Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Willy the Wizard flies into NY with lawsuit aimed at Scholastic

14.07.10 | Philip Jones in The Bookseller

Willy the Wizard has returned again adding a third target—US publisher Scholastic—to a lawsuit that centres on the Harry Potter books.

Having previously filed lawsuits in the UK first against Bloomsbury, and then later against Harry Potter author J K Rowling, the estate of the deceased author Adrian Jacobs has now pitched up in the US where, according to a press release, a news conference is to be held later today (14th July) outlining the latest developments in what appears to be a litigation tour.

The lawsuit, to be filed in a federal court in New York, claims that the company’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is "substantially similar" to Jacob's 1987 book The Adventures of Willy the Wizard, a book largely unknown before last year. The suit calls for Scholastic to recall the Goblet books and pay the estate all profit from it.

According to the press statement, the estate also now claims that Rowling and Jacobs were represented by the same literary agent, Christopher Little, who had copies of Jacobs’s book before Goblet was published. In its 2009 claim against Bloomsbury the estate claimed that Jacobs had "sought the services of a literary agent, Christopher Little", who later became Rowling's literary agent. Little has yet to comment on the claim that he was "Jacobs' agent".

It is not immediately clear where this leaves the UK lawsuits, but a press statement put out by the trustee of the estate Paul Allen gives some clues as to the reasons for the US relocation. "We’ve taken comprehensive legal advice and have a strong case," it said. "The USA being the world’s largest market for Potter books means that our first overseas action is brought here in America." According to Allen, further lawsuits will be brought in key territories worldwide.

Bloomsbury, the original target of the estate's lawyers, dismissed the allegations when they were made in June 2009, indicating that a similar claim on behalf of the Jacobs' estate was made in 2004, but never progressed.

Bloomsbury stated at the time that J K Rowling had never heard of Adrian Jacobs nor seen, read or heard of his book Willy the Wizard until this claim was first made in 2004. Bloomsbury added that Willy the Wizard was a "very insubstantial booklet running to 36 pages which had very limited distribution" and was of a "very poor quality". Rowling was added to the lawsuit in February this year at which point she described the accusation "as not only unfounded but absurd".

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