Amph Harry Potter: The Last Horcrux? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Books and Comics' started by rhonderoo, Jan 3, 2006.

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  1. darth_paul Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 24, 2000
    star 5
    Let's talk about the situation with the Harry Potter Lexicon.

    The well-known fan site was planned to be published in book form. However, Rowling and her publisher have blocked publication. In an earlier site update, Rowling had posted her feelings on companion books to the series in general:
    While I understand where Rowling is coming from with the idea of others profiting from her work, it seems very clear to me that an encyclopedic work of the type The Harry Potter Lexicon would have been is not attempting to compete with teh books; nor is it simply trying to cash in -- it's providing a useful resource for the study of the book.

    There is an excellent companion volume to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series by Laurie Frost entitled The Elements of His Dark Materials: A Guide to Philip Pullman's Trilogy. In thinking about the books, in finding things in them, in verifying details, and in getting concise summaries of the structure and functioning of systems or institutions in the book, the guide is invaluable. If I ever do academic work on His Dark Materials, I will undoubtedly be referring to it; anyone who wants to make a series study of the series needs this book. That's what a good, independently produced reference work, which contains synthesis and some analysis but no criticism, can be.

    To Rowling's comments on companion books, compare what Pullman has to say about the Frost book (from the Foreword).
    Now, there's clearly a difference in situation here, because Frost's book is authorized by Pullman, whereas Rowling clearly has not authorized the Lexicon. Clearly, the editors of the Lexicon ought to have contacted her before attempting to publish. But, the fact that there's now legal wrangling going on seems to suggest that she is not willing to give authorization. There's been no request for them to take down the website; she and her lawyers are clearly objecting to the efforts to transform an online resource into a print resource. While a web resource is convenient and more
  2. Epicauthor Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 2002
    star 4
    I believe one of the reasons she's blocking publication is she's planning on relasing her own encyclopedia of the world and characters. If that is the case, it makes sense for her to not give permission to have a rival book out.

    Her encyclopedia wouldn't just give out extra infor about the characters, but will esentially do the same thing as the Lexicon version, pluse her added info. She's perfectally right to not give permission.
  3. Obi-Zahn Kenobi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 23, 1999
    star 7
    My suggestion: she collaborate with HPL.

    However, she has complete legal right to block its publication, but I think that she should authorize it, though it's easily understandable why she won't.
  4. Katana_Geldar Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    I've seen other unauthorised books about the HP world though, I even own one the Mugglenet one that came out before TDH. What's so different about this one?
  5. darth_paul Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 24, 2000
    star 5
    Well, she's been vague enough about the whole project that we don't know exactly what she's planning. As far as I know, we've got no idea what form her encyclopedia will take. But I'm really questioning the idea that the Lexicon would offer competition for her encyclopedia. It's not as though they'll be head-to-head releases; she's said repeatedly that her book is years down the road. Since there's going to be no new Potter lit in the mean time, I'd imagine the Lexicon will sell now and be out of print by the time her book hits shelves. Plus, I can't imagine that anyone who's into Potter enough to buy a reference book about it would fail to pick up a book produced by Rowling herself giving information from her work notes and from elements of her plans that never made it into the series. I have a really hard time imagining anyone who would buy the Lexicon who would not buy her encyclopedia when released. While they might share features in common, I can't see a degree to which they'd be realistically in competition.

    Based on her comments, I think the key is that other books are considered "criticism," and are not repeating her plots. From books on the philosophy of Harry Potter to MuggleNet's book of Deathly Hallows predictions, they're all engaging in critical analysis of the series, and there is more to them than a rehash of elements already in the book. The Lexicon, however, wouldn't add anything new or inject its creators' critical opinions; it would basically rearrange the material in the books into a summarized reference form.

    -Paul
  6. yankee8255 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    I think that's the crux of the matter right there -- it will compete with the book she's planning on publishing somewhere down the road.

    As both sides have said, it's an unfortunate situation. I do think JKR has a point tho9ugh, in saying that HPL crosses a line when they go from a no-charge website (I assume they make money from advertising?) to a for-pay book.

    And it's an interesting legal situation -- there are plenty of companion books, I know there was once one for the Tom Clancy novels, for example.
  7. Epicauthor Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 2002
    star 4
    And I'm wondering if this is going to set some sort of precident in regards to these types of companion books. Many times, they take the form of an encyclopedia. This could set off a chain reaction which makes publishing houses reticent to allow these types of "fan" book happen.
  8. darth_paul Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 24, 2000
    star 5
    I'm actually going to be very curious to see the legal argumentation if this case ever hits court, because I'm very unsure about the status of these books. I think there's an argument to be made that even a simple encyclopedia guide to a literary work represents a work of scholarship, and that the author's copyright claims do not extend to controlling it. But I know little about the legal history of the subject, so I'd like to see the argument advanced, and, if this does come to court, will likewise be interested to see the outcome.

    I wonder how widely the effects would reach. I'm just not sure how many unauthorized reference works are out there. Frost's guide to His Dark Materials, as I mentioned, is authorized. The traditional Dune reference work, The Dune Encyclopedia, was authorized, approved of, and used by Frank Herbert, though Herbert himself contradicted parts of it and Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have substantially repudiated it and have declared it non-canon. (That book is now out of print.) I had thought that Bill Slavicsek's A Guide to the Star Wars Universe was unauthorized (I had the Second Edition), but a quick search of Amazon makes it clear that the third edition, at least, is authorized. So it seems that many projects of this nature already seek out permission and approval from the authors, often with positive results -- Frost got a great notice by Pullman for the front of her book, while Dune Encyclopedia editor William McNelly apparently got parts of God Emperor of Dune read to him while in progress by Herbert so as to stay up-to-date. At the same time, there are clearly unauthorized companions out there. In a quick search, I turned up unauthorized Middle Earth material, which surprised me, as voraciously as the Tolkien estate controls its property.

    Legally, then, the question, and the status of Rowling's claims, is not clear to me at all. I'd be interested in anything anyone knew about legal disputes about companion books in other properties. I guess this case is going to set an interesting precedent no matter what, whether legal or simply practical.

    -Paul
  9. NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2002
    star 9
    As far as the whole legal thing, I think that the difference legality-wise between the books you mentioned and this is that the author gave his/her approval; JKR obviously has not.

    I don't really blame her -- not only is it possible competiton for her own, when/if it get published, but these people will be making money off of her world in a non-criticism/prediction way; these will be facts, not opinions or guesses.

    I think that in the end, it's her world and she should still be allowed to have the control.
  10. yankee8255 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    It is essentially a question of whether the Lexicon is a "fair use" of the copyrighted material (the books and films). I'd refer everyone to the Stanford Center for Internet and Society/Fair Use Project a legal clinic at Stanford University that is providing assistance to the lexicon and RDR. The site includes a link to an article by a Columbia law professor on why JKR and WB are wrong.

    EDIT: I just finished reading the article by the Columbia Law Professor, which puts the gut feelings I had into a legal form. basically, he says author's rights regarding their work don#t cover reviews and the like. It's not even a case of fair use. He then slams Rowlings arguments that the lexicon would preempt her own planned encyclopedia -- it's not preemption, it's competition.
  11. Ghost Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    So after finishing the series, what are some of the things you think J.K. Rowling meant by repeatedly saying through her books that there are things worse than death?

    I'm thinking despair (Dementors), loneliness, loss of memories (Lockhart), insanity (Neville's parents), disfigurement (Lupin, Ron's brother), shame, guilt, losing your soul (Dementor's Kiss), mutilating your soul (Horcruxes), unrequited love (Snape), lovelessness (Voldemort), and fear (Dementors, Boggarts, Wormtail) are some of them.

    But I doubt it's all of them! Especially since one of her major themes was Death and dealing with it.
  12. NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2002
    star 9
    I agree with some (maybe all) of those. That phrase came into particular use with the dementors, in the way that losing your soul (to it being sucked or to being evil) is worse.
  13. TiniTinyTony Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 9, 2003
    star 5
    What's worse than death to J.K. Rowling? If her books hadn't been a success; that would be worse than death to her.
  14. 1Yodimus_Prime Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 13, 2004
    star 4
    While this is a very good point, I'm led to believe from the nature of Darth Paul's post, notably sentence 2: The well-known fan site was planned to be published in book form. that the concern regarding monetary gain has less to do with taking potential money away from Rowling and more to do with having a select few people profit from the work of many. Frankly, if I'd ever contributed to the "Harry Potter Lexicon", I'd be a little miffed at the idea that they'd be making money off my dedication.

    So in that sense, I'd say Rowling's in the right here, at least ethically. Legally, of course, maybe not so much.
  15. yankee8255 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    From the court papers or articles, I saw that Vander Ark has 3 co-authors, who all worked on the site. I assume they get a cuto of the money, though he obviously gets the lions share.
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