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Page history last edited by Cleolinda 8 years, 6 months ago


Massive wank in which I am the reporter of record. Many, many times.




We waited for the Potterdämmerung. Surprisingly, it did not come. Oh, there was a flurry of Harmonian disgust, but most of that took place on locked journals and boards where the public couldn't see it. And then... Then. Then we had the Dumblegay. And then, just when we'd gotten comfortable, JKR sued the Harry Potter Lexicon.


Pack a lunch, because we're going to be here a while.




The initial filing


JK Rowling and Warner Bros., the latter of which had trademarked many place and character names in the HP universe for the movies, filed suit on October 31, 2007 to stop Steve Vander Ark from publishing the Lexicon as a book. One of the motivating factors in particular may have been JKR's recent announcement that she was going to write her own encyclopedia for charity. The news hit Fandom Lounge and then Fandom Wank on November 1.




What was in the book?


It was not known at that time whether the book contained 1) text from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (for which Rowling had given permission to use on the non-profit site) or 2) critical essays written by non-Vander Ark contributors. When asked for a copy of the book, RDR Books, SVA's publisher, told WB to have an assistant show them "how to hit print." (Remember this.) Subsequent RDR legal gambits included Why Didn't They Read the Book We Didn't Give Them Before Attacking Us? and You Can't Assume What's in the Book So Why Didn't You Just Read the Website That's Not Exactly the Book or Maybe It Is.




RDR Books speaks out


RDR took it to the streets by frequently updating their website ("WHY DOESN'T WARNER BROS. WANT YOU TO READ THE HARRY POTTER LEXICON?") and speaking to the press, making statements including but not limited to:


  • "Publisher Roger Rapoport, founder of RDR Books, said he believes the lawsuit is retaliation for a letter sent to Warner about a timeline used on Harry Potter DVDs." (mlive.com)
  • "It is an original book with a vast array of independently written scholarly articles." (RDR)
  • "Warner Bros. responded by rushing into court with this ill-tempered and badly thought out legal action. This wastes financial resources that Ms. Rowling could give to one of her favorite charities." (RDR)
  • "Steve created this Web site as a volunteer project on his own time, and stopping a book of his own creation is not something that happens in America. It's something that could only happen in a police state." (RDR)
  • "It reminds of a statement made by General Leslie Groves when he was asked if the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was leading to lingering deaths of tens of thousands of civilian(s)." (RDR)
  • "Knowing that the Harry Potter novels have had a profound effect in encouraging literacy among young people around the world, we believe that publishing the website content in printed form will make its information available to underprivileged children and those in impoverished nations, who may have no access to computers or to the World Wide Web." (RDR)
  • Contributors to the Lexicon may be interested to learn that "(t)he book contains critical analysis from 'Steven Vander Ark and his staff.' When asked what he meant by critical analysis Mr. Harris said, 'You can go to the site and read the articles. I’m not going to itemize them for you.' Questioned further he said 'the book was typeset directly from the site,' and that it was word-for-word taken from the web site." (Harris)
  • "Late i(n) the game (WB) came forward and wanted to see the manuscript, after they’ve been threatening to sue us and everything. How is it going to help us in any way to show them the manuscript except to provide them with more information. At this stage are they going to say, ‘Oh, we’re sorry?’ and go away? I don’t think so.” (Harris)


For all of this candor, when first served papers, Roger Rapoport (the RDR in RDR Books) refused to give his name to the process server.






  • Jessica and Matt at Q for Quack then alleged that Steve Vander Ark knew an encyclopedia/lexicon could not legally be published because he had dissuaded them from doing so. Remember this, too.






Infringement or scholarship?


  • WB learned to hit print, submitting the twelve-page "Severus Snape" section of the Lexicon site--which just happened to consist mostly of quotations from the books--to the court.


  • On the other hand, a number of media sites, including Salon, Ars Technica, Boing Boing, Slashdot, and Slate, as well as a number of lawyers and law professors, wrote pieces in favor of RDR and the Lexicon on the very solid ground that criticism and commentary are not covered by an author's copyright. None of them, however, seem to have actually looked at the Lexicon site, and certainly none of them had seen the book, because no one, at that point, had seen it at all.




The driving force behind the case?


Roger Rapoport horned in on one of Vander Ark's previously scheduled speaking engagements, as reported by an eye witness:


His publisher, on the other hand, really put me off. He was smug, overconfident, and I'm still not sure why. At one point, he even hinted that if JKR won, he'd sue her back for harassment (citing a case in California involving a Tolkien compendium). As Luke Skywalker said to the Emperor, "Your overconfidence is your weakness." I'm not sure he realizes how far over his head all of this is. Were I in his shoes, I'd be playing things a lot smarter, rather than racking legal bills so high that they make Vander Ark wonder if he'll be able to afford to continue running the site (and yes, he mentioned that in the course of the Q&A).


RDR looked like the driving force in the case at this point. Emerging details of the book contract (see immediately below) then called this hypothesis into question.




Finally, some questions answered


And then, in January 2008, JKR Files Full Request for Injunction of HP Lexicon. Included in the court papers:


  • the original SVA/Christopher Little Agency email exchange in which SVA offered to help JKR with her encyclopedia;






    • the statement of an IT guy working at WB testifying that he did, in fact, attempt to print the Lexicon site;


    • and the revelation that Fiddy is JKR's assistant.


    In January, Stanford Law's Fair Use Project agreed to represent RDR in court, which at that point was going to be on February 28, 2008.




    A very cunning plan


    On February 8, 2008, RDR Books demanded to see JKR's encyclopedia notes, a request on which the judge put the kibosh.


    Application granted in part. Plaintiffs are to provide defendants with copies of the statements contained in the publications [auralan: "They get copies of the magazines/interviews where JKR said she was planning to write the encyclopedia"] listed in plaintiffs response to Interrogatory 3(a) (ii) by February 8, 2008. Defendant has not shown the Court that any further discovery about Ms. Rowling's notes would be helpful to Defendant's position [Judge Robert P. Patterson: "LOL NO"].


    Then, SVA revealed in a letter to the fanzine Ansible that "the entries on the website provide much more detailed and complete information than the entries in the book. We took the information on the site and did a lot of editing, condensing, and in some cases complete rewriting." And yet... they still expect people to buy the book.




    Grudgewank ahoy!


    A Lexicon supporter showed up to grudgewank the Leaky Cauldron and "subtly" tried to use FW as her flying monkeys. Recipes and snarky tags ensued.




    Epic burn


    February 28, 2008: JKR administered the ice burn of all time:


    I am very frustrated that a former fan has tried to co-opt my work for financial gain. The Harry Potter books are full of moral choices and ethical dilemmas, and, ironically, Mr. Vander Ark's actions tend to demonstrate that he is woefully unfit to represent himself as a 'fan of' or 'expert on' books whose spirit he seems entirely to have missed.


    The Times Union cried fowl (sic); SVA was compared to Moses ("I might even go as far as to compare Steve to Moses who had to die, because he dared to say that it was him who gave food and water to his people") and Elvis ("an email from RDR... calls Steve Vander Ark a 'rock star' and 'Elvis like figure' at fan events"); and Nora Roberts weighed in:


    I don’t mind fan fiction (understand those authors who do), but when I find my work on the internet--for profit or not--copied and claimed by someone else, I shut it down.




    A slight change of plans


    March 9th, 2008: In lieu of a preliminary injunction hearing, a trial was set for March 24 - 26 (it would later be postponed to April 14); conflict-of-interest shenanigans were discovered involving RDR, RDR's wife, and RDR's lawyer on the board of something called the "Right to Write" project at... the Center for Ethics in Action; perjury may have been found in RDR's answer, but RDR's lawyers will not reply to the Leaky Cauldron's requests for clarification. Also, RDR "asserts to this Court its withdrawal of any allegations that Plaintiffs may have infringed any rights of Defendant in the DVD timeline."




    'Friends can disagree and still be friends'


    March 18th, 2008: SVA gave an ill-advised interview; neither side requested a jury, and thus it will be a bench trial; Conan O'Brien mentioned the case in his monologue (!):


    The fan said he's not happy about being sued by Rowling, but at least it's some form of contact with a girl.




    'We differ so greatly as to be polar opposites'


    March 24th, 2008: The Leaky Cauldron publicly separated from the Lexicon; the defense requested JKR as a witness.




    Current events


    We're in a holding pattern until the trial starts on April 14 or someone says something stupid, whichever comes first.




    See also



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