There’s much speculation going on about the current lawsuit between J.K. Rowling and RDR Publishing about the Lexicon. My newsgroups are all of a sudden full of folks who’ve never before bothered to read the Fair Use clause and are now trying to practice law over the internet. (Since that’s a favourite pastime of my own, I can’t really fault them. But even I admit that non-attorneys practicing law over the internet are kinda silly. Myself included.)
While I’m not an attorney and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express or play an attorney on TV, I did work in Publishing and Trademark Rights for a number of years, and so I’m what you might call a lay expert.
A lot of folks in the fandom are very upset that JKR is “attacking” Steve VanderArk. After years of her working hand-in-glove with her fan base, it can seem a little bit callous to suddenly sue a person whose site she has admittedly turned to herself for reference. The fact that she’s got a bajillion dollars doesn’t help her any in the court of public opinion. I think back to a post on Ron Coleman’s site that talked about “Piggy Lady Rowling”. (For all you fans out there, Ron Coleman is an ACTUAL copyright lawyer, so it’s good to drop in on his site to get some real information.)
I said last fall and I say now that I side with Rowling in this matter, even though I think she may lose. The thing is that when I was working in P&T Rights our attorneys drummed into our head that the most important thing we could do was “vigorously defend” our trademarks. I spent long hours sending letters to random people just to ensure that my company was on record as defending its ownership of the various things we copyrighted. If we didn’t fight the small battles we could lose the big one.
That’s why I personally think Rowling is going toe-to-toe with the Lexicon. If she doesn’t stop RDR (who?) Publishing from printing a few thousand copies of this book, she’ll have less of a leg to stand on should Random House decide to print a few million copies of another “Guide To Harry Potter” book.
Of course, I also think that Vander Ark saw what MuggleNet did by putting out their own book of original material and decided that he wanted some of that shelf-space. Shame Vander Ark is a cataloger instead of a writer, because his material consists of reorganising Rowling’s work as opposed to writing original commentary, like MuggleNet did.