BBC’s iPM, the personal version of the PM programme, had an interview with Steve Vander Ark about the court case (it should be on the podcast).
Having heard it, I’m in two minds whether he and RDR are naive or wilfully keeping their head in the sand. Firstly there is the issue of how the contributors get paid (if at all) and then there is a case that the Lexicon doesn’t fully add to the knowledge base.
By arguing fair use, it muddies what I believe is an already murky legal territory. We do not know what is in the printed version but if it doesn’t entirely add to the definitions taken off – as in critical thought about any interesting facts (Remus Lupin and the play on words about a wolf) – then the fair use is perhaps invalid. Especially if the lexicon repeats or near enough repeats, large chunks of text without commenting or discussing.
However Warner and Rowling still do not come off well in my view though, especially not after this comment:
“If RDR’s position is accepted, it will undoubtedly have a significant, negative impact on the freedoms enjoyed by genuine fans on the Internet,” she said. “Authors everywhere will be forced to protect their creations much more rigorously, which could mean denying well-meaning fans permission to pursue legitimate creative activities.” (Source: Guardian World News Feed)
Certainly the mind is boggled by the New York Times‘ report that Dale Cendali appears to believe that somehow an unofficial guide might hurt sales of either film or book properties. I somehow suspect not.
Even if RDR lose, the same ruling will be used in future to protect work. But where does protection stop and blocking critical comment begin? This, I suspect, will be contested somewhere soon. What does it mean to the fan fiction and slash?
The bar on thinking and commenting about author’s work from now on, in all intents and purposes, needs to be higher to prevent such a further case ever coming to court and to establish the true boundary of fair use on the Internet. Too many questions have been raised and I suspect that few answers will be forthcoming.
The best outcome is some sort of out of court settlement and if the book goes ahead, all profits should go to charity. Either way, fans are perhaps about to enter some interesting times – in the Chinese sense.