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Judge Rules in “Harry Potter Lexicon” Fair Use Case

This week, Federal Judge Robert Patterson ruled in favor of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. in its lawsuit against RDR Books, the publisher of the Harry Potter Lexicon. The Lexicon, created by school librarian Steve Vander Ark, was an unofficial encyclopedic companion to the popular Harry Potter book series. The decision (PDF) says that RDR Books “failed to establish an affirmative defense of fair use,” and granted a permanent injunction barring publication of the Lexicon. The court also awarded the plaintiffs $6,750 in statutory damages. However, there may be a silver lining in the decision. Chris Meadows writes at TeleRead, “Although the finding was in favor of J.K. Rowling and her publisher in this particular instance, the finding went to great pains to state that–as a general rule–reference books of the sort that the Lexicon was trying to be are a protected fair use of copyrighted works.”

The American Library Association is supportive of the mission of the Right to Write Fund, “a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a repository of information and support for individuals needing to learn more about their intellectual property rights in the face of legal intimidation.” Members of Right to Write include Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society Fair Use Project, Harvard’s Berkman Center Citizen Media Law Project, and Grand Valley State University library.

“On behalf of library patrons and authors of future creative works, the American Library Association strongly supports fair use as a right that should be protected vigorously,” said Corey Williams, Associate Director, Office of Government Relations, “and we welcome additional resources directed at promoting a balanced approach to copyright and fair use.”

Read the full press release (PDF).
Read more about the court decision.

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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