Potter trial has a happy ending

Updated: Apr 29 2008, 07:03am hrs
JK Rowling held out an olive branch to the Harry Potter look-alike who wants to publish a guide to her books and whose publisher she is suing for copyright infringement.

Rowling seemed clearly wounded after the previous days testimony by the writer of the guide, Steven Jan Vander Ark. Vander Ark broke into sobs on the witness stand as he said that he had once been one of her biggest fans, but now felt cast out of the Harry Potter community by her lawsuit.

Rowling told the judge in federal district court in Manhattan that she had been misunderstood. Vander Ark watched from the back of the room as the trial drew to a close.

I never ever once wanted to stop Vander Ark from doing his own guidenever ever, she said as she took the stand for the second time in the three-day trial, as the last rebuttal witness. Do your book, but please, change it so it does not take as much of my work.

Her plea came on a day that began with the judge, Robert P Patterson, urging Rowling and Warner Brothers Entertainment, the company that produces the Harry Potter movies, to try to settle the case. They are suing Vander Arks publisher, RDR Books, based in Michigan, to stop publication of the Harry Potter Lexicon. Rowling contends in the lawsuit that the lexicon copies large chunks of material from her own books while adding little new information and insight.

Patterson said that he loved literature and that his father had been a fan of Shakespearean tragedy, but he reminded the parties that in Bleak House, the character Miss Flite faithfully attends every day of the trial and finally dies in her little attic.

A very sad story, Patterson said. Litigation isnt always the best way to solve things.

But if Patterson thought he could wave a magic wand and cast a happy-ending spell on the proceedings, the lawyers seemed intent on proving him wrong.

Even after Rowlings conciliatory words, the lawyers for both sides came on strong in their closing arguments.

Rowlings lawyer, Dale M Cendali, concentrated on marketing, saying the guide could hurt Rowlings ability to sell books and Warner Brothers interest in marketing movies

and merchandise related to Harry Potter.

If the guide were published, Cendali said, she envisioned readers saying: You know

what I guess I dont really need the rest of the Harry Potter

books because I just read the

big giveaways.

NY Times / Anemona Hartocollis