Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Entertainment
Front Page 
UK Politics 
New Music Releases 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

BBC's Jane Hughes in New York
"Millions of dollars are at stake"
 real 28k

Friday, 17 March, 2000, 05:15 GMT
Harry Potter books 'plagiarised'

J K Rowling: Reported to have made 25m fortune
An American author is claiming damages from the writer and publishers of the hugely successful Harry Potter books, which she says plagiarised her own work.

Nancy Stouffer, of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, argues in her federal lawsuit that ideas for the Potter series were lifted from a book she wrote in 1984.

Harry Potter (Rowling); Larry Potter (Stouffer)
Muggle: what wizards call humans (Rowling); little people who care for orphans (Stouffer)
Lily Potter (Rowling) Lilly Potter (Stouffer)
Three books about Harry Potter, a young orphaned wizard, have sold 19 million copies in the United States, and a fourth is due for release in July.

British author J K Rowling has become a cult figure in her own right among the novels' readers.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter: Bookish, bespectacled hero
A movie is being made from the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

But Nancy Stouffer says she should get credit for the creation of Harry Potter; she argues that J K Rowling lifted ideas from her 1984 book The Legend of Rah and Muggles, which includes a character called Larry Potter.

Muggles is the word wizards use for humans in the Harry Potter books, but Nancy Stouffer says she coined the term; she says she has a character called Lilly Potter in her novel; there's a Lily Potter in J K Rowling's books.

Trademark - Muggle

I think coincidences happen, but I still say if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it's a duck

Nancy Stouffer
She also also claims to own the trademark to the word muggle.

In Stouffer's book, 'muggles' are little people who care for two orphaned boys who magically turn their dark homeland into a happy place.

In Rowling's books, 'muggles' is the word wizards use for humans.

No settlement

Ms Stouffer filed the lawsuit in the US District Court against Rowling and Scholastic Inc., the US publisher of the Harry Potter books.

Her lawsuit also names Time Warner Entertainment Co., which owns the film rights to two of Rowling's Potter books, and Mattel and Hasbro, which have the merchandising licences.

Unfortunately, success often leads to frivolous claims

Publisher's spokeswoman
Scholastic, Rowling and Time Warner filed their own lawsuit in November in New York, asking a judge to rule that the Harry Potter books do not violate Stouffer's trademark and copyright.

That suit was filed after attempts by the US writer to negotiate an out-of-court settlement.

Ms Stouffer's claims are "completely meritless," said Judy Corman, a spokeswoman for Scholastic.

"Unfortunately, success often leads to frivolous claims, and we're confident the court will find in our favour."

J K Rowling plans to write a total of seven books about her hero, ending the series when he leaves school at the age of 17.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

09 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Harry Potter is MPs' choice
17 Oct 99 | Education
Harry Potter fights back
02 Jul 99 | Entertainment
The magic of Harry Potter
08 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Potter book stampede expected
04 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Harry Potter's Whitbread revenge
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories