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'Harry Potter' author sues over pre-release newspaper article

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‘Harry Potter’ author sues over pre-release newspaper article

  • J.K. Rowling and Scholastic filed a $100 million suit alleging that the New York Daily News may have ruined the surprise for many anxious youngsters.

June 20, 2003 — Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and publisher Scholastic filed a suit Wednesday against the New York Daily News after the newspaper published excerpts from “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” without permission.

Just days before the official release of the latest Harry Potter book, copies have been popping up in stores throughout North America. While these sneak peeks at the young wizard’s adventures may please eager readers, the book’s author and publisher are anything but delighted.

The plaintiffs in the suit seek approximately $100 million in damages, arguing that the Daily News’ unauthorized use of the book excerpts constitutes copyright infringement, as well as other violations of state and federal laws.

The Daily News purchased the book from a Brooklyn health store prior to the highly hyped release date of June 21, MSNBC reported.

Two articles about “The Order of the Phoenix” appeared in the newspaper’s June 18 edition. One documented the procedure of obtaining the book and included reproductions of two pages. The second reveals details of the book’s plot, according to the complaint filed by Rowling and Scholastic.

The publisher and author want all readers to experience the book at the same time, according to a statement issued by the Scholastic: “We sincerely hope that this unfortunate situation will not spoil the surprise for millions of children around the country who have been eagerly awaiting the book.”

The plaintiffs also claim the Daily News “irreparably harmed the carefully orchestrated, multi-million dollar marketing and distribution plans for Phoenix,” their complaint stated. The costs for the campaign totaled between $3 and $4 million — more than twice the amount spent publicizing the previous book in the series.

The Daily News will “vigorously defend any action” brought against it, said Ken Frydman, spokesman for the newspaper. It has done nothing wrong, he added.

New York is not the only place where copies of Rowling’s latest book have appeared prematurely. MSNBC reported that a woman in Montreal purchased the book at a Wal-Mart nine days ahead of schedule. According to Indianapolis television stations, the fifth novel in the popular series was available at a local Osco drugstore.

Scholastic is “taking all reported breaches of the June 21 on-sale date seriously and . . . [is] investigating them with a view to possible legal action,” its statement said.

(J.K. Rowling and Scholastic Inc. v. New York Daily News Company; Media counsel for New York Daily News: Jonathan Donnellan, Daily News LP, New York) EH

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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