Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Harry Potter plagiarism claim fails

JK Rowling described plagiarism claims as 'not only unfounded but absurd'

A claim that Harry Potter author JK Rowling lifted the plot of one of her books from the work of another writer has been struck out after the claimant failed to meet a deadline for paying the first stage of £1.5 million into court as security for costs.

The Court of Appeal ordered last week that the claimant, Paul Allen, trustee of the estate of Adrian Jacobs, who died in 1997, should pay the first section of the money into court by 4pm on Friday last week, or the case would be struck out. The claim has now failed as no payment was made to the court.

The move marks the end of a bitterly fought battle in which Ms Rowling was accused of having lifted the plot of the fourth in the series - Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire - from Mr Jacobs's book, Willy the Wizard.

She and her publisher, Bloomsbury, had faced a demand for more than one billion Australian dollars - £659 million - in damages.

Solicitor David Hooper, a partner with law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, which represented Bloomsbury, said: "They have not paid the money into court. The whole thing is a scandal - it has been going on for seven years. It was an absolutely ludicrous case." The claimants had spent well over £1 million, he said.

Ms Rowling has described the claim that her book was copied from Willy the Wizard as "not only unfounded but absurd", and said she had never even seen the book until Mr Allen's claim was launched in 2004.

Her solicitor, Gideon Benaim, a partner at law firm Schillings, said: "An enormous amount of time has been wasted having to defend against this claim, when it was quite obvious to us from the outset that it had no chance of success. As the judge noted, those behind the claim set about publicising the case with a view to exerting pressure and promoting their 'book'. Quite how they ever thought that we would succumb to pressure indicates a complete lack of understanding on their part. We are glad that the substantive action is now at an end."

Mr Justice Kitchin ordered the payment into court in March, saying that Mr Allen should pay security for 65% of the costs faced by Ms Rowling and her publisher, Bloomsbury.

There were to be three staged payments - the first, for £322.691 for Bloomsbury's costs and £571,613 for Ms Rowling's costs to be made by April 21, the second, £24,650 for Bloomsbury's costs and £178,441 for Ms Rowling's costs to follow by August 5, and the final payments, of £129,373 for Bloomsbury's costs and £318,975 for Ms Rowling's, to be made by November 11. The Court of Appeal rejected the appeal against that decision on Thursday last week, saying the first payment should be made by 4pm Friday or the case was struck out.

The same claim had already been comprehensively rejected in the United States, where a judge in the Manhattan-based US District Court for the Southern District of New York had said that "the contrast between the total concept and feel of the works is so stark that any serious comparison of the two strains credulity".

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