropriates too much of Rowling's creative work for its purposes as a reference guide."

Anthony Falzone, who argued the case for RDR Books, said he had not yet seen the ruling and could not immediately comment. RDR publisher Roger Rapoport did not immediately return a telephone message for comment.

Though Rowling had once praised the Web site, she testified earlier this year that the lexicon was nothing more than a rearrangement of her material.

She said she was so distressed at the prospect that it would be published that she had stopped work on a new novel. "It's really decimated my creative work over the last month," she said during the trial in April.

If the lexicon is published, she went on, "I firmly believe that carte blanche will be given to anyone who wants to make a quick bit of money, to divert some Harry Potter profits into their own pockets."

Vander Ark, a devoted fan of Rowling, began work on his Web site in 1999 and launched it in 2000.

The seven Potter books, which ended last year with the final book in the series "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," have been published in 64 languages, sold more than 400 million copies and produced a film franchise that has pulled in $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office.

Filed by Katherine Thomson  |  Report Corrections