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Methuen delays Potter Lexicon
24.04.08 | Tom Tivnan
Independent publisher Methuen may not be able to release the UK edition of The Harry Potter Lexicon for months, even if US publisher RDR Books successfully defends itself against J K Rowling and Warner Brothers' copyright infringement lawsuit.
Methuen had originally been hoping for an April release for the Potter-themed encyclopedia, compiled from fan Steve Vander Ark's website (www.hp-lexicon.org). But the company has been forced to hold off pending the court's decision.
Methuen m.d. Peter Tummons said he was still "very confident" in RDR's position, but expected Potter film producer Warner to appeal if it loses. He added: "You can never quite tell about the US appeal system, but I think we are talking about a matter of some months. Eventually, I think we will be able to publish this autumn, which might turn out to be quite good timing for us." He would not comment on what Methuen would do should RDR lose the case.
Rowling and Warner are contending that The Harry Potter Lexicon copies large chunks of material from the Harry Potter books while adding little new information and insight. RDR, a small publisher from Vander Ark's home state of Michigan, has countered that the book does not violate Rowling's copyright because it is "fair use"—that it is commentary, and therefore the intellectual property can be used without permission.
Rowling took the stand twice during the three-day trial at the US District Court in New York City, testifying that publishing the lexicon constituted wholesale theft of 17 years of her work. Vander Ark broke down in tears during his own testimony when asked what the case had done to his relationship with Harry Potter fans. He also revealed he had earned $6,500 (£3,279) in advertising from the website, which he has run since 2000.
Robert Patterson Jr, the presiding judge, urged both sides to settle the case, warning it might become like Jarndyce v Jarndyce, the long-running trial in Charles Dickens' Bleak House. He also said that he had read half of the first Harry Potter novel to his grandchildren, but found the magical world hard to follow.
Testimonies concluded on 16th April and both parties have agreed to a 9th May deadline to submit any additional material. Patterson is expected to give his ruling later next month.