alexseanchai: quill, ink bottle, and calligraphy (Default)
our roads may be golden, or broken, or lost ([personal profile] alexseanchai) wrote2012-02-25 12:41
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Fanfiction Law on LexisNexis, Part 3: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. v. RDR Books

Citation: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. v. RDR Books, 575 F. Supp. 2d 513 (S.D. N.Y. 2008)

Parties: Warner Brothers and J. K. Rowling, who own the copyright to the Harry Potter series, plaintiffs. RDR Books and ten unnamed individuals (one of whom is surely Steve Vander Ark), who tried to publish a lexicon of the Harry Potter books, defendants.

Facts: Seven books, two companion books, issues of a fictional newspaper, assorted movies and video games, and Rowling's plans to publish a Harry Potter encyclopedia—this is one big franchise that Rowling and Warner own. Vander Ark runs a website, the Harry Potter Lexicon, that keeps track of all the details, organized by type of detail and alphabetically. The Lexicon site uses ads to offset the cost of running the site, not to make any profit. Rowling and others involved in the production of the books and movies have been approving. RDR Books thought there'd be money in producing the first Harry Potter reference guide to include material from the seventh HP book, and further, thought there would be no lawsuit. Much of the Lexicon's material is Rowling's words, often without citations or even quotation marks.

Prior Proceedings: None.

Issue: Under the US Copyright Act, does reordering copyrighted material constitute transformative and therefore fair use?

Holding: No. Not when so much of the reordered material is word for word out of the original, maintaining the same narrative.

Reasoning: The Lexicon book adds some work but that's all copied from other sources such as Bulfinch's Mythology, it doesn't transform, it doesn't comment or critique or parodize (all against fair use), it's commercial (against fair use), it's copying fiction (against fair use), it copies so much of Rowling's series and so much more of her companion books using so many of Rowling's words (way, way against fair use), and it would hurt the market for the Harry Potter encyclopedia that Rowling meant to produce (not against fair use, surprisingly—reference works, the opinion says, are not derivative works) and, because so much of the companion books were copied on the Lexicon book, would hurt the market for said companion books (definitely against fair use). So not fair use, so copyright infringement. This does not prove that irreparable harm would be done to the plaintiffs without an injunction against the defendants, but Rowling says the publication of the Lexicon book would hurt her ability to write her own Harry Potter encyclopedia, which does constitute harm to her and to the charities supported by her profits from same and to the reading public, and see above about the market for the copied-nearly-in-full companion books, which again constitutes harm. The defendants paying the plaintiffs money would not suffice as a remedy, because there's no indication that the defendants would stop infringing the plaintiffs' copyright. The defendants failed to show that they'd be harmed in any manner other than simply failing to publish the infringing book, not something the law protects. And the public interest is both benefited and harmed by an injunction against this book's publication. Three to zero.

Disposition: A permanent injunction against the book's publication and $6750 to plaintiffs.

Comments: Again, it all comes down to money (the defendants wanted some) and how much copying the defendants did (way too much). They didn't add to, they didn't transform, they didn't comment on or critique the original works. Fanworks don't ask for money and do add to, transform, comment on, and/or critique the original works. I'm more concerned with how this case affects the Super-wiki than with how it affects my Supernatural fanworks. Still not very concerned, because the Super-wiki runs on donations which it uses only to pay for the domain name and hosting fees.
redsixwing: Picture shows a red-winged angel staring at a distant blue star. (Default)

[personal profile] redsixwing 2012-02-25 20:59 (UTC)(link)
Thank you for assembling all of this. May I link to your combined research?