Fan's book would exploit my work, says Rowling as she protects her Potter gold

Last updated at 16:28 29 February 2008

Wizard for details: Steve Vander Ark says his work will add to sales of Rowling's books

J.K. Rowling said yesterday she would feel "exploited" if a fan's unofficial encyclopaedia companion to the Harry Potter series were published.

The billionaire author is trying to prevent publication of a 400-page reference book by a fan of her hugely successful seven-book series.

Steve Vander Ark has based The Harry Potter Lexicon on his popular fan website (, which contains a fan-created collection of essays and encyclopedic material on the Potter universe, including lists of spells and potions found in the books, a catalog of magical creatures and a who's who in the wizarding world.

But Rowling and Harry Potter movie studio Warner Brothers, which owns the intellectual property related to the books and films, are suing U.S. independent publisher RDR Books.

"I am very frustrated that a former fan has tried to co-opt my work for financial gain," Rowling said in court papers filed yesterday.

"I believe that RDR's book constitutes a Harry Potter 'rip off' of the type I have spent years trying to prevent, and that both I, as the creator of this world, and fans of Harry Potter, would be exploited by its publication," the 42-year-old author added in a declaration filed in a U.S. district court.

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The lawsuit - first launched in October - names Michigan-based RDR Books and unidentified persons as defendants.

It seeks to stop publication and requests damages for copyright and trademark infringement as well as any potential profits.

The Harry Potter Lexicon's publication, previously scheduled for last November, has so far been blocked by the lawsuit.

Rowling has said she plans to write her own definitive Harry Potter encyclopaedia, which would include material that did not make it into the novels, and will donate the proceeds to charity. The novels have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide.

"I feel intensely protective, firstly, of the literary world I spent so long creating, and secondly, of the fans who bought my books in such large numbers," said the author.

Rowling said she was especially irked that Vander Ark and RDR continued to insist that her acceptance of free, fan-based Web sites justified the publication of his encyclopaedia.

"If RDR's position is accepted, it will undoubtedly have a significant, negative impact on the freedoms enjoyed by genuine fans on the internet," she said in court papers filed yesterday.

"Authors everywhere will be forced to protect their creations much more rigorously, which could mean denying well-meaning fans permission to pursue legitimate creative activities."

She added: "I find it devastating to contemplate the possibility of such a severe alteration of author-fan relations."

Vander Ark, a librarian, has spoken at Harry Potter academic conferences in Britain, Canada and the U.S.

His publishers point out that a Harry Potter timeline he created was even used by Warner in DVD releases of the Harry Potter films.

The company and Vander Ark have said The Harry Potter Lexicon would actually promote the sale of Rowling's work and that Vander Ark's website, used by 25 million visitors, had been called "a great site" by Rowling herself.

RDR lawyer Lizbeth Hasse said today that Rowling is seeking a monopoly over the work, which is not part of copyright law.

"It's a very legitimate literary activity," she said of the lexicon. "Like a reference book or a guide to literature, it's a long-recognized genre.

"We are not replacing the novel or taking away the market."

RDR boss Roger Rapoport has said The Harry Potter Lexicon would not compete with any official encyclopedia written by Rowling.

On its website, RDR said it was "determined to publish this book for the benefit of Harry Potter fans everywhere".

It said it "believes Ms Rowling, who has championed the 'Lexicon' for years, will love reading the book just as much as she does the website on which it is based".

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