A recent lawsuit levied by J.K. Rowling on author Steven Vander Ark would seem to rule out any third party anthologies of the Harry Potter book series.
Vander Ark was attempting to publish and sell an encyclopedia entitled “The Harry Potter Lexicon” based on information gathered from his fan Web site of the same name. According to a BBC.com article, Rowling is suing Vander Ark for borrowing too much of her work and jeopardizing her opportunity to publish a Harry Potter encyclopedia.
Despite speculation that the lawsuit is about money, Rowling has a legitimate argument. The whole genre of third-party reference guides, ranging from fictional encyclopedias to guides on how to beat video games, infringes on the original author and his or her copyright.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is ‘created’ when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.” So as soon as the first Harry Potter book rolled off the press, Rowling’s work was protected, and Vander Ark’s book is the sort of thing copyright laws are put in place to stop.
Publishing information on his fan site is one thing, but writing and, more importantly, selling a book containing the information is different. Vander Ark would be selling a world created by someone else. The money ought to go to the person who came up with the ideas.
Not only do the original authors lose, but the readers lose, too. Because Vander Ark’s encyclopedia is based on unofficial information gathered from a fan site, there is no guarantee to the legitimacy of the content. Some references might be based on suspicion, rumor or just plain make-believe. Publishing such a book would rob fans of gaining a true knowledge of the world created by Rowling.
On her Web site, Rowling posts information about parts of her books that have been cut and never-seen characters and plot twists. So there is quite obviously more about the wizarding world of Harry Potter that would best be told by the person who invented it.
Vander Ark’s book is plagiarism, he is not commenting on or discussing or quoting information from Rowling’s books. He is simply taking information from the books, placing them in another book and selling them. Simply put, that’s stealing.
Vander Ark is encroaching on Rowling’s right to her intellectual property, her ideas and her creations and trying to make a buck to top it off. Plagiarism has no place in the literary world, and it shows a lack of ingenuity and creativity.
Regardless of possible ulterior monetary motives, Rowling has a convincing case and has every right to stand up for her claims to the work she has created.
Kyle Hummel is a freshman radio-TV-film major from Philadelphia.