Billionaire author J.K. Rowling gave an emotional testimony in a New York court today to block the publication of a Harry Potter lexicon by one of the series’ biggest fans.
Rowling said she felt betrayed by Steven Vander Ark, the author of the 400-page lexicon, which is based on his fan site visited by 25 million. She described his book as “sloppy, lazy work” and said she was concerned the reference book would deter people from reading the whole Harry Potter series.
“It’s the reading experience that is in danger here.”
“The lexicon is not a plausible substitute for any of the Harry Potter novels,” said Anthony Falzone, a lawyer for publisher RDR Books. “It’s simply not plausible to argue that Ms. Rowling’s sales will be hurt in any meaningful way.”
Rowling said she had plans to write her own Harry Potter encyclopedia, which would include material that did not make it into the novels, and donate the proceeds to charity. However, she told U.S. District Court Judge Robert Patterson the she may no longer have “the will or the heart” to do so and that if she did, “I would rather lock it away; it’s associated with stress.”
According to RDR Books, Vander Ark spoke at Harry Potter academic conferences in Britain, Canada and the United States and Warner Bros. used a timeline he created in DVD releases of the Harry Potter films.
Patterson added that Vander Ark’s interest began “as a labor of love” and his expertise was so sought after that Warner Bros. flew him to the set of the fifth Harry Potter movie and used his lexicon everyday during production.
In the Lexicon, Vander Ark listed the characters, places, spells, creatures and objects in the Potter books alphabetically and with minimal commentary. The key issue at the non-jury trial is whether Vander Ark made “fair use” of Rowling’s work. Federal law allows others to use copyrighted work for research, criticism and commentary, and the defense argued in court papers that their book falls within that meaning.
“Should it be published, I feel that carte blanche will be given to anybody who wants to make a quick bit of money,” Rowling said.
The Harry Potter series has sold approximately 400 million copies and the five films based on the books have grossed $4 billion.