Written by a single mother over many hours in cafes throughout the city of Edinburgh, the Harry Potter series has gone on to become aglobal success, inspiring blockbuster movies, countless pages of fan-fiction,and various toys and knock-offs. Naturally,it has also inspired hours of litigation over copyright- and other more surprising issues as well. Glenn Duker, lawyer and solicitor, takes a brief tour of all things Harry Potter - and litigation.
Rowling Vs Vander Ark
Steven Vander Ark was a serious Harry Potter fan who painstakingly constructed an exhaustive online reference guide called the Harry Potter Lexicon. Although Vander Ark and Rowling initially enjoyed a friendly relationship, it cooled considerably upon the revelation that US-based publisher, RDR books, intended to publish a print version of the website.
In the resulting court case, Rowling argued that the book would harm the chances of her own intended encyclopedia about the series, the proceeds of which were to be donated to charity. Also, when RDR Books argued that their use of her work was allowed in the standard of "reasonable use" for a reference guide, Rowling countered the book exceeded such limits, appropriating her writing wholesale and failing to add "transformative" material that added to cultural appreciation and knowledge of the originals. In the end, the judge sided with Rowling, and Vander Ark was reduced to tears in the courtroom when asked about the impact of the case on his life.
The Shoe on the Other Foot
However, Rowling has also been on the other side of an intellectual propertystoush - and on more than one occasion. In 2011, the estate of the late Adrian Jacobs intended to launch a $15 million lawsuit against her for a perceived infringement of his book "Willy the Wizard." However, attempts to carry this out in both the US and the UK ultimately failed. American author Nancy Stouffer also accused Rowling of stealing ideas; this mainly centeredaround her assertion that she had invented the term "muggles" in her 1984 story "The Legend of Rah and the Muggles". She also claimed a character called Larry Potter, a dark haired boy with glasses, had been purloined by Rowling as well.
In the end, however, Stouffer's case was also dismissed by Rowling and a crack legal team, with counter-accusations that Stouffer had defrauded the court with false documents and untruthful testimony - including the retroactive addition of the word "muggle" into older documents.
Other Sundry Legal Actions
Warner Bros Group, the conglomerate behind the Harry Potter movies, once launched a lawsuit against a group constructing a facade for a Hindu religious festival. The reason? They were using the image of Hogwarts, Harry Potter's school, without permission. In 2005, a security guard stole some pages from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince before it was released, intending to blackmail the publishers by threatening to leak them. He threatened the journalist who exposed him with a gun and ended up in jail for four years. In addition to these cases, Rowling and her publisher have threatened injunctions against anyone who might reveal anything from the books before their official release date. This has caused controversy from civil liberties campaigners, who argue that this infringes upon personal freedoms.
Who knew that The Boy Who Lived would inspire so many turns in the courtroom? If you have an issue of copyright infringement, or someone is making such accusations against you and you need professional advice, contact Glenn Duker, lawyer and solicitor.
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