Judge in Harry Potter Suit Urges Settlement

American Libraries, June-July 2008 | Go to article overview

Judge in Harry Potter Suit Urges Settlement


The judge hearing British author J.K. Rowling's copyright-infringement lawsuit against an unauthorized Harry Potter encyclopedia urged both sides to settle the case April 17. On the final day of the three-day trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, Judge Robert P. Patterson suggested that appeals may delay resolution for years, Bloomberg News reported April 18. "Litigation isn't always the best way to solve things," he said. "The lawyers get caught up in the case, and the clients are part of the baggage. I just feel this case could be settled, and should be settled."

Rowling and Warner Brothers Entertainment are suing RDR Books, which planned to publish The Harry Potter Lexicon, written by Steven Jan Vander Ark, who based the work on a website that he launched in 2000 while working as a librarian at Byron Center (Mich.) Christian School. At the end of three hours of testimony, Vander Ark broke into tears when asked about what the suit has done to his relationship with the community of Harry Potter fans, the Associated Press reported April 15. "It's been difficult because there has been a lot of criticism, obviously, and that was never the intention."

Rowling contends that the book relies excessively on material from her seven novels and two guides, and will harm sales of her own Potter encyclopedia that she plans to publish. However, the day after Vander Ark's emotional testimony, she told the judge that she had been misunderstood, the New York Times said April 17. "I never ever once wanted to stop Mr. Vander Ark from doing his own guide--never ever," she said. "Do your book, but please, change it so it does not take as much of my work." Stating that her suit was motivated by outrage rather than money, she testi fied that the prospect of Vander Ark's guide upset her to the point of causing writer's block. …

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