Tuesday, April 15, 2008

When Is It All Too Much?

Hey all,

Have you heard about the latest with JK Rowling taking a publisher to court because they are
publishing a lexicon about Harry Potter's world? It all started with a website where Harry Potter fans can get together and discuss everything Harry. They talk about the books, the characters and what might have been. It was a place where even JK enjoyed hanging out. Or at least she did until she found out the owner was publishing a lexicon about her books.

Now according to the Webster's Dictionary, the word Lexicon means...

1: a book containing an alphabetical arrangement of the words in a language and their definitions : dictionary
...2 a
: the vocabulary of a language, an individual speaker or group of speakers, or a subject b: the total stock of morphemes in a language.

So that sounds like it means he is taking her world, words, special language and plotline and putting it together in one volume that can be referred to as needed for clarity.

She feels as if what he's doing is "stealing her words".

You can read more about this at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080414/ap_en_ot/harry_potter_lawsuit and about a gazillion other places on the web.

Apparently, the publisher and author says it's okay to do
because "it was used for some greater purpose, such as a scholarly pursuit." Rowling says "it is nothing more than a rearrangement" of her own material and should be stopped.

So...is what this guy doing, plagiarism? He's obviously using JK's words in his own work. But he's crediting them all to her. So has he gone over the line? Or is he really going to "enhance the reader's pleasure" by making this thing?

After all the uproar about Cassie Edwards and the famous ferret papers, here is another situation that is similar, yet different. Plagiarism seems to be an ongoing problem for authors, but how can you tell what is and what isn't when even the BIG GUYS can't figure it out.

I swear...it's enough to make even a wizard confused, let alone a muggle.

So what is your opinion? Should the courts favor the author who wants to keep copyright on her own work? Or should they allow the lexicon since it is only meant as a companion book to help those who enjoy the wonderful world of Harry.

All opinions are welcome.


michelle y. said...

I truly believe that any companion books for the wonderful world of Harry should be either written by J.K. or approved by her. IMO it's a copyright issue & needs to be addressed as such.

CJ England said...

Good point, Michelle. She may not have to write it, but she should approve it AND I believe benefit from it monetarily. It is her work after all.

Tess MacKall said...

You know C J, this one might be a bit hard to call. On the surface it looks like it's very simple and he should cease and desist. After all they are her words, her creative mind.

But how many times does an author use someone else's work, such as quotes or paragraphs...and it's ok as long as you give them credit.

The publisher and author must believe they have a good chance of winning or they would not have let it go this far.

I think it will all probably hinge on the fact that when you usually quote someone in a book and give them credit, that section is not the main focus of the book. In this particular instance, the entire book is based on someone else's work. And in essence is their every word. This man is just adding his version of definitions I suppose.

Can't wait to see the outcome on this one.

CJ England said...

I think that's why it is so hard. He's obviously not trying to STEAL her work, but is he using too much of it? The lexicon will have a great deal of her world and words in it.

So it begs the question. When is it all too much?

orelukjp0 said...

This brings to mind the writing of unauthorized biographies. Yes, they are based on someone else's life. They tell they story with quotes from friends and family. They quote what that person says through their life. They are chronologies of a person (place or thing).
By writing a Lexicon, they are doing an type of unauthorized biography of Harry Potter. It is all about Harry (person, place or thing), all the credit is given to the individual who said it (J.K. Rowland), it help people learn more about and understand the character (person) and it has not stolen the character (or character that the person has developed i.e. The Little Tramp or The Cat in the Hat)and used it in an entirely new work that they are claiming credit for.
J.K. Rowland should make a deal with them to approve the final draft and that a portion of the profits go to a charitable foundation. This way it is a win, win situation for all parties involved.

CJ England said...

Interesting perspective. One I hadn't looked at.

And something else I read, he'll be using comments from the forum as well. So it will be a group effort. I wonder how that plays into the mix?

Good idea about the charity too. It will be interesting to see if that idea comes up.

Phylis said...

It is a sticky situation and then you added the part about the comments from the website. Now that begs the question...will any of those people whoose comments were used be compensated? I would tend to lean more to JK as it is her words, her world, her characters. But I don't know all the legal rammifications. Phylis

CJ England said...

That's what made me wonder about things. Do things on a public forum get protected by copyright?

If I do a post on Dear Author or any of my Publisher blogs, can they be used since it's open to the public?

It worries me all around.