'Harry Potter' Author Sues over Encyclopedia

The author of the Harry Potter books is suing a publisher over its forthcoming book, The Harry Potter Lexicon, an encyclopedia of terminology from the beloved series. J.K. Rowling claims the book is a rip-off of her work.

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J.K. Rowling, who is the author, of course, of the Harry Potter books, is suing RDR Books over its plans to publish "The Harry Potter Lexicon." On the second day of the trial in federal court in New York City, the author of the Lexicon, a longtime fan, broke down in tears.

NPR's Margot Adler reports.

MARGOT ADLER: Testifying before Judge Robert Patterson was Steven Vander Ark, the former school librarian who's devoted many years to creating a Harry Potter Web site, "The Harry Potter Lexicon," and indexing the content of the books online. Choking back tears, he said he had come under a lot of criticism from the fan community, and he regarded Rowling as a genius. He said he had had concerns about whether publishing his encyclopedia would constitute copyright infringement, but was convinced by the publisher to go ahead.

On Monday, the first day of the trial, Rowling's lawyer Dale Cendali had the British author read alphabetical entries in five different books, books like "The Idiot's Guide to Harry Potter" and "The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter."

Arguing each case, the paragraphs in "The Harry Potter Lexicon" were short and similar to Rowling's own words. The other books had extensive commentary, new and often scholarly material, and were therefore more properly a case of fair use.

Rowling called Vander Ark's Lexicon sloppy and a rip off. The lawyer for RDR Books said the lawsuit was an attempt by Rowling to stamp out competition to the encyclopedia she is writing.

Rowling said she liked Vander Ark's Web site and even gave it an award, but on the stand she implied that a free fan Web site was one matter, a book costing $24.99 that was mostly her own words was another.

A spokesman for J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers released a statement saying that a fan's affectionate enthusiasm should not obscure acts of plagiarism.

Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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