Salon has an interesting article about a lawsuit being filed by JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books. It appears that the creator of the fansite Harry Potter Lexicon has decided to publish his exhaustivly encyclopedic website in a handy reference guide form, for those times when you're actually offline and need to find out what Snape's sister's name was.* I don't hang out on the Harry Potter Lexicon, I'm a fan but not obsessed.** Now JK's publisher has moved to block the printing of this encyclopedia, saying that the fansite was okay, but any commercial venture that makes money off of Rowling's characters or plots is not. Rowling has said that she wants to publish an encyclopedia of her own, so it's a fair assumption she doesn't want any competition.
Here's the thing: Rowling is on record as saying she has used the Harry Potter Lexicon as a reference, checking in when she needs to confirm a fact--about her own universe. I think we can safely assume then, that the HPL is exhaustively, obsessively accurate, in the way that only creations of obsessed exhaustive fans can be. I look forward to a HP encyclopedia, and I don't much care if it's written by Rowling or by a fan--I'd almost rather go with the fan, since they have been writing, editing and cross-referencing things as the books were coming out and is likely to be more accurate. I can almost guarantee it will--remember the Maurauder's Map mysteriously reappearing in Book 5? And Rowling frantically backpedaling in interviews, saying that Dumbledore had given it to Harry? When was this, exactly?***
You see my point. The article makes a better case about previous litigation, and what constitutes fan/research useage of materials, and what infringes on copywrite, blah, blah, blah. My concern is less with copywrite infringement than it is with accuracy. Tolkein took decades to put the world of Lord of the Rings in order, but with the Internet, the HP universe was constructed as the books were being printed. Why wouldn't HP fans want to take advantage of that? More importantly--why should we wait for Jo's official version? That hasn't stopped us from creating articles, fan fiction, fan art and even scholarly research.
Most importantly, Jo--let it go. We are your fans and we love your characters as much as you do. You have a bazillion dollars in the bank, you can afford to let a few geeks print up some HP research books. I know it's the principle of the thing, but it's not. Do not sue your fans. We have powers beyond your imagining. I can live without a shiny new set of collector's edition Harry Potter books in the collector's box, but can you live without my love?
Fine. You probably be can,**** but you see my point. Let it go.
* Trick question. He doesn't have one.
** Tattoo notwithstanding. Sweet hell, that's comprehensive
*** Alfonso Cuaron, you're on notice. "How do you know it's a map, sir?"
**** With your bazillion dollars.*****
*****(stupid exchange rate)