The calm at the center of a pearl

May 2, 2008

J.K Rowling sues owner of the Lexicon

Filed under: News — kyraninse @ 5:49 am

Chris pointed me to a rather scathing discussion by Orson Scott Card regarding J.K. Rowling’s “stupid, self-serving claim“.

First of all, I have to applaud the dexterity with which “Uncle Orson” burns J.K. Rowling — it’s really quite something to read.

But really, I’ve thought about it, and whereas I tend to agree with the people who think that she’s being greedy and nasty — she might actually have a point in suing Steven Vandar Ark (SVA) for his attempt to publish the Lexicon for profit.

I’ve briefly (!) browsed through the Lexicon, and most of it seems to function as a cross-referencing dictionary with most of the definitions being lifted directly from the Harry Potter books. I’ve also read briefly on commentary on fair use laws, and to be honest, it’s all rather murky.

SVA has never claimed ownership of the Harry Potter world or anything within it. This combined with that he has made a rather handy tool that even J.K.R has admitted to using when she was unable to recall a fact from the HP books off the top of her head — potentially puts this under the realm of being legal.

On the other hand, I think that most of what makes his site a valuable one, are the numerous essays regarding the Harry Potter world. This is then problematic — because the majority of them were fan-submitted and as such, he has no right to reproduce them for his profit unless the owners have all signed their rights over to him.

Someone said in the commentary that it isn’t so much “is this legal” as “should this be legal”.

I’d argue that if SVA only wanted to publish the Lexicon as something rather like a glorified dictionary, it rather stokes my ire. Sure, he spent a lot of time on it — but in the end he’s not really contributing that much extra to it. It’d be a lot more agreeable to me if he simply chose to maximize his profits by putting up more cafepress items and perhaps a donation button.

On the other hand — I think it’s rather small of J.K.R to be suing him. I really do think that she’s only doing this because she wants to produce a lexicon of her own, as she’s admitted to such, and she doesn’t want the competition.

Frankly, if she were to publish an encyclopedia of her own with more insights into how she created the Harry Potter world and why certain people/things/events happened/evolved the way they did — then it would be something that any Harry Potter fan would choose over something that a fan compiled that really has no additional value other than convenience. Which, also frankly, is most useful to me in its web format with all the hyperlinks and the ability to use “ctrl+F” on it.

In conclusion, I really think she probably does have a leg to stand on in terms of suing SVA, but she really shouldn’t have, in terms of costing herself public opinion.

Especially since she seems rather given to dramatizing just a trifle.

“I’m not at all convinced that I would have the will or the heart to continue with my encyclopedia,1” says she, further going on to say that “It’s really decimated my creative work over the last month,” and “Again, it’s very hard to describe to someone who’s not engaged in creative writing, but you lose the threads, you worry if you will be able to pick them up again in exactly the same way.”

I think that she’s right — it’s very hard to pick up writing again when you’ve been feeling icky — but I just feel snarky towards her saying things in that “woe is me” manner. It just reminds me of the prissy little goody two shoes who runs home crying because she got mud on her dress. Or maybe I’m just envious of how much money she has and am therefore much more snarky towards her than I would otherwise.

What do you think? Do you support her in this?

1. Lifted from, retrieved 5/2/2008



  1. Yonmei disagrees =)

    Comment by Thene — May 2, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  2. I have had to force myself to look at this objectively and put my bias in favour of JK Rowling aside. This lawsuit just doesn’t feel right. Not that I am on Vander Ark’s side, because I am not, but it still hurts me to see things descend into a lawsuit. For me, this is low.

    I’ve actually written an academic study about the prejudice and discrimination themes in Rowling’s work; and I never once felt susceptible to a lawsuit. Rowling has said she delights in critical analysis of her work. Nethertheless, the idea that one has to print “Not AUTHORIZED” on the cover of literary criticism blows my mind. Where would literature be if people did not comment on it? Someone somewhere is determined that no one but Warner Brothers should make money off of Harry Potter. I don’t think it’s JK Rowling who has made this decision; but I think she has allowed herself to be influenced, perhaps led astray. I am also disturbed by some of the “blind following” and fanaticism that some Harry Potter fans display. We’ve become bleating sheep; a sort of lynch mob. Surely this is not what Ms. Rowling would have wanted?

    Comment by Karen A. Brown, author of Prejudice in Harry Potter — May 3, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  3. Karen, I agree with what you’ve said — but from what I can see, there’s little literary criticism in the Lexicon EXCEPT for the essays — and those mostly don’t belong to him. Which would be more than problematic if he decided to publish those and profit off of them.
    The problem I do have is that people are either rabidly against JKR on this because they think she’s a rich bitch who has forgotten her roots, or they are fanatically for her just because she’s the beloved author of the HP books.

    Comment by kyraninse — May 3, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

  4. Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying Kyraninse…I think we the fans should step aside and allow Rowling and Vander Ark to sort this out. Let the judge decide, for goodness sakes! It’s bad enough that the man has lost (if not his credibility) the regard, support and friendship of an idol, with whom he is now engaged in the ugliest of battles. Why must we, the fans, feel the need to turn on him, too? This has long passed out of the realm of the humane.

    Comment by Karen A. Brown, author of Prejudice in Harry Potter — May 8, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

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