U.S. judge halts unofficial Harry Potter lexicon

NEW YORK Mon Sep 8, 2008 5:08pm EDT

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, makes a statement before leaving the U.S. District Court in New York April 14, 2008. A U.S. judge on Monday ruled in favor of Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc and author Rowling over the publication of an unofficial encyclopedic companion to the popular Harry Potter book series. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series, makes a statement before leaving the U.S. District Court in New York April 14, 2008. A U.S. judge on Monday ruled in favor of Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc and author Rowling over the publication of an unofficial encyclopedic companion to the popular Harry Potter book series.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Monday halted publication of an unofficial encyclopedic companion to the popular Harry Potter book series in a copyright case author J.K. Rowling argued would threaten other writers.

Judge Robert Patterson in U.S. District Court in Manhattan wrote in his opinion that an independent U.S. book publisher, RDR Books, "had failed to establish an affirmative defense of fair use" and that publication of "The Harry Potter Lexicon" should not proceed.

The ruling said Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc and Rowling had established copyright infringement of the Harry Potter series of seven novels and two companion books, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," and "Quidditch Through the Ages."

The British author and Warner Bros, a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc, sued RDR Books, which planned to publish the lexicon. The proposed book was a 400-page reference written by fan Steve Vander Ark on www.hp-lexicon.org.

Monday's ruling said that if an injunction on the lexicon was not issued "defendant is likely to continue infringing plaintiffs' copyright in the future." It said the encyclopedia would not harm sales of the novels, but could impact the market for Rowling's companion books.

The judge also wrote that in general, reference guides and companion books were an aid to readers and should not be stifled, a point that RDR noted in its reaction.

"The opinion upholds the genre," said David Hammer, an attorney for RDR Books.

"As for the lexicon we are disappointed and RDR is considering all of its options, including an appeal."

Rowling said in a statement from her home in Edinburgh, Scotland, that she was "delighted" with the outcome.

"The proposed book took an enormous amount of my work and added virtually no original commentary of its own.

"Many books have been published which offer original insights into the world of Harry Potter. The Lexicon just is not one of them," her statement said.

In court in April, Rowling, estimated by the Sunday Times to be worth about $1 billion, said she was outraged her work was considered to be fair game because it was so popular.

At the same hearing Vander Ark, wearing eye glasses similar to those worn by Harry Potter, said his book was intended to help readers and celebrate Rowling's work.

But Patterson's ruling in favor of Rowling's position said that "because the Lexicon appropriates too much of Rowling's creative work for its purposes as a reference guide, a permanent injunction must issue to prevent the possible proliferation of works that do the same and thus deplete the incentive for original authors to create new works."

The judge awarded Warner Bros and Rowling the minimum damages of $750 for each of the seven novels about the boy wizard and $750 for each of the two companion books for a total of $6,750.

(Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)