Monday, April 21, 2008
Yeah, I'm one of those dudes who sneaks into the theatre with dark glasses and a baseball cap scrunched down over his face to avoid being spied whenever I take in the latest sequel of the popular fantasy adventure, Harry Potter.
I'm a closet-fan for the most part - but I guess I'm out now - eh?
This past week readers here and abroad were stunned when they learned that the author - J.K. Rowlings - hauled a fan into court in a bold-faced effort to obtain a "cease and desist" order to prevent the young man from encroaching on what she perceived as her exclusive right to creative property.
At issue is a learning guide a dedicated fan from Michigan - described as a mousy-looking middle-school librarian - had the audacity to conjure up so avid filmgoers could get a handle on key words sprinkled throughout the dialogue in the hit wide-screen series.
Gosh, I don't recall "Star Trek" aficionados ever ordering imagination police to Sci-Fi conventions around the Nation to prevent a wholesome exchange of ideas from springing forth - and in the process, just maybe - open up a door of understanding with the ultimate aim of shedding some light on the fictional literary works and their salient points.
In fact, when the alleged intellectual thief - Steven Vander Ark - testified on the witness stand earlier this week, he broke down in tears.
Rowlings, you big meanie!
You'd think that with all the big bucks bulging out of her mad money purse - the sales of books have made her one of the richest women on the planet (much to the chagrin of the big "O") - that she'd encourage new talent, lend a hand, or at least show some encouragement.
Curiously, in her defense, she lamented that it was her intention all along to publish a useful tool similar to that of Van Ark's.
A-ha, just as I thought.
The Wicked Witch of the Northeast is not jealous necessarily - just kickin' herself for not fathoming up the idea first with her little - um - wand.
But, her excuse does not hold water.
The films have been screening for years now. Wouldn't it have been wiser to print up a lexicon earlier on so fans could figure out the terminology when the "Harry Potter" films first splashed up on the silver screen?
No, if the truth be known, it's a flimsy excuse after the fact.
In my opinion? She was stewing at home lamenting to herself,
"Why didn't I think of that?"
Just lost another billion bucks, eh?
Notwithstanding, J.K. Rowlings may have erred in pursuing this matter in view of all the bad press she's been garnering, too.
RDR Books - which halted Van Ark's publication pending the trial - defended itself as a small publisher being intimidated by high-priced lawyers.
"The proposed book was meant to a helpful reader's reference guide," he clucked.
He elaborated further by underscoring similar publications were offered up for classics such as - Tolkien's, "The Lord of the Rings" and C.S. Lewis', "The Chronicles of Narnia."
The courtroom proceedings played out dramatically, heightened by all the theatrics of the legal wrangling, which tended to fizzle out in the aftermath.
A key issue for the Judge to consider in chambers?
Whether the the Harry Potter lexicon was sure to make a new and important contribution to Rowling's canon or simply amounted to a thinly disguised theft of her prolific imaginative yarns, the legal eagles argued.
So, a discerning Judge - with a keen eye to fairness - allowed both sides to parade in a team of experts to opine on the issues. Unfortunately, a lot of the testimony not only clashed and contradicted - but on occasion - became besotted with explorations of arcane Latin word roots that frequently confused all except the insightful Judge.
A UC Berkeley English Professor argued that the book offered remarkable insights into Rowlings' multi-layered prose. While the opposing side thought the defenses amounted to a lot of hogwash, since - according to Lecturer Jeri Johnson from the Exeter College - "Out of 2,437 entries 2,034 simply lifted information" - without much input, analysis, or the shedding of any insightful light on the subject matter.
Because the material was summoned up by way of Rowling's stellar imagination, defendant Van Ark astutely noted that it was precisely for that reason - the source of the imaginings - that he was forced to give reference directly to her material on occasion.
At the end of the day the Judge repeated his finding that he expected the issue could be resolved without the interference of the court.
But, on the issue of fair use and copyright, spectators to the fiasco were predicting the matter may go all the way to the Supreme Court.
J.K. Rowlings will have to face 9 Grand Wizards in that court of opinion!
Queen of Hearts being dubbed Queen of Clubs...