Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Harry Potter Lexicon decision appealed

"Copyright and Fair Use" at Stanford Law School reports that the defendant publisher, RDR Books, has filed an appeal from the Judge's decision in Warner Bros. Pictures v. RDR Books, the case involving the Harry Potter Lexicon.

The Judge, after a bench trial, issued an injunction and statutory damages of $6750 holding that the Lexicon was not protected by fair use due to (a) sloppiness in attribution in sections, (b) the length of some of the quotes, and (c) imitation of J.K. Rowling's writing style in portions.

I recently wrote an article criticizing the opinion, but doubting that an appeal would be taken in view of the small damages award.

I guess I underestimated the resolve of the defendants and defendants' lawyers -- who include the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society.

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5 comments:

Lior said...

Presumably Ms. Rowling and her publishers would now file a cross-appeal asking for greater damages?

In practice, I hope that on appeal the injunction will be limited to the lexicon as it is now, allowing RDR to create a new, acceptable, version.

Anonymous said...

This man applauds the decision to fight on as a matter of principle given such a small damage award that essentially let the author off very lightly. This man has to point out, however that the damages in this case are not only the amount awarded, but also all future profits, prestige, and new opportunities that the sale of this work would engender to a newly published author. That is worth far more than a few thousand dollars, and fails to acknowledge the literal years of effort put into this work.

This man reiterates his opinion that creating a useful lexicon from an existing work(s) is far more transformative than mere cut and paste. To produce a useful lexicon requires a special skill far different than writing the original work and provides for a unique contribution. The fact that this also enhances the value of the original work(s) is a bonus on top of all of that.

This man also restates his opinion that this judge overstepped his (or her) bounds when said judge ventured out to proclaim himself (or herself) an expert in the field of literary criticism. No qualifications for this supposed expertise were presented. That makes this a dangerous of blurring the line of what constitutes fair use to say that some lexicons are more equal, and more worthy, than other efforts in the eyes of a judge who presents no other qualifications to justify his abilities in this area.

This man believes that once an author (JKRowling in this case) publishes and sells their creative work to the public that they no longer retain absolute control over that creation. From a moral point of view (if none other) when creative works are produced that affect other people the author of said works cannot expect to control how people feel and respond to those works. To try and suppress that response, which is clearly being done in this case, is a disservice to us all. An author is only dictator within their own story universe, and should quit acting like one out here in the real world.

This man also questions how author JKRowling's writings are unique from the lexicon author's writing style. This man is unaware that a writing style can be "owned" by a single author under any current, pending, or proposed extension of copyright law - especially since that would immediately kill what is now protected satire speech.

JKRowling has made a clear and significant mistake here. She should realize this and retreat quietly while she mostly still can.

{The Common Man Speaking}

Anonymous said...

Common Man,

Your words would mean a great deal more if the so-called author actually had written anything himself rather than just copying her text.

- Another Common Man

Ray Beckerman said...

Dear "anonymous Another Common Man",

It wasn't criticism or commentary, it was a lexicon.

So your point is just wrong.

Anonymous said...

This man thanks Mr. Beckerman for understanding and clarifying the issues at stake here.

He further suggests that even if one were to take scissors to the source material and cut it apart into thousands of individual paragraphs, just knowing how to reassemble the puzzle of those paragraphs into a useful lexicon would be a talent that not everyone possesses.

{The Common Man Speaking}