1/28/2011

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" does not infringe the copyright to "The Adventures of Willy the Wizard"

United States District Judge Shira Scheindlin has found that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling, is not substantially similar to an illustrated childrens book titled The Adventures of Willy the Wizard - No 1 Livid Land by the late Adrian Jacobs. As a result, Judge Scheindlin has granted a defense motion to dismiss the case without trial. The decision has already attracted legal comment on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the U.S., it is noted (and linked to) by Loeb & Loeb. In the UK, it is noted by Shepherd and Wedderburn. The Shepherd and Wedderburn report also compares Judge Scheindlin's opinion to an earlier decision of the UK High Court of Justice, in an identical case involving the same books and parties. In that case, Chancery Division Justice Kitchin denied a defense motion for summary judgment, even though he concluded that "it is improbable" that the infringement claim will succeed.

The legal test by which infringement is determined is very similar in the United States and the UK. But the standard for granting or denying motions to dismiss and summary judgments is different. That difference is what explains the differing outcomes in the two cases so far, though ultimately it is all but certain that J.K. Rowling and her British publisher will prevail in the UK as well.