15 April 2008

National Library Week: April 13-19
Celebrate with a Book!

In other news, J.K. Rowling demonstrates that, while she is a fine writer, she does not understand copyright law. Her suit, claiming that Steven Vander Ark's Harry Potter Lexicon infringes on her right to use her characters to create her own encyclopedia of the fictional world they inhabit, shows that the concept of 'fair use'--which allows new, derivative creations based on published material, is still widely misunderstood.

Rowling is not alone is her confusion: music labels, movie studios, and (especially) the Disney Corporation all want us to believe that once they 'produce' something, it is theirs forever. It's not, even though Congress has tried very hard to support that view (the copyright term, originally 14 years, now extents 70 years past the author's death). No, we still have rights. We can, legally, make a copy of an item. We can create a parody of it or, as Vander Ark has done, compile, organize, and arrange material in a new and useful fashion. That Vander Ark's work is useful should be obvious from the fact that Rowling herself called him to consult while producing her later Harry Potter books.

While Ms. Rowling's desire to produce her own encyclopedia is understandable and her intention of donating the proceeds to charity is worthy, she does not have exclusive rights to use the material just because she originally created it. Here's hoping the judge understands both letter and intent of the law better than she does and dismisses this suit immediately.


Post a Comment

<< Home