J.K. Rowling Targets Fan Over Yet to be Published Book

An interesting article over at the New York Times sheds light on the Warner Bros Entertainment and Rowling vs RDR Books.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

It raises the question whether or not someone can publish an Encyclopedia on a fictional world and possibly make a profit.

The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, didn’t mind fan sites that featured fan art and critiquing, but when a manager of a fan site wanted to publish a “companion” book for the hugely successful book series, the author stepped in and filed a lawsuit.

“I feel as though my name and my works have been hijacked, against my wishes, for the personal gain and profit of others and diverted from the charities I intended to benefit,” Rowling said in a court document.

Also from the NYTimes, Neil Blair, rowlings lawyer had this to say:

“There have been a huge number of companion books that have been published,” Mr. Blair said. “Ninety-nine percent have come to speak to us. In every case they have made changes to ensure compliance. They fall in line.” But, he added: “These guys refused to contact us. They refused to answer any questions. They refused to show us any details.”

The comment, “They fall in line” has had the companion book author Anthony Falzone fighting the lawsuit, saying this is nothing more than exercising control on free speech.

The question in this case is whether or not one can make a profit over critiquing and describing – among other things. It could be something that the educational community might want to keep an eye on because scholarly sources frequently make money off of critiquing and discussing many things including fictional and non-fictional pieces – all of which fall under the ever present, yet complicated term “intellectual property”. While it is usually standard practice to gain permission from the original creators, it is typical to take bits and pieces of information from other sources and cite the sources later on without seeking approval and assuming that an educational exception is in place – at least, among students. Where this case goes from here will be of interest to many given that it questions where free speech can go.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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