Monday, April 28, 2008

Remember why the good Lord made your eyes

J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers are suing RDR Books over the unauthorized Harry Potter Lexicon. I went through some of the plaintiff's exhibits and I thought they were mostly pretty weak, until I came to this one.

My personal impression from the exhibits is that when the Lexicon is presenting material drawn from the seven novels, the reorganization and paraphrasing falls within what should be allowed (with possible isolated exceptions, such as the entire quotation of the various songs).

However, the Lexicon evidently also includes closely-paraphrased material from Rowling's Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I think that could be a serious problem.

Note that while the novels are novels, Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them purport to be reference works about the Harry Potter universe. Fantastic Beasts evidently has entries in alphabetical order. If the Lexicon closely paraphrases Fantastic Beasts entry for entry, then where's the transformative value?

The Lexicon is not a perfect substitute for the Harry Potter novels. Probably not many readers will buy the Lexicon for the plot summary and then not buy the novels. But if the Lexicon effectively contains much of the content of Fantastic Beasts, I think there's a serious likelihood that you might buy the Lexicon and figure you don't need to buy Fantastic Beasts. I think Rowling could win on those grounds.


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