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Harry Potter Opens Today!

No, it's not another Harry Potter movie that opens today.  Rather, it's the first day of trial in a copryight infringement suit brought by "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling and her publisher, Warner Bros. against RDR Books, publisher of Steve Vander Ark's 400 page reference book, the Harry Potter Lexicon, based on the online version.  Rowling and Warner claim that the Lexicon is a derivative work that infringes Rowling's copyright and interferes with Rowling's plans to write her own Harry Potter encyclopedia. 

Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project is defending RDR books, along with outside counsel, New York attorney, David Hammer.  In a press release issued on the lawsuit, Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project (and also counsel in the case) stated:

The right to create literary reference guides like the Lexicon has remained nearly unquestioned for hundreds of years. The Lexicon is a valuable resource that helps people better understand and enjoy the Harry Potter books. It's exactly what copyright law should encourage, not suppress.

Dan Slater at WSJ Law Blog is observing the trial; his dispatch from this morning's trial proceedings is posted at the WSJ Law Blog. According to Slater, Dale Cendali, who represents Rowling and Warner, emphasized during her opening that the Lexicon "takes too much and does too little."  Cendali's point is that the Lexicon merely copies Rowling's work without any original, value-added content that might qualify as new art.  In response,  Anthony Falzone asserted in his opening statement that the "the public will lose out if publication of the Lexicon is enjoined."

If you're interested in further analysis of some of the issues in the case, check out this lengthy post by copyright guru William Patry and this post by Mike Madison of

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 14, 2008 at 04:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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