Saturday, March 1, 2008
Is J.K. Rowling serious? AP reports her threat to sue her own fans if her lawsuit is not successful
I kid you not. It's all here.AP (which looks like it's just taken a press release from Warner Brothers and oddly reworked into an puff piece) is reporting that J.K. Rowling, whom we have had the greatest respect for (and we continue to try to keep that respect) has issued what can only be a rather threatening warning that if Steve Vander Ark's attempt to publish the HP Lexicon as an Encyclopedia, it will - to quote Rowling - "undoubtedly have a significant, negative impact on the freedoms enjoyed by genuine fans on the Internet. Authors everywhere will be forced to protect their creations much more rigorously, which could mean denying well-meaning fans permission to pursue legitimate creative activities."
Good heavens! Either she does not completely grasp what Warner Brothers is doing (and she's darn smart, so that just hard to believe) or she thinks we're stupid. We're supposed to cheer her on or she'll sue us?
The whole point of going after the HP Lexicon - which as we are reminded was praised by Rowling until Warner Brothers stepped in) - is that there is a fierce battle on over intellectual property now that the 20th century modes of communications are quickly becoming passé.
What Rowling is failing to mention here - with her sadly unfortunate and not-so-veiled threat is that it's the other way around. Encyclopedias have been published on literary works for years (as I have mentioned before, I have many many such works including a hefty 800 page Encyclopedia that was published by a fan). There is nothing new with that. What is different here is that Warner Brothers is trademarking the WORDs - the WORDs - and not just the images from the Harry Potter series.
If this lawsuit against Steve Vander Ark - perhaps once her most industrious and respected fan - is will set a precedent that the trademark owner can control the actual words. This is international law and it can then be applied to the internet.
So in fact, the reality is that it's the other way around.
What just floors me is that J.K. Rowling is threatening to sue her fans if her lawsuit is not successful. She's casting herself as the victim - which is just so incredibly laughable. She's one of the richest women in the world and she and Warner Brothers are throwing an enormous public relations campaign along with a cost litigation effort to shut down the fan she gave an award to for having the best Harry Potter fan site. It's absolutely bizarre.
She says that is she is not successful in her lawsuit, it will mean "denying well-meaning fans permission to pursue legitimate creative activities." Where does she get the authority to issue "permission?" Because she "owns" the trademarked words!
So let's say you want to write an essay on your blog or website on how governmental offices during heated campaigns appear as though they have been drinking polyjuice potion because they aren't acting like themselves but a pandering to constituencies. If you use the trademarked word "polyjuice" she is threatening to send you a cease & desist letter since you are using one of her words in an essay she neither controls or profits from.
If the lawsuit is successful, it won't matter because the precedent will be set that words used on the internet cannot be translated to traditional forms of publication. In other words, the intellectual property - i.e., the words themselves - will be controlled by a corporation who owns the trademarked words.
We won't be able to plead our first amendment rights because the first amendment is guarding our rights to free speech from the interference of the government, not a corporation.
Unless, of course, it is appealed to the Supreme Court on the argument that the courts do not have jurisdiction to restrict freedom of speech by upholding laws created to protect trademark images from unauthorized use.
Remember, Rowling keeps referring her published words as her "invention." They are not her creation - she doesn't use the word creation. She uses the word "invention." That is setting the groundwork for this litigation. She is the inventor, as much as someone who invented the pooper scooper gets to control how it is used. She's not an artist - she's an inventor.
Corporations are attempting to use this to protect their investments. J.K. Rowling has become the corporate spokesperson to restrict freedoms of speech and the press by the use of trademarking the language. And that can be applied globally to the new forms of communication now employed by millions around the word.
Also remember, there was no way that Warner Brothers could ever shut down the HP Lexicon right now. It would be a public relations disaster. But Steve offered them a handy dandy way to do it and leave Rowling's own image in tact. They'll just go after this little book instead (never mind that I have several HP encyclopedias on my shelf right now!). But now that the corporations finally woke up in the new century where they are still using last-century's communication methods and are now seeking control over "intellectual property" through international trademarking rather than copyright law (which is national and expires) it's time to shut this stuff down.
The question is - why put this press release now? It coincides with more filings by Warner Brothers this past week in the case. Does Warner Brothers think the fans are too young and too naive to question the media strategy at play here? Notice also how we keep hearing about her charity work (more press releases) so that her happy image of the caring author remains intact as she sues one of her biggest supporters over the years. Does Warner Brothers think, as they successfully convey in this so-called AP "article" that J.K. Rowling is an Untouchable?
Or has she just sold out? Cornelius Fudge™, call your office.