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J.K. Rowling Brings a Grandfatherly Harry Potter Fan To Tears


Before the Breakdown: Steven Jan Vander Ark at Sectus

Serious drama is afoot in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! We wrote about what the end of the series meant for some local HP disciples last summer, but there's a new, extremely serious rift in superfan land happening right now. It's between author J.K. Rowling and Steven Jan Vander Ark, a sweet 50-year-old librarian and who runs the obsessive Harry Potter Lexicon, a go-to HP online encylopedia. Even Rowling has used it, she has said, when writing on the road and without her own books to refer to. She even gave the Lexicon her fan site award a few years back. Recently, after Rowling learned that Vander Ark had been tapped by the tiny RDR Books to publish the Lexicon as an HP encyclopedia, she decided to sue for copyright infringement. You see, she's planning on penning her own Harry Potter glossery, and assumes nobody will care to purchase hers if they've already got Vander Ark's! Plus, the billionaire author contends the print verrsion of the site merely repackages her own work, and unlike a free site, is intended to churn out a profit.

The Leaky Cauldron, one of the top HP fan sites, has severed ties with the Lexicon -- they'd previously maintained a friendly webby allegiance grounded in HP love. But it hasn't stopped there. The Times reports on the heartbreak:
On the witness stand in Federal District Court, he [Vander Ark] portrayed the famous writer as his idol, his true literary love, who had been unaccountably bewitched by the evil, money-grubbing forces of publishing, like one of Voldemort’s vassals. One day, he testified, Ms. Rowling was singling out his Harry Potter Lexicon Web site, out of “hundreds of thousands” of Potter fan sites on the Web, for praise; the next, she was accusing him of plagiarism for wanting to turn it into a book.

“I did,” Mr. Vander Ark said, his face reddening, as he turned away from Ms. Rowling, who was sitting 10 feet away at the plaintiff’s table, listening intently.

Then he burst out crying. “Sorry,” he said, regaining his composure. “It’s been difficult because there’s been a lot of criticism, obviously, and that was never the intention.”

Rowling has a real knack toying with her fans' emotions. This is upsetting, considering some of us still aren't over Dumbledore.

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