Harry Potter ‘book artist’ who removes JK Rowling’s name is within his rights: legal experts

Swish and flick!

Many fans of JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books are questioning the removal of the author’s name from some copies of her iconic book series by someone in Toronto — who then sells the “revised” and newly bound books to interested takers, all because he does do not agree with her stance on gender and want to offer an “alternative” to others who may be triggered by her name.

People are wondering if the activity of a so-called “bookbinder artist” flouts or outright breaks copyright laws or other laws.

HARRY POTTER BOOKS STRIPPED OF JK ROWLING’S NAME ARE THEN RESOLVED BY ‘BOOKBINDER ARTIST’

Among the comments and questions received about what the person is doing are the following.

“Isn’t removing the copyright and reselling illegal?”

“I can see a lawsuit happening…”

“Has this Einstein not heard of copyright infringement?”

JK Rowling is the world-famous author of the “Harry Potter” book series, which has sold more than 500 million copies, according to her publisher.
(Dia Dipasupil/REUTERS/Neil Hall)

“I’m sure that’s not legal,” said another person.

“I’m not typically litigious, but I hope JKR sues.”

“Pretty sure that the book would be considered stolen…”

There were many more comments in this vein.

“There is no amount of re-binding that will make a reader forget who wrote those books.”

However, plenty of other commentators shared a far different point of view.

“Still doesn’t change who actually wrote it,” said one person.

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“Take her name off the books and give them a new slipcover, yet at the end of the day – they are still the works of JK Rowling.”

“Why wouldn’t re-binding a used book be legal? [The individual] is creating art from already purchased copywritten material. He is not duplicating copywritten material.”

“Harry Potter” author JK Rowling faced backlash in the past for comments she made about gender identity — which is apparently why an individual has decided to strip her name from some used copies of her books and “re-bind” them, then sell them to interested parties.
(Mike Marsland)

“[It’s] mildly disturbing, and performative. There is no amount of re-binding that will make a reader forget who wrote those books,” said yet another person.

“Change the outside all you want, but that doesn’t change reality.”

“As if removing her name from those pages changes who wrote them. What an unimaginable waste of time.”

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“There’s nothing wrong with what he’s doing and he won’t be asked to stop.”

“Hilarious – she still wrote the books even though [he] removed her name.”

“Rebind and change up all of the book covers you want. It doesn’t change what is in the book, the story, or anything about it.”

“We’re talking about 30 copies of the over 500 million that have been sold.”

“It’s not exactly illegal,” said another commenter. “Rowling would have to prove her name on the cover is part of the trademark and not just a note of authorship. Something she would probably lose in court … and isn’t worth her time or effort. We’re talking about 30 copies of the over 500 million that have been sold.”

Legal experts weigh in

After the person in Canada strips out Rowling’s name from some used books in the “Potter” series, he then re-binds them and offers them for sale via a website, as Fox News Digital reported earlier.

He also invites people to send him their already purchased “Harry Potter” books, and for a fee of approximately $170, he will re-bind them and return them.

Legal experts say the individual’s artistic endeavors are almost certainly within his legal rights. The individual’s artistic endeavor is just that: artistic, attorneys said.

An individual in Canada is removing JK Rowling's name from some of her

An individual in Canada is removing JK Rowling’s name from some of her “Harry Potter” books because he does not like her views on gender. “The project is spurred by her transphobia,” the “book artist” told SWNS.
(SWNS)

The attorneys made it clear that once someone buys a book, the owner of that book is free to scratch out a name inside it, remove its cover, mark up the text, rip it to shreds or re-sell it if the person so chooses — as long as there is no fraud perpetuated.

“He can do it,” said Ron Coleman, partner at the Dhillon Law Group in New York.

“There is a doctrine in copyright law called the ‘first sale doctrine,’ and under this, broadly speaking, when you buy something that’s protected by copyright, it’s yours,” Coleman told Fox News Digital.

“Send in your personal copies to be rebound, restored and de-Rowlinged.” — bookbinder artist

The US Department of Justice Archives describes the “first sale doctrine” as, “The first sale doctrine, codified at 17 USC § 109, provides that an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell , display or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner.”

Coleman continued his comments about the “first sale doctrine.” “You’re not free to make what’s called a derivative work from it — in other words, you can’t take someone else’s book, cut and paste it, move things around, change things around and sell it as your own book.”

Coleman added, “But are you free to make wallpaper out of it? Probably.”

From left to right, actors Emma Watson, as Hermione Granger, Daniel Radcliffe, as Harry Potter, and Rupert Grint, as Ron Weasley, in the

From left to right, actors Emma Watson, as Hermione Granger, Daniel Radcliffe, as Harry Potter, and Rupert Grint, as Ron Weasley, in the “Harry Potter” film franchise, based on the popular book series by JK Rowling.
(Warner Bros.)

The individual in Toronto is putting a new cover on the same book — with Rowling’s name removed.

On the website advertising the services, the person says, “Send in your personal copies to be rebound, restored and de-Rowlinged.”

He is also stripping out pages of the book that contain her name, such as the copyright page.

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However, “he’s not changing the content” of the book, said Coleman – nor is he putting any other author’s name on the work.

Coleman is a commercial litigator with years of court experience in intellectual property law. He represented Simon Tam of The Slants in a Supreme Court case that resulted in a landmark free speech ruling that the government could not refuse to register trademarks that are “disparaging” or considered hate speech.

Fox News Digital reached out to the bookbinder artist for comment.

Author JK Rowling has sold more than 180 million copies of her books in the US alone, according to publisher Scholastic.

Author JK Rowling has sold more than 180 million copies of her books in the US alone, according to publisher Scholastic.
(Reuters)

Coleman also said of JK Rowling and what the person is doing to her books, “It’s not as if anyone is going to forget that she’s the one who wrote these [‘Harry Potter’] books. He’s actually drawing more attention” to her than the author, he added.

“Even if there were some unique take on this that resulted in some sort of prima facie infringement of a legal right that Rowling has, there’s a very strong argument that what this person is doing is protected as fair use, which is a form of commentary or reporting about the subject of the copyright,” Coleman continued.

It could especially “be fair use,” he added, if “he’s making an artistic statement.”

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“It may be the zenith of petulant childishness – but the [activity] is probably protected,” including in Canada, where laws differ from US law.

Artist Laur Flom apparently started the project to “help out” those “Harry Potter” fans, he said, who may have “ethical issues” with the author yet still want to read her bestselling books, according to SWNS.

He also said that “the purpose of this project is to create a safe space for fans to find comfort in the books and critically engage with JK Rowling’s work.”

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On his website, Flom shares a bio as “a printmaker, book artist and Taylor Swift fan… My practice is largely conceptual, exploring themes surrounding identity, memory, and trans masculinity. I also occasionally read Harry Potter books.”

Scholastic published Rowling’s very first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the US in September 1998. In the UK, that book was published as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”

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The publisher says that more than 500 million copies of the “Harry Potter” book series have been sold worldwide to date.

More than 180 million copies have been sold in the US alone, it also says.

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