Does JK Rowling own Harry Potter?
In a recent article in the New York Times titled Rowling to Testify in Trial Over Potter Lexicon, it was announced that JK Rowling is suing a small publishing house (RDR Books) that was planning to publish a Harry Potter Encyclopedia. The book was to be based on the content from the website The Harry Potter Lexicon, by a Mr. Vander Ark. Now this doesn't sound right at all - has JK lost it?
Fan fiction is a huge genre. I went through a whole phase in middle school of reading dozens of books that continued the Star Wars series. There is even a Star Wars Encyclopedia. Did all those books have to kick back to George Lucas? I don't know - but I wouldn't guess Lucas cared either way - the more fans got into it the more movies he would sell.
So if fan fiction is a huge genre, it appears JK Rowling can't own Harry Potter. She attempts to explain on her website:
"From what I understand, the proposed book is not criticism or review of Harry Potter's world, which would be entirely legitimate – neither I nor anybody connected with Harry Potter has ever tried to prevent such works being published. It is, we believe, a print version of the website, except now the information that was freely available to everybody is to become a commercial enterprise.
It is not reasonable, or legal, for anybody, fan or otherwise, to take an author's hard work, re-organize their characters and plots, and sell them for their own commercial gain. However much an individual claims to love somebody else's work, it does not become theirs to sell."
Ah-ha. The lexicon, claims Rowling, has no original content. So perhaps Rowling *does* own Harry Potter - the Harry Potter described in her books. If fanfic fans want to build on that Harry Potter, and create something original, then there are no problems. So all you fans of Harry Potter that want to write some stories, breathe easy, JK won't be coming for you!
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