Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling takes a dim view of independently authored reference books, it seems. She’s joined a lawsuit to stop the publication of a fan-written reference book based on a website that she herself admitted to using while fact checking her writing.
From Salon’s Machinist blog:
In the past, Rowling has offered high praise for the HPL. “This is such a great site that I have been known to sneak into an Internet cafe while out writing and check a fact rather than go into a bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter (which is embarrassing),” she says on her site. She calls the HPL “a website for the dangerously obsessive; my natural home.”
Thanks to such acclaim, Vander Ark recently landed a publishing contract with RDR Books to put out a printed version of the online lexicon. His book was to have gone on sale this fall.
You might suppose that given her appreciation of the online HPL, Rowling would have encouraged the book’s publication and sale. But you’d be wrong. On Halloween, Rowling and Warner Bros., which produces the Potter movies, filed suit to stop Vander Ark and RDR from selling the book. Late last week, RDR agreed to halt publication of Vander Ark’s Potter lexicon pending a federal judge’s review.
In her suit, Rowling, arguably the most well-remunerated writer in history, asserts complete and total control over the Harry Potter creative universe — a stance that, if affirmed by the court, would strike a deep blow to the legions of fans who have added immeasurably to her work online. Her attorneys claim that Vander Ark’s book will compete with Rowling’s own planned Potter encyclopedia; the lexicon, they say, is thus nothing more than an attempt to “make millions of dollars off the back of Ms. Rowling’s creativity.”
In a statement, Rowling added: “It is not reasonable, or legal, for anybody, fan or otherwise, to take an author’s hard work, re-organize their characters and plots, and sell them for their own commercial gain. However much an individual claims to love somebody else’s work, it does not become theirs to sell.”
Has J.K. Rowling ever been to a library? Seriously, I truly wonder. Because if she had, she might have seen many examples of exactly the sort of books she describes as “not reasonable.” For instance, a list of the allusions in “Ulysses”; or a complete guide to all of the characters in William Faulkner’s fiction; or a compilation and detailed analysis of Bob Dylan’s lyrics; or a book containing the complete chronology of the events in David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.”
Hey, J.K. — can I call you J.K.? — these are known as “reference books,” and, like the HPL, they are not mere “reorganizations” of characters and plots.
We don’t know about you, but we think that if the woman used the site to help her write the damn books, they’re obviously useful reference tools and are protected under fair use, which doesn’t distinguish between the commercial and non-commercial. Even if J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. wishes that it did.
J.K. Rowling’s Crucio curse on fan’s Harry Potter book [Machinist]