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On Lexicons & Lawsuits - moonspinner
moonspinner
moonspinner
On Lexicons & Lawsuits
So the "J. K. Rowling vs. the Harry Potter Lexicon" saga has gone to trial. The Witness for the Prosecution punctuated her deposition with a few well-timed tears.

I have to give it to Rowling. She has a flair for the dramatic. Anyone who can spin writing a set of novels that made her richer and more famous than the Queen of England as something to garner pity is... really in the right profession. :D

Amongst many reasons, it's hard to feel sympathy for Rowling when this is a clear example of old indiscretions coming back to bite her in the butt. Unlike most other writers/creators who usually (and sensibly) turn a blind eye to fandom, Rowling has always actively encouraged and participated in her fan-base. The Lexicon in question was awarded honourable mention by her website. A great chunk of the padding in Books 5-7 (Remus/Tonks being prime) was lifted straight out of the Shipping Wars. I've said elsewhere that the last good Harry Potter novel was Book 4, Goblet of Fire which was written before the 3 years' break before Book 5, in fact, before the Dark Times, before Rowling discovered the Internet.

I have no doubt that she will win. She has all the big guns in her favour: WB, her lawyers, her money and the law. I would respect her a little bit more (which isn't saying much, I admit), if she and her defence just stuck to the facts - which are already in her favour - and spare us the whole 'underdog' act. Rowling is most certainly not the underdog in this case.

She is right about one thing, though. British people really don't care much for criers or whiners.


ETA: In case, my saracsm drowned out this point: I'm not saying Steve Whathisface is right to publish his Lexicon, I'm just saying that JK Rowling is not the innocent, wronged, and ill-used figure she's cutting to the world over this matter.

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Comments
fpb From: fpb Date: April 15th, 2008 10:15 am (UTC) (Link)
British people don't WHAT? Just ask any Australian about whinging Pommies. Or ask me, for that matter.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: April 15th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
You have definitely been hanging out with the wrong crowd. :P I think the only public British person that got away with tears was the late Diana and even she used it sparingly. But JK Rowling is richer - and more beloved - than the Queen, so I'm guessing the stiff upper lip rule won't apply to her.
fpb From: fpb Date: April 15th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have been hanging around with the crowd that complained about the best postal service in Europe till it was privatized and they had to discover what really bad service was like. Ditto the railways. Ditto the national health service. The English whine as naturally as a greaseless axle.
ladyaeryn From: ladyaeryn Date: April 15th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
In this case, I actually side with Rowling. Something like 95% of the Lexicon isn't even the "author"'s original work - it's regurgitated straight from JKR's books. As far as "she got all her ideas from the internet anyway" - that's debatable, and in the end, she's still the one who went through the work of writing the books. (Regardless of how good/crappy they ended up being; you know I'm not jumping for joy over HBP/DH, especially that epilogue.)

Giving a not-for-profit website based on your work an award for effort is not the same thing as condoning that website trying to make a buck off that work. Which is the big diff: the website wasn't for profit. This book would be. And, all things considered, given the choice between an encyclopedia based solely on parroted stuff from a fan or an encyclopedia from the actual creator, which might actually offer new material? I'd choose the latter, although I don't have any intention of buying either book.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: April 15th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Whathisface is right to publish his Lexicon (makes an ETA of this), I'm just saying that JK Rowling is not the innocent, wronged, and ill-used figure she's trying to present to the world over this matter. Seriously, though. Almost in tears? With WB & her lawyers and her fortune behind her? :P


As far as "she got all her ideas from the internet anyway"

I do believe she got some specific plots *cough*DD/GG*cough*, but it's something that can never be proven either way and that's not my point.


There is a sharp, almost scary difference between the books she wrote before and after the "three golden years of the HP Internet boom" and by her own admission, she spent a lot of time on the WWW during that period, engaging her own fandom. My point isn't that she owes fandom in general (Or Whathisface in particular) for the plots/ideas in her books (which for the record, she doesn't since fandom was speculating on her own material in the first place).

My point is that by getting so involved in her own fandom, by hosting interviews with BNFs (and making BNFs), by taking sides in Shipping Wars, and by giving seals of approval to websites, she put herself in the position where a "close fan friend" didn't think twice of trying to rip of his "good friend" Jo.


And, all things considered, given the choice between an encyclopedia based solely on parroted stuff from a fan or an encyclopedia from the actual creator, which might actually offer new material? I'd choose the latter, although I don't have any intention of buying either book.

The one good thing about this lawsuit, I think, is that it's - paraphrasing JKR - "stiffled her creativity". So hopefully, that encylopedia with its 50-years later epilogue (we all know that's what it'll be basically) has been put on the back burner for now. I'm not going to buy it even when it does come out. I think I've given JKR enough of my money. ;)

Edited at 2008-04-15 03:27 pm (UTC)
sistermagpie From: sistermagpie Date: April 15th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
If it's copyright infringement I totally support her winning, but I am a little amused by the recent "feel sorry for me" attitude. There was the thing about how maybe now she "won't have the heart" to write the encyclopedia, how now other authors won't be so great to their fans because she "threw it all away" (honestly, she hasn't thrown anything away--what does any of this have to do with fandom? If Steve wanted to write this sort of thing he would have written it anyway, whether or not she'd admitted that she relied on the Lexicon herself, wouldn't he?). And then that she'd stopped work on her current novel because this has robbed her creativity.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: April 15th, 2008 03:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
If it's copyright infringement I totally support her winning, but I am a little amused by the recent "feel sorry for me" attitude.

My sentiments exactly. I'm not supporting Steve Whathisname to win but I'm not supporting Rowling either because she clearly doesn't need mine or anyone's support and personally, this act of hers is just confirming my opinion that she's a rather dishonest person.



how now other authors won't be so great to their fans because she "threw it all away" (honestly, she hasn't thrown anything away--what does any of this have to do with fandom? If Steve wanted to write this sort of thing he would have written it anyway, whether or not she'd admitted that she relied on the Lexicon herself, wouldn't he?).

I think she said that because Steve/his publishers used her quote commending the Lexicon as part of their "defence suit". From a legal point of view, that's nonsense and it's pretty arrogant of her to think that because of her own, very unique goof ups, other writers and their fandoms will be affected.


And then that she'd stopped work on her current novel because this has robbed her creativity.

LOL! That was probably the killing blow. Of all things, Steve Whathisface did, this was the Most Unforgivable. Heaven forbid that anything stops JK Rowling from writing. /snark

Edited at 2008-04-15 03:29 pm (UTC)
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: April 16th, 2008 01:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not a Harry Potter fan, so I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I have to disagree with some of your arguments. It doesn't matter how much money she's made or the degree she's involved herself in fandom. She can't let this guy take her work and profit from it or else anybody can do it. No matter how you slice it, Mr. Van Whatever tried to pull a fast one on her. She's allowed a fandom to grow and one doofus decided to overstep the line. It's like TheForce.net deciding to market and sell a book of SW fan fiction posted on its site for the mass market.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: April 16th, 2008 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Er... You've sort of misunderstood me. I never argued that she should allow Whathisname to publish his rip-off or that she was wrong to sue. I tried to say (and clearly didn't do a good enough job) that it was her unnecessary and detrimental-to-the-quality-of-her-work involvement in fandom that put her in this position and that her overemotional display in court is both tacky (because it's an act) and unnecessary (because she'll win).

A few books into the Harry Potter novels, some fans compared HP (unaware orphan wizard living with his Muggle Aunt and Uncle, who discovers his magic and a great destiny and makes friends with two people that become lovers) to Luke Skywalker's story. Rowling, in her characteristic sarcastic way, informed these fans that any comparism between her and Lucas was wrong, laughable and offensive (to her). Perhaps if she had spent more time learning how best to handle a fandom like Lucas and less time cutting him and other writers down (Tolkien, Lewis to mention a few), and most importantly, just spent more time Writing... She won't be having to shed crocodile tears in court today.
viariskywalker From: viariskywalker Date: April 16th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC) (Link)
There is a sharp, almost scary difference between the books she wrote before and after the "three golden years of the HP Internet boom" and by her own admission, she spent a lot of time on the WWW during that period, engaging her own fandom.

I mostly enjoyed the HP books, but I never got involved in the fandom, so I am completely ignorant about this. It's been so long since I read the first four books (really the first six, to be honest) so I really can't remember enough to recognize those differences. But I would definitely be interested in knowing what they are! If you have time, maybe you could let me know what kinds of differences there are between the first four and the last three? I'm very curious now...
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: April 16th, 2008 04:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Edit – OOPS, What I originally posted was meant to be a reply to lazypadawan’s comment.

I never fully got into the HP fandom either. I’ve never written fan fiction or drawn fan art and the only serious meta I’ve ever written were the post-book, post-movie reviews and the occasional grouse against JK Rowling’s attitude to Narnia and Star Wars.

(In fact, there’s an interesting story here about how I found SW, fell in love with SW, and stayed in love with SW because in 2002, when I was waiting for Book 5, I came across an online comparison of HP and SW and I decided to see ‘Attack of the Clones’ in the local theatre. The rest, as they say, is history. )

The differences… That would probably need a meta-long entry. :P It’s something I’ve been wanting to write about a lot. There are a handful of them that I could just list out now out of the top of my head:

1. The ‘plot’ of the books stopped being about the title of the novels and started being about Harry’s year in Hogwarts. Think of Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban & Goblet of Fire, and how the stories were always about these things. Then think about Order of the Phoenix, the Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows and how the stories might as well have been called ‘Harry Potter and the 5th, 6th, 7th year in Hogwarts respectively).
2. The introduction of characters, sub-plots, and things that were never again used in the subsequent books. Who would have thought that a throwaway mention of Hagrid borrowing Sirius Black’s flying motorcycle would have led to the entire plot of Book 3? Or that Ron’s sleeping rat would be such an important character? Or even the diary in Book 2? Or Dobby? Or Miss Figgs? Books 5-6 gave us Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Hestia Jones, Romilda Vane, Zacharias Smith, Marietta... All these characters served the purpose of their books as extraneous padding and played no significant role afterwards.
3. The reinvention of existing characters straight out of the very best of bad-fic – Ginny Sue in Book 5, Fanon Draco in Book 6, Ass-Kicking Molly in Book 7, Morally Dubious Dumbledore (which she didn’t even have the balls to go through by later on ret-conning that every morally dubious thing he ever did was because of his gay lover).

Wow, it looks like I’m already writing the meta here. :P


Edited at 2008-04-16 07:03 am (UTC)
hollywood_r_bin From: hollywood_r_bin Date: May 1st, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, i didn't even know about this... honestly I used to be really deep into the HP fandom up until before book 5 was published. I kinda left after that though i still read the books. You are SO right about the Dark Times lol. Anyway reading this, I'm with you on the whole dramatic thing. Reading it, I'm not taking sides but I am annoyed at the media circus-ness of it.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: May 2nd, 2008 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Media circus is right. I half-suspect that Rowling’s people let it come to trial just so that it can get her some more publicity. The whole trial was a circus, with the attorneys ‘apologizing’ for saying Voldemort’s name in court and the judge making Harry Potter jokes. It was ridiculous.
vanimy From: vanimy Date: June 3rd, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I couldn't agree with you more about JKR. I lost respect for her entirely for these reasons and now, really the Hillary-like attitude that consists of invoking pity lately just doesn't work with me.

And Word, word, word on the last books being really different and her basically screwing up her series with those. Admittedly I loved Book 5 so can't agree with you on that one, if only because it made me sob at the end and because I loved Harry in this one, and of course Hermione but then it changed drastically IMO and became really fanfic-ish. The plot stopped being coherent, the ships were forced down our throat in what she thought was romance(well, at least Ron/Hermione did but Harry/Mary Sue!Ginny? WTF?), the whole trio was so OOC it was becoming cringe-worthy, there was a whole tribe of pointless characters, not to mention the total rip-offs and predictable plot points...

I wish you could do that Harry Potter meta. I'd love to read it. You really pointed out the differences between GL/SW and JKR/HP and why I have completely drifted away from the HP fandom (which I came into very late anyway) and why I still love SW to pieces. Because for all the backlash Uncle George received, he crafted a timeless tale, never gave into the fanboys, never exuded arrogance, always stuck to his plot BUT knew how to tweak with it when it obviously went in the wrong direction and just is a wonderful storyteller, unlike, sorry for the fans out there, IMHO, JKR.

Sorry, that was a rambling. ;)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: June 4th, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Admittedly I loved Book 5 so can't agree with you on that one, if only because it made me sob at the end and because I loved Harry in this one, and of course Hermione but then it changed drastically IMO and became really fanfic-ish.

I actually started replying this with a statement that I would probably never write any Harry Potter meta with my schedule the way it is now, then my reply spun on and on and on in a rant to end all rants about why though Order of the Phoenix was a great book at the time it came out, it became a bad book by the end of the series because of all the things – plots, themes and characters – it introduced that were never played out at the end.

Apparently, LJ felt my reply was too long for a comment, so I decided to polish it into a meta of sorts. Never say never. :P


Edited at 2008-06-04 04:00 pm (UTC)
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