Friday, February 19, 2010

Willy the Wizard returns, adds claim against J K Rowling

18.02.10 | Philip Jones in The Bookseller

Children's writer J K Rowing has been added to a lawsuit originally made against her UK publisher Bloomsbury in June last year. The estate of the late Adrian Jacobs has made the claim over the Harry Potter books which it says stole ideas from The Adventures of Willy the Wizard, a book largely unknown before last year. At that time Bloomsbury called the claim "unfounded, unsubstantiated and untrue" and said it would "vigorously" defend itself.

The suit claims Rowling's book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire copied substantial parts of Jacobs' 1987 book. His estate also claims many other ideas from Willy the Wizard were copied into the Harry Potter books. Jacobs died in London in 1997.

Bloomsbury dismissed the allegations when they were made in June, indicating that a similar claim on behalf of the Jacobs' estate was made in 2004, but never progressed. Bloomsbury stated 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". It has not yet commented about this latest development.

The trustee of The estate of Adrian Jacobs, Paul Allen, said in a statement: "The estate-which acts independently of Adrian Jacobs family has been in correspondence with lawyers for Rowling and her publishers for several years but have been repeatedly rebuffed. We have taken expert legal advice and we believe we have very strong case." He added that Rowling was added to the lawsuit after Allen learned the statute of limitations to sue her had not run out, as previously advised. Allen said it had "asked for this breach of copyright to be stopped", and was taking legal advice as to whether the Harry Potter films breached copyright and "likewise the proposed Harry Potter theme park".

Sydney agent Max Markson, who is representing the trustee of Jacobs' estate, Paul Allen, told the Guardian: "I estimate it's a billion-dollar case."

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