Harry Potter Lexicon Case decided

Judge blocks Harry Potter Encyclopedia on CNN.

I’m not particularly thrilled with the news. I can’t comment on the specifics of the case, since I don’t have access to the decision itself yet. I do think that this will have a chilling effect on similar endeavors. According to CNN, the judge said:

“While the lexicon, in its current state, is not a fair use of the Harry Potter works, reference works that share the lexicon’s purpose of aiding readers of literature generally should be encouraged rather than stifled.”

My guess is that this decision will pretty much the opposite effect. Even without the specific text of the case, the decision would seem to add to the risk of the authors and publishers of such texts. Such authors typically have less power/influence/money when compared to the resources that the established author and publishers have, and I’ll guess that publishers will be more averse to accepting such works. We’ll see. Call me skeptical, but I’m curious about the fair use evaluation and what “irreparable harm” Rowling would suffer from the publication of the Lexicon. And I am a fan, now a disappointed one.

Update: I have actually read the text of the case, and I don’t really think it changes the character of my earlier message. Yes, it’s a second circuit case and not binding all over the country, and yes, the facts are specific to this case, which is usually the situation. But you don’t have to convince the lawyers and judges that this case might not affect them- you have to convince the publishers and potential authors.

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3 Comments

  1. Danielle Plumer
    Posted 9/10/2008 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Carlos,

    I must say that in this specific case, I’m not surprised. I first looked at the Lexicon online a few years back, well before the discussion of publishing it in book form started, and I was surprised that Rowling was allowing it. I’m pretty aggressive about fair use, and I thought they went over the line. When I looked at it, they were including scans of the book artwork and full-paragraph, if not full-page, quotations to explain some terms.

    That said, I think it would have been better for Rowling and Warner Bros. to have allowed publication. The Lexicon is comprehensive, yes, but so badly organized and the articles so badly written that without a search engine it would have been useless. No one would have bought the book for reference, certainly not as a substitute for a better, more-authoritative work. Rowling did more damage to her reputation by blocking publication than she ever would have suffered by allowing it.

  2. Posted 9/19/2008 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised, actually. It’s not a derivative work, it’s a reference work, and they’ve likely cleaned up since you saw it (at least, when I last looked at the site it didn’t meet your description). But the courts don’t think it’s scholarly enough. That’s strange, and I wonder what the implications are for academia.

  3. Posted 9/20/2008 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    I think the Lexicon is sailing to close to the wind with this book. Yes it wouldn’t really hurt Warner or JK Rowling as the book is badly organised as you said, but at the same time it could be seen as dirtying the brand image and if they let this one get away it could set a bad precident.