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April 15, 2008
Rowling versus the Lexicon, Round 1
Or, formally, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. v. RDR Books, 07-cv-09667. But since it was Rowling testifying Monday, that's where the focus is. If Mark Hamblett's piece for law.com is accurate it appears things are getting nasty right off the bat. Considering how heated some of the comments were on my last entry on this topic I expect there's a fair bit of passion in the air.
The basic question is whether or not the lexicon itself is a protected fair use creation or whether its printing should be enjoined as copyright infringement. Or, as Rowling called it, "wholesale theft."
Rowling's arguments seemed to be laced with emotional appeal and what strikes me, frankly, as shenanigans. She's so upset about the book that she had to fly personally to New York to testify, even though the judge offered to accept written testimony. The book has also "decimated [her] creative work" even though she gave the Lexicon Web site an award in 2004. And, somehow, the publication of this book is going to stop her project of doing her own lexicon, as if her fans wouldn't buy every single work she published. Did you know she was just about to give away all the proceeds from her lexicon to charity? News to me. Hey, Rowling, how about you take some of that $9 billion in book sales and donate it instead?
Mind you, I'm not convinced she's not right - the Lexicon book may well be infringing. I just dislike cheesy appeals to emotion. Think of the children! Puh-leeze. None of this is really germane to the question of whether or not the Lexicon is a transformative reference work, in which case it ought to be protected. Fortunately there's no jury to be swayed in this trial - let's hope Judge Patterson sticks to reasoning from the facts.
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