ciroccoj: (OMG)
I lifted this wholesale from a friend, who lifted it in part (and bolded it in part) from the New York Times, which is all (I believe) legal because we're not making a profit off of this lifting. And I should know about whether it's legal or not, because I have a credit in Property law, from a real law school. Therefore I know what I'm talking about. Let's just ignore the fact that the course contained like half a day on intellectual property, and I took it about a million years ago. Ahem.


Fab article in New York Times:

As the author J. K. Rowling took the witness stand on Monday to testify in the copyright lawsuit over a Harry Potter encyclopedia, the line between her magical world and the muggle courtroom became somewhat blurred.

The lead plaintiff lawyer apologized for saying the name of the villain Lord Voldemort out loud. Albus Dumbledore was quoted in opening arguments for his admonition of when you must “choose between what is right and what is easy.”

Ms. Rowling, when asked to define what wizard cards were, explained in a matter-of-fact matter that they were cards of famous wizards that came with the purchase of a chocolate frogs. (Her lawyer had to explain to the judge that outside the books the cards only existed in a video game). And while the lawsuit was filed on Oct. 31, the lawyers noted, “The fact it was filed on Halloween, your honor, was just a coincidence.”

The material entered into evidence related to flying carpets, rune stones, ogres, a werewolf who was a metaphor for H.I.V.-positive individuals, the pet phoenix named in honor of Guy Fawkes, a real-life Renaissance-era alchemist named Paracelsus, who was cited as a wizard in Ms. Rowling’s series.

The crux of the debate was whether or not “The Harry Potter Lexicon,” based on a similarly named fan site created by Steven Vander Ark, was “wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work,” as Ms. Rowling argued, or a structured reference work with additional insights, commentary and analysis, as the lawyer for RDR Books, the Michigan-based publisher of the Lexicon, argued. (Mr. Vander Ark is not a party to the case.)

At issue was clearly the power and reach of Ms. Rowling’s creativity and the literal words used to express them. Too much of the Lexicon are quotes lifted directly from her novels and two other works, she said.

When asked to discuss the similarity of the Lexicon’s definition of Chinese fireballs on the stand with her own writing, she said that it was not like a giraffe, where if she and Mr. Vander Ark were describing the animal, they might inevitably use the same words. “It’s not as if we are describing something that exists outside my imagination,” she said.

It was clearly an emotional issue for Ms. Rowling, who had flown in from Scotland to testify. She was given a box of blue tissues after she said, “I really don’t want to cry because I’m British.”

The Harry Potter series represented 17 years of her life “other than my children” and the book was a product of times “when I was choosing literally between food and a typewriter ribbon.” On her wrist, she wore a charm bracelet given to her by her publisher with trinkets based on the things from the books.

Ms. Rowling stated she was not opposed to derivative works, as there have been around one hundred Harry Potter-related books that have been published in the United States alone. (Not to mention YouTube puppet shows.)

Rather, she said she was opposed to how the “Lexicon” copied many phrases word-for-word from her book without adding meaningful additional context, adding that some of the work was sloppy or wrong.

“Alohomora,” a spell that opens doors in Harry Potter’s word, does not come from “aloha,” the Hawaiian salutation, she said on the stand. Rather it derives from a West African term meaning favorable to thieves, she said.

Ms. Rowling herself has long ago announced plans to compile her own encyclopedia of the Harry Potter world, whose proceeds would go towards charity. However, the lawsuit was not about the money, but about “a massive principle” about precedents for authors, she said.

“We all know I’ve made enough money,” she said. “I’m not here because I thought I might sell three fewer novels.”

She said she was dispirited by the idea of her own encyclopedia, which would take perhaps two or three years to complete now, because of the Lexicon lawsuit. She associated the project with stress, legal documents and long conversations.

“I’m not sure I have the will and heart to continue with the encyclopedia” should the Lexicon come to market, Ms. Rowling said, adding that she did not want it “limping onto the marketplace.”

The courtroom at the federal court house at 500 Pearl Street was considerably more packed than other copyright cases (like Viacom v. YouTube/Google). There were reporters, law students, copyright groupies, legal scholars and even a young fan or two (shouldn’t they be in school?).

Occasionally, the muggle world would come in focus. When the lawyer apologized for struggling with the pronunciation of “occamy” (a creature resembling a winged snake that was a play off of Occam’s Razor), Ms. Rowling said: “You can pronounce it any way you want. It is not a real thing.”

Legal Snark

Feb. 9th, 2006 10:20 pm
ciroccoj: (Default)
I turn now to the defendants' allegations that plaintiffs' counsel prolonged the trial by his failure to appreciate the rules of evidence ... counsel for the plaintiffs encountered difficulty in phrasing his questions in a manner that complied with the usual requirements for eximination-in-chief. It was striking too that when the defendants began their case, counsel for the plaintiffs developed a marked ability that had not been exhibited during his case, to distinguish between a question that was leading and one that was not.

- Pittman Estate v. Bain, (1994) 35 CPC(3d) 55 (Ont. Gen. Div.)

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