Monday, April 14, 2008

'ere's something interesting, then

Here's one to watch. J. K. Rowling, with tears in 'er eyes (and legal button-men on loan from Warner Bros. films), is suing American librarian Steve Vander Ark and his small-press publisher, RDR Books, for planning to publish the Harry Potter Lexicon, an unauthorized reference book based on the fan-created website of the same name. Interestingly enough, Rowling herself gave this same website a Fan Site Award in 2004 and of it wrote on her own website:
"This is such a great site that 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)."
In the BBC version of the story, Rowling describes how the legal concerns caused by this "act of betrayal" had "decimated [her] creative work" and deprived her of the "will or the heart" to continue on her own Harry Potter encyclopedia. The New York Times take on the story, on the other hand, digs into it a little deeper, and reveals details suggesting that Rowling & Co. might be trying to establish not merely a lock on Harry himself and the various books Ms Rowling has written (which is the traditional definition of copyright), but total control over any conceivable books that might be written about a young English boy who's been packed off to a magical boarding school to learn the trade of wizardry, only to learn that sinister doings are afoot and he must learn to trust and believe in himself and his newfound power in order to save the entire school. Which no doubt has Jane Yolen's Henry of Wizard's Hall quaking in his slippers.

illo: cover art, -Wizard's Hall-, by Jane Yolen

Oh, wait. Except that Yolen's novel was published in 1991, a full six years before Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone first saw print.

In any case, this is a legal matter I will be watching with great interest, because if Rowling (and Warner Bros., don't forget Warner Bros.) wins, well, let's just say that anybody who's profited from using the word "cyberpunk" since 1980 better watch out.

Yee-hah! I'm gonna win the Lawsuit Lottery! I'll never have to work again!