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‘Potter’ Copyright Suit Against Scholastic Dismissed

British Author J.K. Rowling
British author J.K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series, reads from 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Scholastic Corp., U.S. publisher of the bestselling “Harry Potter” novels, won a copyright-infringement lawsuit brought by the estate of an author claiming one of the books copied his work.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan dismissed the suit brought by the trustee for the estate of Adrian Jacobs against New York-based Scholastic because the books were too different.

“The contrast between the total concept and feel of the works is so stark that any serious comparison of the two strains credulity,” Scheindlin wrote in an opinion filed yesterday, granting Scholastic’s motion to dismiss the case.

The trustee said J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the fourth of the seven novels in the series, copied Jacobs’s “The Adventures of Willy the Wizard--No. 1 Livid Land.” “Goblet” was published in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2000. “Willy” came out in the U.K. in 1987 and hasn’t been published in the U.S.

Scheindlin pointed out in her opinion that “Willy,” a 32-page work with 16 pages of illustrations, is about an adult who takes part in a wizards’ contest. “Goblet,” a 734-page novel with few illustrations, features a teenager who participates in a tournament between rival schools of magic.

The estate of Jacobs “regrets” that its lawsuit has been dismissed, Max Markson, a spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “The estate’s U.S. attorneys are presently analyzing the judgment with a view to lodging an appeal,” he said.

400 Million Copies

Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels have sold 400 million copies worldwide, and there are 141 million in print in the U.S., said Kyle Good, a spokeswoman for Scholastic. There are 19 million copies of “Goblet” in print in the U.S., she said. Scholastic doesn’t release U.S. sales figures for the novels.

In the complaint, the trustee said that Jacobs, who died in 1997, and Rowling were represented at one time by the same literary agent, Christopher Little.

The U.S. ruling has “no legal bearing” on a copyright case brought by the estate in the U.K. against Rowling and her British publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, Markson said. He said that case is scheduled for trial in February 2012.

Scholastic rose 1 cent to $31.31 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. The shares have gained 2.3 percent in the past 12 months.

The case is Allen v. Scholastic, 10-5335, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The U.K. case is GLC 72/10 Allen v. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

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