The author of the Harry Potter series testified in a New York courtroom yesterday in a dispute over who has the right to profit from her creativity.
A librarian who has read the entire series of boy-wizard novels a ridiculous number of times teamed up with a Michigan publisher to put out a for-profit Harry Potter Lexicon. It seems in their zeal to make sure our shared culture does not suffer for lack of such a tool, they didn't bother to ask Ms. Rowling's permission, or whether or not she might be working on something like a lexicon herself. She is working on one, in fact, and, if asked, she wouldn't have granted permission, but the librarian and the publisher would still like to make money from their lexicon. Read a full account of the case by Anemona Hartocollis in the New York Times.
Here is the gist of Rowling's claim:
Ms. Rowling argued on Monday in Federal District Court in Manhattan that the proposed encyclopedia — she has read the manuscript — is a copyright infringement and is little more than an alphabetical form of plagiarism. She claims the author has lifted large chunks of her own language without quotation marks. “I believe that this book constitutes the wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work,” she testified.
And while the defendants in the infringement case love and respect Ms. Rowling's work enough to use it for their own business ventures, they demonstrate little if any respect for the author herself:
The lead defense lawyer, David Hammer, was not impressed with her literary critique of the work. “Have you ever read a dictionary, Miss Rowling?” Mr. Hammer demanded. Alphabetical order, he continued, “is what the Encyclopedia Britannica uses, isn’t that true?”