Yet another Harry Potter copyright case, but this time, the one being sued is the bespectacled teen wizard. The estate of the deceased children’s author Adrian Jacobs is suing Harry Potter publishers Bloomsbury for copyright infringement in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In 1987, Jacobs wrote a book called Willy the Wizard No 1 Livid Land. The press release detailing the suit claims:

“The copyright allegation argues that the plot of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, published in 2000 and one of J.K.Rowling’s best-selling books, is a copy of that to be found in Jacobs’ book. Both books describe the adventures of a main character, “Willy” in Jacobs’ book and “Harry Potter” in Rowling’s, who are wizards, who compete in a wizard contest which they ultimately win. Both Willy and Harry are required to work out the exact nature of the main task of the contest which they both achieve in a bathroom assisted by clues from helpers, in order to discover how to rescue human hostages imprisoned by a community of half-human, half-animal fantasy creatures, “the merpeople” in Harry Potter.”

Sadly, the press release also details the sad demise of the author:

“Mr Jacobs’ book was ultimately published by Bachman and Turner in 1987. However, following a stock market crash, Jacobs became bankrupt and died penniless in a London hospice in 1997. By contrast, today the Potter Brand is a multibillion dollar global entertainment phenomenon.”

I know that I am exceptionally cynical, but this is has to be one transparent money-grabbing exercise. Firstly, Willy the Wizard’s website appears to be designed specifically to highlight the claimed similarities between Willy and Harry Potter. For example, there is a page that seems to claim that there are boy wizard elements in Willy the Wizard because:

Willy at fourteen was a caring child, an absent-minded dreamer. That’s how it all began because he had been given the Book of Secrets with directions as to his initiation into Wizardry.”

The emphasis is in the original. The site is filled with similar clunky “similarities” between Harry Potter and Willy, such as the existence of wizard trains, wizard chess, and wizard prisons. I have not read the claimant’s complaint, so it would be precipitous to form an opinion. However, based solely on the excerpts from the website, I would predict that this lawsuit has as many chances of winning as of me becoming the Keeper for the Ballycastle Bats. The themes between both books appear to be completely different, Willy is older, has a beard and a pointy hat, and it is filled with religious imagery, such as priests, angels and even God. I was taught not to speak ill of the departed, but Willy the Wizard appears to be ham-fisted and a not particularly enjoyable, if the drawings are anything to go by.

The press releases for the suit comes from Australian PR firm Markson Sparks; visiting their website lights up all of my sceptical alarms. Right there on the first page you get the pictures of Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, George Bush Sr, and Al Gore. That’s an impressive list of represented celebrities… until you learn that the only relationship between the firm and these august world figures is that they have featured in events organised by them. Hey, I once attended a conference where Hilary Clinton gave a video keynote speech. Can I claim that in my CV?

Hence my claim that this is mostly an attempt to grab money. This could be a nuisance suit designed to try to reach a settlement, but it is more likely that it has the purpose of trying to boost sales for Willy the Wizard book. What better way to boost sales than to be involved in copyright litigation?



Amy · June 16, 2009 at 10:00 am

It does seem like a publicity stunt, doesn't it? Whatever happened to letting the content gather its own following?


Andres · June 16, 2009 at 11:30 am

Indeed Amy. To be fair, would you buy your children a book called "Livid Land" ?

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