This opinon piece in the Los Angeles Times takes author J. K. Rowling to task for suing to prevent publication of the Harry Potter Lexicon, “a print version of the fan website hp-lexicon.org.” The piece admits that, while Rowling may be within her legal rights in enforcing her copyright, she’s guilty of bad behavior. Instead of suing, the argument goes, she should be thankful that fans are willing to devote all the time and energy to preserving and further promoting her lucrative literary franchise.
But the lawsuit is not frivolous:
its charge is serious: that an encyclopedia created entirely out of her inventions goes beyond fair use of copyrighted material, does not transform that material to a degree that constitutes new work (as would, for example, parodies or critical studies) and would compete with Rowling’s own long-proposed but never undertaken potterpedia.
This is indeed a serious legal issue, and one we’re likely to hear more about in the future. The recently founded Organization for Transformative Works describes itself as “a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.” The organization proclaims its values as follows:
- We value transformative fanworks and the innovative communities from which they have arisen, including media, real person fiction, anime, comics, music and vidding.
- We value our identity as a predominantly female community with a rich history of creativity and commentary.
- We value our volunteer-based infrastructure and the fannish gift economy that recognizes and celebrates worth in myriad and diverse activities.
- We value making fannish activities as accessible as possible to all those who wish to participate.
- We value infinite diversity in infinite combinations. We value all fans engaged in transformative work: fans of any race, gender, culture, sexual identity, or ability. We value the unhindered cross-pollination and exchange of fannish ideas and cultures while seeking to avoid the homogenization or centralization of fandom.
This Potter brouhaha sounds like something OTW could sink its teeth into.