Stefan Hayden

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Harry Potter Needs A Creative Commons License

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)J.K. Rowling is in an interesting situation and creative commons is the answer. The Harry Potter Lexicon wants to publish a reference book. No big deal but it seems all they want to print is (to simplify the situation) an alphabetized list of characters and magic spells.

There is a long history of letting people publish reference books but the key seems to be that the book add enough original content to justify a “transformative work” or one way to say they are not just reprinting J.K. Rowlings words. The argument is that the Harry Potter Lexicon is adding no original work and so should not be printed. Most people in the know see that as the reason that Rowling will win. Most of the critics saying she will lose seemed to have missed the fact that there is “no new work” in the Lexicon that they have planned to print.

The trouble is the law see no difference between the web and a printed book. And if the Lexicon breaks the law in a book then they also break the law online. If Rowling loses because she did not enforce her copyright while the Lexicon was in the digital format then she now has to go after all the harry potter infringement going on online that she has happily left alone. Fan fiction and bands will quickly have cease and desist coming at them killing one of the most vital fandoms on the net. But even if Rowling wins she is still trying to make the copyright law do something it was not meant to do. This was a law suit that could have easily been avoided with a creative commons license.

With a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license it would be very clear what can and can not be made money on. Fans could continue to create songs, write fan fiction, and even compile reference books as long as they make no money on it and allow other to continue to modify their work as well. Any one who wanted to make money could strike a deal with Rowling to get a license where they could make money.

This license might create some situations that the publishers might not like but there is no reason to worry. For example people would be free to share the text of the book for free. There is no reason to fear a wildly available ebook though as one has existed since before the book came out and had no impact on sales.

Other possible problems could be that Wizard Rock bands might not be able to sell CDs but the great part about Creative Commons as opposed to Copyright is that it’s easy to extend extra rights to who every you want. Rowling could grant CD sale rights to all bands.

Copyright is not doing want J.K. Rowling wants it to do. It would be easy to make Creative Commons do whatever she needed it to do. So why does Creative Commons continue to be so controversial when it’s fits so great in to letting a fan base grow while keeping the right to make money in the authors hands.

1 Comment
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J.K. Rowling is in an interesting situation and an actual court judgement is the answer. There are serious material issues of fair-use law (U.S.) that need to be resolved there.

But to a Creative Commons supporter armed solely with a hammer, even a manifestly contentious case of fair-use application looks like a nail.

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