As Cornelius Fudge could tell you, there’s nothing like a good witness in the “Harry Potter” world. Steve Vander Ark, the mousy haired librarian who found himself this year in the middle of a copywrite battle between a small Michigan publishing firm and the most famous author in the world, turned out in the end to be nothing like a good witness.
But last week’s court ruling in favor of J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers, which blocked Vander Ark and RDR books from publishing their “The Harry Potter Lexicon,” a comprehensive reference tome of all things wizarding and magical, will not be the famous fan’s last stand according to the “Detroit Free Press,” who reported yesterday (September 15) that lawyers for the defense are expected this week to file a legal appeal.
The issue, theoretically, could go all the way to the Supreme Court, and serve as a case study for fair use, a somewhat complicated law meant to protect creative artists from having their work unfairly purloined.
In determining whether or not something is fair use, and therefore allowable, judges use a combination of four main guidelines: the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copywrited work, the amount of the portion used in relation to the copywrited work as a whole, and the effect of use on potential market value.
In legal testimony this past April, lawyers for both sides seemed to focus most intently on the first guideline. Rowling’s side, naturally, argued that the Lexicon wasn’t “transformative,” meaning it took too much and added too little – no criticism or commentary.
Interestingly, however, Vander Ark seems stuck on the third guideline, telling the “Free Press” that he would be amenable to removing offending passages.
"I've always been very much willing to work with [Rowling and WB] and try to see what can be done," he told the paper.
I’ll admit to it right here and now: I’ve used the online Lexicon EXTENSIVELY over the past few years. Setting aside legal issues or ramifications (which are nebulous anyway) would you want to ultimately be able to own a “Lexicon,” or something similar? Sound off below.