Steven Vander Ark planned to publish a Harry Potter Lexicon that infringed the copyright of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter novels and companion books “Quidditch through the Ages” and “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them” also written by J K Rowling. Judge Robert Patterson has banned the publication of the lexicon and awarded J K Rowling damages. This is good news because:
1. It does not stop anyone writing or publishing a guide to fictional works – the court differentiated between work that merely broke copyright and work that was transformative, eg provided a new insight to the original works.
2. It does not stop anyone making fair use of copyrighted original works – the court made the point that fair use was not just about the amount of material copied from the original but also the nature of use – the lexicon was not transformative because there were significant amounts of verbatim copying.
3. It does not stop collections of critical essays or literary criticism that make fair use of copyrighted original works, because the essays and criticism are transformative.
4. It does not stop fanfic (fan fiction) – the court took into account that the lexicon was a commercial venture and, although unlikely to impact on the sales of the Harry Potter novels, it would impact on the sales of J K Rowling’s companion books. The commercial intentions behind the lexicon weighed against it. Fanfic that credits the original, is a not for profit venture and is transformative – eg a prequel, sequel, parallel universe or uses original characters – is not banned.