NEW YORK — J.K. Rowling testified before a packed courtroom in a lawsuit to block publication of a Harry Potter lexicon, telling a judge the book amounts to a “wholesale theft” of nearly 20 years of her work.
“We all know I’ve made enough money. That’s absolutely not why I’m here,” Rowling told the U.S. District Court judge in New York.
The British author and Warner Bros. sued Michigan-based RDR Books last year to stop publication of Steven Vander Ark’s “Harry Potter Lexicon,” claiming copyright infringement. Vander Ark runs the popular Harry Potter Lexicon website, and RDR wants to publish a print version of the site and charge $24.95.
Rowling claims the book is nothing more than a rearrangement of her own material and told the judge it copied so much of her work that it amounted to plagiarism.
“I think it’s atrocious. I think it’s sloppy. I think there’s very little research,” she testified Monday. “This book constitutes wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work.”
Rowling also said she has recently started work on her own encyclopedia but does not expect to complete it for two to three years. If Vander Ark’s lexicon is published, “I’m not at all convinced that I would have the will or the heart to continue with my encyclopedia,” she said.
RDR’s lawyer, Anthony Falzone, in an opening statement, defended the lexicon as a reference guide, calling it a legitimate effort “to organize and discuss the complicated and very elaborate world of Harry Potter.” The small publisher is not contesting the lexicon infringes upon Rowling’s copyright but argues that it is a fair use allowable by law for reference books.
The nonjury trial will be decided by U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson Jr., who must determine whether the use of the material is legal because Vander Ark added his own interpretation, creativity and analysis.
The testimony and arguments could last most of the week. Rowling will spend her breaks in the seclusion of a jury room, away from fans of her popular series.
The trial comes eight months after Rowling published her seventh and final book in the series. The books have been published in 64 languages, sold more than 400 million copies and produced a film franchise that has pulled in $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office.
Vander Ark, 50, has said he joined an adult online discussion group devoted to the “Harry Potter” books in 1999 before launching his own website as a hobby a year later. The website attracts about 1.5 million page views per month and contributions from people all over the world.