Harry Potter author JK Rowling has called for a plagiarism case against her to be dismissed, describing it as "unfounded" and "absurd".I'll say. For starters you can't sue someone for plagiarism, because, however much a literary crime it may seem, it just isn't legally actionable.
Copyright infringement, however, is a different story. I've no doubt that copyright infringement is behind the case being taken against Rowling and her publisher.
In June, the estate of Adrian Jacobs issued proceedings at London's High Court against Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, claiming that Rowling copied substantial parts of The Adventures of Willy the Wizard - No 1 Livid Land written by Jacobs in 1987.I hope for the plaintiff's sake that they have more than that. Even if they can prove Rowling borrowed the same plot elements after reading Jacobs' book (and that may be hard to prove if the book in question is an obscure one), that would probably not amount to infringement if those elements are simply "the wizards travel by train" or "there is a wizard contest".
It said the plot of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire copied elements of the plot of Willy the Wizard, including a wizard contest, and that the Potter series borrowed the idea of wizards travelling on trains.
I don't know enough about the claim to know whether it's as dumb as that. Even if it is it would be hard to find a dumber copyright case than that brought in 2006 by the authors of the bestselling “non-fiction” book Holy Blood Holy Grail, Michael Baigent (a New Zealander) and Richard Leigh, against Dan Brown, famous author of the novel The Da Vinci Code.
I wrote about this case in October:
They claimed Brown’s book took themes from the earlier work in a way that amounted to an infringement of their copyright.
Despite the obstacles (i.e. the somewhat obvious problem that their claim was laughable and legally without merit), Baigent and Leigh decided to spend literally millions of pounds in an attempt to punish the author of the very book that had propelled their own work back into the bestseller lists. This article, written by one of my colleagues about the case and trial court judgment, is a good summary of the issues, and it explains why Baigent and Leigh failed so miserably.
And then when the trial court judge smacked them down, they appealed (unsuccessfully, of course) and got hit with an enormous costs award.
Fools. Greedy fools.
Is this another example of greed getting in the way of good sense? Maybe the executors of the Jacobs estate think Rowling will pay them to go away. But what choice does Rowling have but to fight this all the way? If she settles her literary reputation will be destroyed.