On the scene at the 'Harry Potter' trial

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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

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
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  • J.

    Is anyone else disturbed by the fact a 50-year-old man is getting choked up over Harry Potter?

  • Nix

    I was all sympathetic because I thought this was some college girl who has an LJ and loved loved loved Harry since she was ten.
    But man who’s loved loved loved Harry since he was 40? not quite so sympathetic.

  • Susan

    Mr. Van Der Ark is choked up over Harry Potter??? He sounds like the “I’m your number one fan!” type (thanks,Misery) The ending of “Return of the King” got me choked up…. but crying over Frodo. HUH???
    Strange.

  • Clearlyhere

    He is just a fan of the work. Remember Harry Potter isn’t just a kids book. In fact, the later books are too long and complex for children. I think he is a Librarian who has always had a love of books and marveled at the complexities of the world she created. It is very sad for him that he has to go through this process. Though, I believe he needed to shut down the publishing process.

  • anonymous

    I notice this article doesn’t mention that his book is 91% JKR’s own words, including almost the entirity of the two faux textbooks she published for charity. I find I can’t work up any sympathy for someone that dumb.
    Oh, except he actually got on the stand and admitted that he had reservations about copyright publishing but was “talked into it” by his publisher. So maybe he did know what he was doing, but doesn’t make him any less dumb. But be happy, Steve, you’ve got something that most fans don’t have: you’re written into JKR’s work. Just use your manuscript to look up all instances of the character “Peter Pettigrew”…

  • Shaun

    I was sympathetic to Vander Ark at first, but that’s before I realized he was a 50 year old guy who’s basically lifted JKR’s own writings and calling it his own. There are other guide books to the HP series that have been pulbished. JKR hasn’t gone after any of those, probably because those are actual original words/thoughts/commentaries by the people who wrote them. I mean REALLY wrote them, not just swiped from JKR like Vander Ark seems to have done.

  • Shaun

    Hilarious… I post a comment asking about why all these dumb ads for dating sites are being allowed through, but MY comment gets held up for review by the blog’s spam filter? Umm… OK. Maybe you need to rethink that, EW.

  • Gre

    I don’t see how this encyclopedia is any different from a Cliffs Notes. I think Van Der Ark has every right to put out his book.

  • EHM

    Whatever. JK is being a total sleaze about this. Her comments, which were left out of this report, are tacky and absurd at best. I love JK and her books, but she’s sort of going over the top. It’s a literary reference book. The classics tend to have them. JK should be honored that someone would want to do this. Although I can’t imagine why someone would buy this book when it’s already available for free online.

  • Hermione

    all you homophobes are scary. Remember Dumbledore? What’s wrong with a 50 year old guy, who may be putting himself in Harry’s place? He’s upset because he’s banking on this book and could lose it all. Not that I side with him… I think the judge will figure what’s fair.

  • Chris

    “I don’t see how this encyclopedia is any different from a Cliffs Notes. I think Van Der Ark has every right to put out his book.”
    Except for that all of the books that Cliff’s Notes uses are so old that no one owns the copyrights to them. They’re in the public domain. The Harry Potter books are not. Hence, the copyright infringement.

  • Shaun

    Explain where, in my comments, I was being a homophobe exactly… Umm, no. I just think it’s odd that a 50 year old, man or woman, is getting all this choked up. His website is one thing. But publishing a book that essentially JKR’s own writing is not only a copyright violation, it’s something a person Vander Ark’s age should know better than to do.
    On another note, props to EW for deleting the ads for the dating sites that have been cluttering up these comment boards.

  • SJ

    Holy Frak! I totally have the same suit as JK Rowling! *mind has just exploded*

  • gre

    Rowling admitted herself that she used Vander Ark’s web site as a reference guide when she got lazy. Could this lawsuit be a ploy to have them split the proceeds, or, even better, collaborate on an uber-encyclopedia? Come on, Jo, Steve did a lot of cataloguing for you. Throw the guy a bone.

  • For Hermione

    ‘All you homophobes are scary’??
    What’s up with that?
    I think you’re the scary one Herm.

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