By Joe Beaudoin Jr. | Posted on April 17, 2008 at 9:07 pm |

In reaction to Assistant Professor Bob Rehak’s blog post on his website regarding J.K. Rowling’s lawsuit against Vander Ark and the publisher of the book version of the “Harry Potter Lexicon”, I wrote the following reply. As of this writing, you will not see it up on his website, since it has yet to be approved from its moderation queue, despite the fact that he responded to another post that supports his own position… which is visible on his website… Anyway, I want to post what I wrote here, in the hopes of discussing my thoughts on this issue and getting people’s thoughts on this.

Here’s my response.

I’m in an interesting position to look at both sides of the issue, since I both write fiction, and am the project leader of the aforementioned Battlestar Wiki.

J.K. Rowling’s lawsuit is very founded, given that Vander Ark is trying to profit from her property and her creation without permission. She did create the universe Vander Ark and his people have been documenting, after all. It’s hers. It’s legally Warner Brothers as well.

Initially, the Lexicon was merely free for all to use, since it’s all online. Like most, Rowling didn’t have a problem with that. And I think it’s wonderful that she used it herself when she found herself needing to refresh her memory.

And that’s because it’s *free*. No one was making money off of it, or trying to make money from it at the time.

However, once you start making money off something, particularly off of trademarks that are not owned by you, then expect to be in a world of hurt. That’s the way it has always been.

People like Mike [the poster on Rehak's site, not Mike Hinman, who I talk about below] have been attempting to make Rowling out as if she were the bad guy. That’s not the case. She’s merely protecting her work, her creation, and she damned well should. She created that universe, not the fans.

As for the Lexicon itself, it doesn’t seek to analyze the work at all, and is merely just a compilation of facts and figures. There’s some minor analysis here and there, from what I’ve read. (I’m not a fan of Rowlings or her books; I personally thing both are overrated, and needlessly verbose.)

Now chronicling a series you love is not a bad thing, since fans have been doing this in fan clubs, fanzines, and, now, the Internet. Hell I and others do it via Battlestar Wiki, but would I try to make money by selling a rehash of copyrighted material I don’t own?

No.

That’s called “derivative work”. And it is not covered under fair use law.

Now if the book were “Analysis of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Saga” focusing more on analysis than the encyclopedic rehashing of Rowling’s saga, then I would also join the minor cacophony and say “frak Rowling”. Since critical analysis is covered under the fair use provisions of copyright law.

But that’s not the case here, so Rowling is right. And it is an ethical and legal imperative that she fights against those who wish to profit from her universe without her both her permission and her blessing.

I will add that I’d probably be taking about this on my appearance on SyFy Radio next Wednesday at 10 P.M. ET. I did want to call into yesterday’s show to talk on my thoughts on the issue, but the phone systems were down for the last show.

On that note, I will commend Mike Hinman for being able to fill 90 minutes of content without callers, since the show is mainly driven by interviews and callers. He did an excellent job, despite the fact that his voice was breaking up near the end.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2008 at 9:07 pm and is filed under Announcements, Drifiting Thoughts, Outside Sites. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • http://syfyportal.com Michael Hinman

    It’s a collector’s issue show, so everyone should go listen, hahaha!

    I am supposed to be making a presentation in front of high school journalists from around the state Friday. I hope my voice is back by then. :)

  • http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/User:Shane Shane

    I plan on listening as I love these type of discussions. :D

  • Catrope

    “Now if the book were “Analysis of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Saga” focusing more on analysis than the encyclopedic rehashing of Rowling’s saga, then I would also join the minor cacophony and say “frak Rowling”. Since critical analysis is covered under the fair use provisions of copyright law.”

    I believe there *are* such books. They were released years ago, and Rowling did not object to them (AFAIK).

  • http://www.joebeaudoin.net Joe Beaudoin Jr.

    Mike, hope everything went well with those up-and-coming journalists! :D

    Catrope, you’re correct. There have been analysis books around for ages. Battlestar’s had them, Potter’s had them, and the copyright owners never went after them.

  • http://graphic-engine.swarthmore.edu Bob Rehak

    Hey, interesting debate here! Sorry I was slow to approve your initial comment — no oversight or preferential treatment implied, purely the result of a busy week and my own sporadic attention to the moderation cue. In any case, your comments are up now, and I appreciate your taking the time to post.