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Harry Potter and the alleged plagiarism

13 January 2011

The estate of Willy the Wizard’s creator has suffered a setback in his quest to claim damages for copyright infringement from JK Rowling and Bloomsbury. Readers will remember that the English High Court refused to dismiss the claim at a summary stage, because the case did have some chance of success (though the judge seriously doubted the strength of the claim).

Now, in parallel proceedings brought in the US, the claim has been dismissed, the court concluding that the two books were “distinctly different in both substance and style”.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the claim is doomed to failure over here – a substantial part of the original book must be shown to have been copied, but there have been many cases where this has been demonstrated despite the resulting text looking very different in its totality from the original. But it certainly hasn’t helped Willy’s cause, and may yet prompt a settlement of the UK action.

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Mark Daniels

Mark Daniels

Partner and Head of Business Services

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