Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hogwarts Ahoy!

There is something singularly unedifying in the sight of one of the world’s wealthiest authors traipsing into a court room to do battle with a harmless geeky fan who merely wanted to publish a lexicon of her work. Money does have its privileges since Miss Rowling requested that she should not have to come eyeball to eyeball with her naïve fan, a request that seems to have been rightly denied. However, she does have a ‘special room’ for her to retire to after the stress of her court appearance. Let’s hope her loyal and now litigated against fan has the same courtesy shown him.
It seems Miss Rowling is upset. She herself had intended to write the sort of lexicon of her Harry Potter books that she is now attempting to stop and would have donated the proceeds to charity. She feels ‘violated,’ it was “an act of betrayal” and she was unable to put pencil to paper for months, her creative juices having been cut off in mid-flow by this dastardly deed. It had, she said “decimated my creative work over the last month.” She would cry – except that it’s not British to do so.
I know exactly how she feels. Not so long ago, I was at work on my definitive history to be entitled, ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.’ Proceeds were to have been donated to the SRG (Society for Retired Gladiators). I had already got as far as the part dealing with Libanius, the Sophist of Antioch, when a friend said, “’Ere, it’s been done already.”
And so it had been, by some bloke called Gibbon.
Well, I felt violated, betrayed and, not being British, shed a few tears. My creative work was decimated for a month. I also found that this Gibbon fellow was not worth suing having been dead for a while.
Undoubtedly Miss Rowling, who can probably afford expensive legal counsel, is correct that, in the eyes of the law, a certain amount of plagiarism has taken place. In my library I have a book which consists almost entirely of quotes from Winston Churchill, a rather better writer than JKR, dare I suggest. There has been no suggestion of taking the compiler to court.
But in this case, as so often, the law is an ass – and so is Miss Rowling, who has metamorphosed remarkably from looking like a rumpled bag lady to celebrity status, complete with wardrobe malfunctions that allow the tabloid newspapers to feature her bosom.
If Mr. Vander Ark’s book were to have any effect at all, it could only be to increase the sales of Miss Rowling’s work.
Perhaps the many fans of Harry Potter could now stand up and tell the author, whom they have made unbelievably rich, to go back to Hogwarts and learn something about public relations.
Good luck to Mr. Vander Ark.


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