Rowling Row: Lex and the Lexicon

This from CBC News:

A publisher in Michigan has halted plans to release a Harry Potter encyclopedia after author J.K. Rowling launched a lawsuit.

Roger Rapoport of RDR Books, located in Muskegon, Mich., said he has stopped publication of the guide to Potter lexicon until a judge in New York City rules whether the work is a violation of Rowling’s intellectual property rights.

The suit was evidently filed some weeks ago. The book is an outgrowth of a prior blog, The Harry Potter Lexicon, which appears to have been running unmolested for some seven years. Plaintiffs are quoted from the court documents as follows:

There is a big difference between the innumerable Harry Potter fan sites’ latitude to discuss the Harry Potter Works in the context of free, ephemeral web sites and unilaterally repackaging those sites for sale in an effort to cash and monetarily on Ms. Rowling’s creative works in contravention of her wishes and rights.

The Patry Copyright Blog contains an interesting (but admittedly superficial) analysis and concludes that there’s no infringement here. He’s someone from whom a musing might be taken seriously: his somewhat formidable bio: Senior Copyright Counsel, Google Inc. Formerly copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, formerly Policy Planning Advisor to the Register of Copyrights, formerly Law Professor, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; author of numerous treatises and articles (including one on fair use with Judge Richard Posner), including the new 7 volume treatise on “Patry on Copyright“.


  1. I was surprised at the assertion of copyright by Ms Rowling. There is no question of copying, or of using Harry Potter and his companions in a story. The proposed encyclopedia simply aims to comment on the books in detail, being a study guide, as it were. Is this not at least fair use, if there is copying (or other infringement of the author’s rights) at all?

    It is also interesting that Ms Rowling is asserting these rights. One would have thought from the material surrounding the movies etc that Warner Bros. had all the rights, except presumably to write more books. Maybe they are shared rights – but is Warner Bros unhappy about the proposed encyclopedia too?