Why Is Rowling Howling and Growling?
Obviously, I am no expert, but is Rowling the person to do a Harry Potter encyclopedia? After all (1) Steve Vander Ark has already produced one and (2) Vander Ark knows more about Harry Potter than Rowling herself. For, as she reportedly said on her own Web site about Vander Ark’s work:
I have been known to sneak into an Internet cafe while out writing and check a fact, rather than go into a bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter (which is embarrassing).
The Legal Conundrum
Intellectual property lawyers, constitutional scholars, publishers, authors and Web experts are watching L’affaire Rowling v. Vander Ark closely. Among the issues:
* Is not the Supreme Court decision in the Pentagon Papers case—New York Times Co. v. United States (403 US 713)—operable here: that an injunction against publication is prior restraint and therefore unconstitutional?
* What is plagiarism as opposed to “fair use?”
* Is an author’s ownership of copyright material so absolute that she can control what is written about it?
* What effect will Rowling’s unqualified approval of the Web site have in the judge’s decision whether or not to forbid publication of a book based on the Web site?
The PR Fallout
You would think that J. K. Rowling would be delighted to welcome the Vander Ark Lexicon, which would put into printed form a Web site that enhanced the enjoyment, knowledge and understanding of her Harry Potter series.
A slew of other authors have cashed in on the Harry Potter phenom, generated buzz and presumably helped sales.
It’s not like Rowling is financially threatened. Thanks to Harry Potter, she has progressed from being a single mother on state aid to the 136th richest person in England, with a personal fortune estimated at £545 million (U.S. $1.09 billion).
By launching a legal attack on what appears to be the definitive companion and guide to her Harry Potter series by an adoring fan, Rowling is coming off as a petulant, picky, nasty human being who cares not a rap about the reading pleasure of her next 55 million customers.