By Larry Neumeister
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
NEW YORK, April 14 -- J.K. Rowling testified Monday before a packed courtroom in a lawsuit to block publication of a Harry Potter lexicon, telling a judge that the book amounts to a "wholesale theft" of nearly 20 years of her hard work.
"We all know I've made enough money. That's absolutely not why I'm here," Rowling told the judge in U.S. District Court.
The British author sued Michigan-based RDR Books last year to stop publication of Steven Vander Ark's "Harry Potter Lexicon," claiming copyright infringement. Vander Ark runs the popular Harry Potter Lexicon Web site, and RDR wants to publish a print version of the site and charge $24.95.
Rowling claims the book is nothing more than a rearrangement of her own material and told the judge it copied so much of her work that it amounted to plagiarism.
"I think it's atrocious. I think it's sloppy. I think there's very little research," she testified Monday. "This book constitutes wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work."
She also said she has recently started work on her own encyclopedia but does not expect to complete it for two to three years because she wants to do it right.
RDR's lawyer, Anthony Falzone, has defended the lexicon as a reference guide, calling it a legitimate effort "to organize and discuss the complicated and very elaborate world of Harry Potter." The small publisher is not contesting that the lexicon infringes upon Rowling's copyright but argues that it is a fair use allowable by law for reference books.
The non-jury trial will be decided by U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson Jr., who must determine whether the use of the material is legal because Vander Ark added his own interpretation, creativity and analysis. The testimony and arguments could last most of the week. Rowling will spend her breaks in the seclusion of a jury room, away from fans of her wildly popular series.
The trial comes eight months after Rowling published her seventh and final book in the series. The books have been published in 64 languages, sold more than 400 million copies and produced a film franchise that has pulled in $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office.
In sometimes emotional testimony, Rowling recalled starting work on the first book in 1991 when she was 25 and so destitute that she sometimes had to choose between purchasing typewriter ribbon and food. She said the Harry Potter characters were a fantasy world to which she could escape from the hard work of raising a child on welfare as a single mother.
Rowling also testified she had stopped work on a new novel because the lawsuit has "decimated my creative work over the last month."