Monday, September 8, 2008

Rowling Victory in Copyright Case

Author J.K. Rowling prevailed in her case against a Harry Potter fan who wanted to publish a lexicon that added no original content to large portions of Ms. Rowling's work according to a BBC News story published September 8, 2008 ("Rowling Wins Book Copyright Claim"). Steven Vander Ark compiled his reference book primarily with Rowling's text from the Potter series. Rowling said this ruling champions the right of authors to control their creative material. Rowling herself planned to write a Potter encyclopedia with profits going to charity. Fair use allows for limited reuse of a creator's work providing that there is "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research" added to the original content, based on the U.S Copyright Office's explanation of the practice. After the judge's decision, Rowling made a statement that seemingly supports the right of others to develop works "which offer original insights into the world of Harry Potter." However, she agreed that the lexicon did not include such unique material and that it should be considered "wholesale theft."

Discussion Questions:

  1. If someone can rework pieces of her writing into another type of work, why shouldn't they be allowed to make a fraction of what Rowling earns?
  2. Does "fair use" encourage a free flow of ideas based on another creator's work? Why or why not? NOTE: Review fair use details at the U.S. Copyright Office link above.

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