An interesting case is being heard in New York over the scope of protections afforded authors in the use of their work. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has sued Steven Vander Ark and RDR Books, the publisher of the Harry Potter encyclopedia for copyright infringement.
With more than 400 million books sold in 64 languages and a movie franchise raising $4.5 billion, many could be excused for wondering the real harm to Rowling from such use. However, she insists that if such derivative uses are allowed, authors will make it even more difficult for fans to use their works. Her lawyer, Dan Shallman, told U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson that Rowling “feels like her words were stolen.”
Notably, RDR does not contest that it the material was copyrighted and protected, but insists that it can be used for these purposes. In the papers filed in the case, the defense is arguing that this is not a “derivative work” covered by infringement provisions and, if it is were derivative or a reproduction, it lacks substantial similarity. Finally, they argue that this is fair use and that a ruling for Rawlings would curtail free speech.
Standard fair use inquiries will look at the (1) purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is commercially motivated or instead is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) nature of the copyrighted work; (3) amount and substantiality of the portion used in the newly created work in relation to the copyrighted work; and (4) effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
For a declaration in the case discussing the injury to Rowling, click here.
For the docket in the case and underlying documents, click here
For the full story, click here.