Steven Vander Ark, the would-be author of a proposed Harry Potter encyclopedia that is at the center of a trial taking place this week in Manhattan, took the stand today and nearly broke into tears while facing off against J.K. Rowling (pictured), the author of the Potter series. Rowling and Warner Brothers, the movie studio that adapted her books, are suing Michigan publisher RDR Books, which announced last fall that it was publishing a print version of Vander Ark’s popular fan site, The Harry Potter Lexicon. When Vander Ark was asked by his lawyer whether he considers himself a part of the Harry Potter community, the 50-year-old witness got choked up and had to look away before answering, “It’s been difficult because there’s been a lot of criticism and that was never the intention. I understand where that comes from, obviously. This is an important part of my life for the past nine years or so.” Vander Ark testified that he read his first Harry Potter book in 1998 and has probably read the series 30 or 40 times since.
The trial, now on its second day, is expected to last most of the week. Rowling, who has in the past openly praised Vander Ark’s free fan site, testified on Monday that she feels a for-profit print version of The Harry Potter Lexicon ”constitutes wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work.” Vander Ark did reveal that his fan site generated about $7,000 between its launch in 2000 and October 2007, though that sum is considerably less than what a print version of the lexicon would likely pull in, given that Rowling’s seven books have sold more than 400
million copies. — Reporting by Lindsay Soll