Saturday, February 09, 2008

How J.K. Rowling can "Choke Creativity"

There's an excellent article in the business section of the NYT today by Joe Nocera about J. K. Rowling's efforts to squash a small publisher who wants to publish a "companion" book. According to the Times:

“I feel as though my name and my works have been hijacked, against my wishes, for the personal gain and profit of others and diverted from the charities I intended to benefit,” she said in a declaration to the court.

And what perfidious act of “hijacking” has RDR Books committed? It planned to publish a book by Steven Vander Ark, who maintains a fansite called the Harry Potter Lexicon. The Lexicon publishes Harry Potter essays, finds Harry Potter mistakes, explains Harry Potter terminology, devises Harry Potter timelines and does a thousand other things aimed at people who can’t get enough Harry Potter. It’s a Harry Potter encyclopedia for obsessive fans.

RDR has the help of Lawrence Lessig's clinic at Stanford. This will be a very important test case on the parameters of fair use in American law.

It will be about the battle between those who believe in the evolution of culture through a large and liberal interpretation of the time honoured practice of fairly building upon what has come before and those, such as Ms Rowling and her agent, Mr. Neil Blair who says:
“There have been a huge number of companion books that have been published,” Mr. Blair said. “Ninety-nine percent have come to speak to us. In every case they have made changes to ensure compliance. They fall in line.” But, he added: “These guys refused to contact us. They refused to answer any questions. They refused to show us any details.”
(emphasis added)

In other words, creativity v. control.

J.K. Rowling may be the most successful author in history in the financial sense. It's just too bad that she is using her money and power to control, stifle and "choke" the creativity of others.

PS - here's a great article by Tim Wu from January 10, 2008 Slate on why Rowling should lose her lawsuit.


1 comment:

  1. Steven Vander Ark should be allowed to publish his book. I do not think that his encyclopedia is a violation of copyright.

    I believe however, that as a matter of "literary respect" if you will, the author should have been contacted about the impending publication of this encyclopedia.

    Having made such contact, he should not be coerced to make any changes as stipulated by Rollings and her team.

    If you really look at this from a logical standpoint this is not her work. This is his work regardless of the fact that it is based in it's entirity on hers.

    Rollings contends that her work has been 'hijacked ... for the personal gain and benefit of others.'

    She must be wishing right now that she had thought of this encyclopedia herself. This case appears to be a matter of greed in it's worst form, greed on the part of Rollings and her team. She needs to realise that alot of people just can't get enough of Harry Potter.

    Fans like myself are no doubt thinking that her time would be better spent writing another of installment of Harry Potter.

    If one argues that
    Steven Vander Ark will make alot of money from this publication, my response would be, why should'nt he?