Harry Potter And the Case of the Copyright Infringement

Last Updated Apr 14, 2008 1:42 PM EDT

It seems that every media outlet in the country is covering J.K. Rowling's testimony today in a copyright case over a publisher's plans to publish, in book-form, the contents of "The Harry Potter Lexicon," a popular fan-created website that is a companion encyclopedia to her books. What's interesting here is that Rowling has been a supporter of the website - she reportedly used it as a reference when writing the Potter books, and even gave it an award - but has now decided to put the breaks on the idea when it went from a free resource to something that would allow others to profit from her work.

Rowling's side argues that the book does not provide commentary or criticism, but is simply a wholesale repackaging of her work. Fair enough. But is Rowling wrong for just now deciding that "The Harry Potter Lexicon" is stealing from her? Why was it OK when it was a free web-based product, but not when it's on the printed page? Some legal scholars think the case could help draw new legal lines, but has Rowling crossed over an ethical line? The fansite supported her and her work for years, do doubt helping her to make a few bucks, and now that they're trying to make a buck - they reportedly received a "tiny advance" - the billionaire is going to cast a wicked spell on these fans?

Share your thoughts on this case in the comments section.

  • William Baker

    William Baker is a freelance writer living in Cambridge, MA. His work has appeared in Popular Science, the Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Daily News, Boston Magazine, The Weekly Dig and a bunch of other places (including Field & Stream, though he doesn't hunt and can't really fish). He is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe, where he writes the weekly column, "Meeting the Minds." He holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is at work on his first book.