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Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. v. RDR Books

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
375 F. Supp. 2d 513 (2008)


Facts

J.K. Rowling (plaintiff) wrote seven books in the Harry Potter series, which follows Harry Potter and his friends through a fictional magical world. To bring the magical world to life, Rowling created many characters, places, and ideas. Rowling said in public interviews that she intended to create an encyclopedia for the Harry Potter series after the seventh and final book was published. The Harry Potter series was hugely successful internationally, and Warner Brothers Entertainment, Incorporation (Warner Bros.) (plaintiff) bought the movie rights. Soon after the first Harry Potter book was published in the United States, Steven Vander Ark (defendant) began work on a website to act as a resource for Harry Potter readers to use to keep track of the books’ details. The website, called the Lexicon, was initially published in 2000 and was meticulously updated and maintained as new books were released. In 2007, the president of RDR Books (RDR) (defendant) approached Vander Ark about turning the content of his website into a book. The book version of the Lexicon had entries, in alphabetical order, for the characters, places, and other magical things in the Harry Potter book series. Many of the entries either directly quoted or closely paraphrased descriptions in the books. Only some of the quotes had quotation marks. Warner Bros. and Rowling sued RDR and Vander Ark for copyright infringement prior to publication of the Lexicon.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Patterson, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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