The Art of Retelling: Harry Potter and Copyright in a Fan-Literature Era

MALR, Vol. 14, No. 1, p. 31, 2009

U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 379

15 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2009  

Megan Richardson

Melbourne Law School

David Tan

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: March, 20 2009

Abstract

Simple assertions that fans are harmless may be belied by the copyright cases threatened and launched by authors of popular fictional works, against fans who write secondary works based on distinctive elements of the original stories. On the other hand, it may be that authors are too possessive of their creations, seeking to control their imaginary afterlives. The story of Warner Bros v RDR Books - the Harry Potter Lexicon case - provides a vehicle to examine the conundrum. The decision of Patterson J in the US District Court seeks to navigate a fine line between original authorial control and literary activities of fans, in suggesting that, in the main, fan literature should be encouraged and protected as fair use for copyright law purposes. However, the judge faced an uphill battle in countering Rowling's insistence that she was entitled to exercise control over all products derived from her 'nominative genius'. In the decision's aftermath, Rowling has elected to support rather than challenge a new version of the Lexicon, which seeks to incorporate substantially more commentary than the original version. However, we wonder what breathing space will be left for fan fiction.

Keywords: copyright cases, Harry Potter, Rowling, fans, Warner Bros, RDR Books

JEL Classification: K3, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Richardson, Megan and Tan, David, The Art of Retelling: Harry Potter and Copyright in a Fan-Literature Era (March, 20 2009). MALR, Vol. 14, No. 1, p. 31, 2009; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 379. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1365657

Megan Richardson (Contact Author)

Melbourne Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia

David Tan

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776
Singapore

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