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JKR/WB vs. RDR Books Trial: The "Blurry Line" of Copyright Law

Companion Books
Posted by: Kristin
April 20, 2008, 12:22 PM

The Associated Press has a brief history of the trial, as well as the challenges of deciding when the claim of fair use has gone to far:

“Lawrence Pulgram, an intellectual property lawyer who represented Napster in a copyright fight with the rock band Metallica, said deciding where to draw the line is rarely easy.

“Fair use is the most erratically applied doctrine in copyright.”

The article notes that A-to-Z reader guides, such as a lexicon, may be allowed under law, but that J.K. Rowling and WB charge that Steve Vander Ark went too far with the Lexicon.

“Rowling said during her testimony that Vander Ark could still do his book, as long as he changed it to take less of her material.

“I never ever once wanted to stop Mr. Vander Ark from doing his own guide. Never ever,” she said, before asking the judge again to block it in its current form.”

RDR Books Publisher Roger Rapoport says he’s willing to consider a revision, but that neither J.K. Rowling or Warner Brothers have expressed a willingness to compromise. He was asked whether there is a “danger” in granting authors too much control in “books about them”. Said Rapoport:

“We would have to get approval before we could write or publish on people’s work. They would control critical commentary on their work, at any time, whether it is our kind of book or an Associated Press article. It would create total chaos in the area of critical commentary. Frankly, I don’t think that would be good for anyone, even the authors themselves.”

The article notes that Judge Patterson is not expected to make a ruling for another month.

Find more of Leaky’s coverage of the trial here.

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