Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Writers and Money

J.K. Rowling (creator of the Harry Potter series and the richest writer alive today) along with her publisher (Warner Brothers) has successfully sued one Mr. Steven Jan Van Vander Ark of Brighton England (one of her biggest fans) for copyright infringement. Now, I'm all for copyright protection, to a limit...it serves the noble purpose of securing a writer's livelihood and guaranteeing him or her full rights to the creative output in question. And believe me, as a starving writer myself, I hold dear the idea that my words could one day pay for food and clothing, not to mention the jet-setting lifestyle to which I so ardently aspire. Indeed Ms. Rowling has been quoted as saying:

"I took no pleasure at all in bringing legal action and am delighted that this issue has been resolved favorably...I went to court to uphold the right of authors everywhere to protect their own original work. The proposed book took an enormous amount of my work and added virtually no original commentary of its own."

Bravo Ms. Rowling, Bravo. Your intentions are, indeed, admirable! Of course, had this been the whole truth, one would assume you would have settled for preventing the publication of Mr. Vander Ark's "Harry Potter Lexicon." Much to the contrary, Ms. Rowling, you and your lawyers saw fit to sue Mr. Vander Ark for $6,750 in damages!

I wonder, have you forgotten what it's like to live on a waitress salary? Surely that neat little sum is but a drop in the bucket for your budget, but for Mr. Vander Ark, a former librarian and teacher, this represents a substantial percentage of his annual income. Do you really want to treat struggling up and coming writers (a group to which you yourself once belonged) in such a disgustingly discouraging manner? Do you really think that Mr. Vander Ark's modest proposal would have infringed upon your market share in any appreciable way?

No, I think not. If anything, this small press-run of 10,000 books that "The Lexicon" was attempting to put into print, could be expected to BOOST the sales of the Harry Potter series. Certainly more so than the resulting public backlash that will ultimately result from this conflict.

But the true spit on the cupcake is this: the damages secured were designated to compensate Ms. Rowling for the time and energy lost to mental anguish when she should have been working on her latest book!

Really Ms. Rowling...Really? You were distracted from your latest project for a couple of days while your lawyers at WB took care of all the details? I can't imagine what you must be going through. Please believe me when I say that I would like nothing more than to understand your dire plight firsthand!

The simple fact of the matter is, Ms. Rowling does not need to write another word EVER in order to maintain the comfortable lifestyle to which she has, no doubt, become accustomed. Shouldn't she be using her position of acquired privileges to support folks like her former self, just hoping to make a living out of literature in the face of the current cultural vacuum?

Or, at the very least, one might imagine that, since there is little possibility of the "Lexicon" supplanting her work wholesale, that Rowling might look fondly on the cross-connections her humble little childrens book has generated among a worldwide fan-base. But no...to the contrary, this once-waitress now mega-celebrity has taken to picking the pockets of the very fans who put her in the position of "literary" affluence she now enjoys.

The simple fact is: writers steal words from writers. This has always been the case. Rowling's book is built upon themes and content that mirrors any number of fantasy/sci-fi novels written in the 20th century and beyond. For more on this point, check out Orson Scott Card's reaction to the current debacle:


For all the desperate maneuvering she has put herself through in order to secure her "intellectual" "property," the author has, in fact, succeeded only in diminishing her loyal readership...by one, at least.

[DID YOU KNOW: Mickey Mouse is the father of modern copyright laws? Disney, dismayed that their iconic money-maker was about to fall into the public domain, pulled some strings with their government cousins and had the copyright laws revised to provide protection for 70 years, a drastic jump from the previous period of 14 years!]

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