JK Rowling wins where Andy Murray loses

The IPKat was determined to ignore this item, since he knew that it would be all over the popular press, but he confesses that he has now been weighed down by the sheer volume of missives in his electronic mailbox that begin with "I'm sure it won't have slipped your notice, but ...", "I wonder whether you spotted this item ..." and, most gallingly, "I assume that the kat must have been asleep when this came out ...".

Right: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Lawsuit", on The Legality, produced by Oregon law students, has lots of discussion of the relevant issues

Bowing to the inevitable, and accepting that the IPKat has become a Blog of Record, here is the latest news concerning Scottish JK Rowling's action to protect the copyight in her Harry Potter books.

In short, JK Rowling and Warner Brothers Entertainment sought to prevent the unauthorised publication of a companion book to the highly-successful Harry Potter series - The Harry Potter Lexicon by Steve Vander Ark -- and secured both injunctive relief and damages after a judge in New York said the work would infringe the author’s rights. The Lexicon apparently contained more extracts from the originals than could justify an 'affirmative defence of fair use' under US copyright law. Although, like all amateur litigants, Ms Rowling "took no pleasure at all in bringing legal action", she expressed herself to be "delighted" with the result, which reflected her altruistic motives: "I went to court to uphold the right of authors everywhere to protect their own original work. The court has upheld that right". Warner was jubilant in support of the decision:
"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".

Damages of US$6,750 were awarded, a pitifully small sum that represents the fact that the sum was awarded by a judge who was aiming to compensate Ms Rowling for commercial loss suffered rather than a jury that was aiming for the Guinness World Records. Presumably the injunction only obliges the defendants not to publish the Lexicon in its current form.

The IPKat appreciates that, without a copy of the 68 page ruling before him, and without the opportunity to read and compare the text of the Lexicon -- which has not yet been published -- it would be imprudent to comment. He assumes however that whatever comments the judge made will prove the basis for Vander Ark and his publisher to set to work, pencilling out the excessive bits so that a slimmed down "fair" version of the work can be launched in the wake of the publicity that has attached to the litigation. Merpel adds, JK seems to do pretty well in court (see IPKat here too); perhaps she has something to teach a fellow Scotsman whose most recent court appearance in New York led to acute disappointment.

You can read all about this case in The Financial Times, New York Times, Ventura County Star, News10.net and The Associated Press.

JK Rowling wins where Andy Murray loses JK Rowling wins where Andy Murray loses Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, September 09, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. a copy of the decision is available here:


  2. I presume that He Who Can't Be Named won't be named in the presumed lexicon.


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