Court Rules in Rowling’s Favor

Deadline Hollywood reports that a New York court has ruled in favor of Warner Brothers and J.K. Rowling in their lawsuit against RDR books, a publisher attempting to cash in with an unlicensed, unauthorized Harry Potter "lexicon" that drew heavily from Rowling's work. The Judge determined that the book, which he barred from publication, did not qualify as "fair use" and violated her copyright.

J.K. Rowling today issued the following statement: "I took no pleasure
at all in bringing legal action and am delighted that this issue has
been resolved favourably. I went to court to uphold the right of
authors everywhere to protect their own original work. The court has
upheld that right. "

The New York Times reports that Steven Jan Vander Ark , the creepy fan (pictured on the left) who wrote the book, still lives in a dream world. He told the Times that he'd like to have a chat with   Rowling some time:

“I have been a huge fan of
the Harry Potter series and Ms. Rowling for 10 years; that’s not going
to change,” Mr. Vander Ark said by telephone on Monday from his home in
Brighton, England. “We had a disagreement about the definition of a
particular book. It was a legal disagreement. I would rather that it
wasn’t personal.”

[…]For now, however, Mr. Vander Ark has his sights on his next Harry
Potter project: his book “In Search of Harry Potter” is scheduled to be
released next month. It is a memoir of his travels to locations similar
to the ones described in the Rowling books.

You might wonder why I think he's creepy…beyond the fact that he tries to look like Harry Potter and actually believes Rowling would want to chat with him. Here's an example from the trial, as reported by the Times.

Like a true fan, Mr. Vander Ark treated even Ms. Rowling’s
assertions that he had made mistakes as wonderful revelations rather
than embarrassments.

When [David Hammer, the lawyer for RDR Books] told him that Ms. Rowling
had testified on Monday about the etymology of “Alohomora,” an
unlocking spell, Mr. Vander Ark — who had been sequestered during her
testimony — blurted, “Oh, really?”

In her testimony, Ms. Rowling
said Mr. Vander Ark’s link between the spell and the Hawaiian “aloha”
was “errant nonsense,” explaining that it actually had come from West
African dialect.

“That’s exciting stuff for someone like me,” Mr.
Vander Ark said from the witness stand. “Did she happen to mention
which dialect?”

Any day now this goof is going to tattoo a lightning bolt to his forehead…if he hasn't already.

UPDATE: A reader reminded me of these examples of Vander Ark's creepiness and cluelessness  from the New Yorker:

Last summer, at a “Harry Potter” convention in Toronto, a fan named
Steve Vander Ark made a similar mistake when he dared to compare
himself to Joanne (J. K.) Rowling. “It is amazing where we have taken
‘Harry Potter,’ ” he said to a crowd of dedicated “Potter” fans. Many
readers dislike the epilogue in the final book; Vander Ark urged them
to disregard it entirely, and even invented his own spell to do so
(“expelliepilogus”). “Jo’s quit, she’s done,” he told the audience.
“We’re taking over now.”

[…]From the witness stand, Vander Ark directed beseeching glances
toward Rowling, who was sitting a few yards away, but she slowly shook
her head. After several hours of intense questioning in front of his
idol, Vander Ark broke down and cried.

“I really wish we had had a different kind of meeting,” he said
later. “There were a couple times I kind of gave her a half-smile. She
didn’t smile back.”

Attracting the attention, and the wrath, of his hero is a surprise for
Vander Ark, who at the age of fifty maintains the air of a serious
child, with a mushroom-cut head of hair parted in the middle. A
self-described “massive ‘Star Trek’ fan,” he wrote a book, in the
nineteen-eighties, called “The Complete Encyclopedia of Star Trek the
Next Generation Season One,” and sold forty copies.

That's 40 more than he's going to sell of his Harry Potter Lexicon.

10 thoughts on “Court Rules in Rowling’s Favor”

  1. I think people are too quick to call someone else “creepy.” What are you, Lee, a fourth grade bully? So the guy really likes Harry Potter. Whoop-de-doo.

  2. So, just out of curiosity, how many scathing replies have you gotten from my fellow fangirls so far?
    I agree with Virgil, but I have to admit it’s a pretty dreadful picture.

  3. What I find creepy about him is that he needed a judge to tell him that he was violating her copyright on her own original work.
    Or perhaps he did know, but went ahead anyway to try to get Rowling’s attention. Also creepy.

  4. So because I’m brunette and wear glasses, I’m guessing you’d say I “am trying to look like Harry Potter” as well? Not sure I see the asserted attempt at resemblance here, given that a lot of people have to wear glasses other than the character of Harry Potter. Generally, you know, because they have bad eyesight, and don’t want to shoot lasers in their eyes and can’t wear or don’t like wearing contact lenses. Leaving the options of “not be able to see very well” and “wear glasses” as the only ones, really.
    Also, the case is a little more complicated than your summary. As I recall, he was offered by a professional publisher an oppurtunity to publish a book based on the internet fan-guide he helped run. Unfortunately, the contract he agreed to did not let him back out of this agreement to do so when Rowling decided it was a little too close to her own work, and the publisher refused to back down.
    From what I can tell, he’s actually sympatethic to the author’s needs or rights, and probably would have backed out of the original agreement once he’d realized what he’d actually agreed to, if he’d been able to contractually. In other words, he was kind of between a rock and a hard place there, in a legal sense.
    At least he wasn’t completely stupidly self-righteous about it, like some people might have been. (Oh, coincidentally: actually, when it comes to Big Name Fans like this guy, it’s not entirely unheard of for Rowling to occasionally agree to an interview. For instance, she’s done so for the folks at Mugglenet. Given that she didn’t mind the original website’s existence, and that he apparently holds no ill will towards her for sueing him, it’s not really that crazy a possibility. It gets even less crazy when you realize that the actual comment says he’d LIKE to sit and have a chat with her, not that he “expects” one)

  5. re: “Carol”: “Or perhaps he did know, but went ahead anyway to try to get Rowling’s attention. Also creepy.”
    Actually, he had already agreed to a contract with the publisher that did not let him back out of the publishing agreement. He ran the website fan guide for a few years up until the publisher came to him and offered to buy up rights to publish a paper-and-ink format guide. There have already been several fan-guides published in the past including speculations, so he probably didn’t realize that his particular material included too much of the author’s own work and would potentially be ruled as copyright infringment. I doubt it was that he was trying to get her attention.
    Of course I do understand it’s a little hard to figure all that out if the media keeps leaving out the part where he couldn’t back out of the contract and the publisher refused to let it go, though. 🙂

  6. Sorry, but Steve Vander Ark has successfully portrayed himself as a slightly creepy Harry Potter fan. It doesn’t matter what he looks like or how successful his website is. The more that this goes on, the more that he convinces anyone with a brain that he is continuing to try to officially attach his name to Harry Potter. I’m so glad that the Lexicon book was barred from publication. He should be ashamed of himself for such un-scholarly behavior.

  7. What about those, like, four hundred Unofficial Guides to Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Or to Star Trek?
    Or what about the hundreds of unofficial guides to Harry Potter that are out there? Like these.
    What made Vander Ark’s different? I’m kind of confused about that.

  8. What made Vander Ark’s book different to most guides is that the essays and other commentary which would raise the book from a mere rehash of Rowling’s work were removed because (as he admitted) he didn’t have copyright to those and his publishers (as I understand it, I may have this wrong) were not prepared to go to all the authors of those essays to get permission. What was left didn’t add anything to the understanding of Rowling’s work.
    What Lee hasn’t commented on is that in parts of the full judgement, the judge was supportive of transformative works in general. It was Vander Ark’s lack of commentary on the work of Rowling that he had issues with.
    Having said that, commenting on his appearance as proof of his ‘creepiness’ is ill-bred. I’d suggest you keep your criticism strictly to his actions.


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