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Bloomsbury dismisses Potter copyright claim
16.06.09 | Philip Jones
Bloomsbury Publishing has said that it will "vigorously" defend the claim of plagiarism made against the publisher by the estate of Adrian Jacobs, stating that the allegations that Harry Potter author J K Rowling copied from Jacobs' earlier work were "unfounded, unsubstantiated and untrue". According to Bloomsbury, a similar claim on behalf of the Jacobs' estate was made in 2004, but never progressed.
The Jacobs estate filed the complaint in the High Court and is seeking an injunction to prevent further sales of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and either damages or a share in the profits made by Bloomsbury. It claims J K Rowling "copied" from Jacobs' short children's novel The Adventures of Willy the Wizard-No 1 Livid Land, in one of her Harry Potter books.
But Bloomsbury stated that J K Rowling had never heard of Adrian Jacobs nor seen, read or heard of his book Willy the Wizard until this claim was first made in 2004. According to Bloomsbury this claim was first made by solicitors in London acting on behalf of Adrian Jacobs' son who was the representative of his father's estate and who lives in the United States. The claim was unable to identify any text in the Harry Potter books which was said to copy Willy the Wizard.
Bloomsbury stated: "Willy the Wizard is a very insubstantial booklet running to 36 pages which had very limited distribution. The central character of Willy the Wizard is not a young wizard and the book does not revolve around a wizard school." It added that writing was very much a sideline for Jacobs, and his book was of a "very poor quality".
Bloomsbury said the earlier claim was largely based on the work of a man called David Markson. Markson is now "said to be" the literary agent of Adrian Jacob's estate and his brother Max Markson is handling the publicity for the estate in this case. Bloomsbury said this new claim was put forward on a "significantly different basis" in 2008 but still without identifying any text said to copy Willy the Wizard. It said the UK lawyers have stated that they are acting on behalf of a firm of solicitors in Wagga Wagga, Australia and on behalf of a West Midlands property developer who was appointed in 2008 as Trustee of the Estate in order to bring this claim.
The allegation insinuates that the plot of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, published in 2000, borrowed "substantial parts" from Jacobs’ somewhat lesser-known The Adventures of Willy the Wizard-No 1 Livid Land, published 10 years before the first Potter book came out. According to a press statement issued by the Jacobs estate both books describe the adventures of a main character, "Willy" in Jacobs' book and "Harry Potter", who are wizards, who compete in a wizard contest which they ultimately win. Other similarities referred to in the claim include the idea of wizards travelling on trains. Jacobs' book was published by Bachman and Turner in 1987.
Bloomsbury concluded: "This claim is without merit and will be defended vigorously."