The moral of this story: Don't mess with J.K. Rowling. The wizardly writer just whipped out one heck of an expelliarmus spell on the folks behind The Harry Potter Lexicon.
A federal judge in New York today put the kibosh on the planned publication of a contentious book version of the popular fansite, ruling it violates Rowling's creations.
U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson Jr. dismissed defense arguments that the Lexicon was protected under fair-use provisions of copyright law. He ordered the publisher to pay minimal damages of $6,750, or $750 each for the seven Potter books. (View the complete decision.)
"I took no pleasure at all in bringing legal action and am delighted that this issue has been resolved favorably," Rowling said in a statement. "I went to court to uphold the right of authors everywhere to protect their own original work. The court has upheld that right.
"The proposed book took an enormous amount of my work and added virtually no original commentary of its own. Now the court has ordered that it must not be published. Many books have been published which offer original insights into the world of Harry Potter. The Lexicon just is not one of them."
Rowling and Warner Bros. teamed up last October to sue author Steven Vander Ark and RDR Books over the planned 400-page, $25 Lexicon. During testimony in April, an emotional Rowling took the stand and blasted the book as amounting to "wholesale theft of 17 years of [her] hard work" and "decimating" her livelihood by forcing her to take a break from writing her latest novel to focus on the legal battle.
There was no immediate comment from RDR or Vander Ark, whose Lexicon website has been temporarily shut down "due to technical difficulties."
Patterson had urged both sides to settle, predicting no matter what his ruling, it would provoke years of appeals because of the vagueness of copyright code in such an instance.
Hari Puttar better be afraid. Very afraid.
(Originally published Sept. 8, 2008 at 11:26 a.m. PT.)