Lexicon Litigation

Timed perfectly to provide material for class discussions about Fair Use, the trial started this week in J.K. Rowling’s copyright infringement lawsuit against publisher RDR Books and author Stephen Vander Ark over The Harry Potter Lexicon, the print version of Vander Ark’s website of the same name. In her testimony Rowling characterized the Lexicon as “sloppy,” “lazy,” “derivative,” and “riddled with errors.” Rowling claims that the Lexicon could interfere with her own plans to write a Potter enyclopedia, proceeds of the sale of which she would donate to charity. RDR court filings state that Vander Ark’s Lexicon “provides a significant amount of original analysis and commentary concerning everything from insights into the personality of key characters, relationships among them, the meaning of various historical and literary allusions, as well as internal inconsistencies and mistakes in the novels.” Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project is lined up behind RDR, arguing that companion guides to other works are fair uses that have a long literary tradition.