In a long-awaited decision in the case of Rowling v. RDR Books, a federal judge in New York has ruled in favor of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. in the copyright infringement lawsuit they filed against RDR Books, the publisher of the Harry Potter Lexicon, an unofficial encyclopedic companion to the popular Harry Potter series of books. In his 68-page decision, Judge Robert Patterson held that RDR Books "had failed to establish an affirmative defense of fair use," granted a permanent injunction barring publication of the Lexicon, and awarded the plaintiffs $6,750 in statutory damages. Although the decision is a disappointing setback for RDR Books and many Harry Potter fans, there is some good news in Judge Patterson's opinion for fair use advocates, which I discuss below.
I'll spare you a detailed recitation of the facts, which run almost 30 pages (for an excellent -- and prescient -- analysis of the case before it went to trial, see Derek Bambauer at Info/Law). Instead, I'll just point out a few of the key passages in the court's decision that caught my eye.
On a related note, the Citizen Media Law Project has announced a new partnership with the Right to Write Fund, which helped defend Harry Potter Lexicon author Steve Vander Ark and will continue to support creative artists faced with similar legal threats. Read the full press release here.