J.K. Rowling victorious in copyright suit against Michigan publisher

By Carol Eisenberg

September 8, 2008 at 4:56pm

J.K. Rowling has won her claim that a Harry Potter fan had violated her copyright with his guide to the boy wizard’s world.

A federal court judge ruled today that the guide, which was to be published by RDR Books of Muskegon, Mich., would cause Rowling irreparable harm as a writer.

Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment, which produces the Harry Potter movies, had sued RDR last year over its plans to publish the Harry Potter Lexicon. They argued the Lexicon, which was based on a free website by the same name, lifted huge portions of her work without added analysis, commentary or intepretation.

Rowling fought back tears when she testified in a Manhattan courtroom this past April, describing the project as “wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work.”

Steven Jan Vander Ark, a former librarian who contracted to write the guide for RDR, also broke down under questioning, saying he felt he had become “an outcast” in the Harry Potter fan community as a result of the dispute, and that he wished he had never signed onto the project.

In a 68-page decision, Judge Robert P. Patterson of United States District Court in Manhattan, found a “substantial similarity between the Lexicon and Rowling’s novels,” and awarded Rowling and Warner Brothers $6,750 in damages. Vander Ark was not a party to the suit.

Rowling said in a written statement today that she had taken no pleasure in bringing legal action.

“I went to court to uphold the right of authors everywhere to protect their own original work,” she said. “The court has upheld that right.”

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