Earlier this year a New York Federal Judge ruled that Steven Vander Ark’s Harry Potter reference book was a violation of J.K. Rowling’s copyright. This main argument of the case was over what is fair use. Although I had mixed feelings over the case as it was going on I have hope that the results could still be positive. Instead of continuing the fight in appeals court Steven Vander Ark rewrote the Harry Potter reference book using what he learned from the trial on what is fair use.
"We learned a lot at the trial about what was acceptable, what would follow the fair use guidelines," said Vander Ark, 50. "That was not clear before. There was no law on the books that made it clear what was acceptable and what wasn't. (via AP)
The new book contains a lot more critical commentary. This will have to be seen in application. If the entries consisted of clips of actual Potter text on the topics then of course it was copyright infringement but if the entries was just facts on the subject then it was not plagiarism. Did they require him to put in a lot of opinion into a reference that has the expectation of facts. If that is the result of the case then a great injustice has been done to a society that already has issues differentiating between fact and opinion.
Steven Vander Ark also removed the plot spoilers from the new book. I’m not a fan of spoilers being used carelessly but a reference book comes with an expectation that it would contain a reasonable degree of spoilers. Once again this will have to be seen in application before I let my ire build but it concerns me. I would understand removing major spoilers from the text but some spoilers would have to happen because they are tied into the facts and should be included.
On the plus side it appears that this Harry Potter reference book will make it to publication since a lawyer for Rowling’s Literary Agency is “Pleased to hear that rather than continue to litigate, RDR have themselves decided to publish a different book prepared with reference to Judge Patterson's decision."