Harry Potter


"U.S. author sues over ‘Harry Potter’: Federal suit cites many similarities between 1984 book, Rowling’s series"

(Associated Press, March 16, 2000)

PHILADELPHIA, March 16 —  An author is suing the writer and publishers of the “Harry Potter” books, claiming that plots and characters in the wildly popular children’s series originated with her. 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.

THE AUTHOR, J.K. Rowling of Scotland, has become a cult figure among the novels’ readers. A movie based on the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is in the works.
But Nancy K. Stouffer of Camp Hill, Pa., argues in her federal lawsuit that ideas for the “Potter” series were lifted from her 1984 book “The Legend of Rah and Muggles,” which includes a character named Larry Potter.
“I think coincidences happen, but I still say if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it’s a duck,” said Stouffer, who also claims she owns 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.
Stouffer’s book has a character named Lilly Potter; Rowling’s books have a Lily Potter. The Stouffer book has characters identified as “Keepers of the Gardens”; Rowling’s books have a “Keeper of the Keys.”

Stouffer filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on March 6 against Rowling and Scholastic Inc., the U.S. 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 licenses to create and market related merchandise.
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 Stouffer to negotiate an out-of-court settlement apparently failed.
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 favor,” Corman said.
After its publication in 1984, Stouffer’s book was sold mostly on the East Coast, in Giant supermarkets and Rite Aid drugstores. Stouffer believes Rowling may have come across it when she was on a work-study exchange in Baltimore in 1987 and 1988.


"Magical authors go to war on custody of Muggles"

by James Bone ("The Times", March 18, 2000)

HARRY POTTER must be wondering what all the Muggles are arguing about. The wildly popular child wizard finds himself at the centre of a legal battle in America between his creator, J.K. Rowling, and an American children's writer who claims the best-selling British author plagiarised her work.
Nancy Stouffer, who published The Legend of Rah and the Muggles in 1984, has filed suit in Pennsylvania accusing Ms Rowling of giving her characters "suspiciously similar" names and even stealing her now-famous term for humans who lack magical powers, Muggles.
"I think coincidences happen, but I still say if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it's a duck," the American author said.
Ms Stouffer dreamt up the name "Muggle" when her then-young son Vance referred to her face as a "muggie". In her 1984 book, Muggles are little people in the Land of Aura who care for two orphan boys, Rah and Zyn, whose arrival magically transforms the war-ravaged land into a place of sunshine and happiness.
Ms Rowling, a former Edinburgh teacher who wrote the books in a coffee shop while her infant daughter slept, insists that she invented the word. "Muggles is a twist on the English word mug, which means easily fooled," she once said. "I made it into 'muggles' because it sounds gentler. Proper, good wizards are quite fond of Muggles and treat them in a kindly way."
Ms Stouffer points to other parallels between the Harry Potter books and her work, and suggests that Ms Rowling might have read her book while on a work-study exchange programme in the Baltimore area in 1987-88.
"Not only do the Harry Potter books appropriate verbatim Stouffer's Muggle and Muggles marks as names for human-like, non-magical characters, the Harry Potter books also feature key character names suspiciously similar to characters in Stouffer's books," the lawsuit says.
Ms Stouffer's Muggles form a group called the Nevils, while other characters are known by the work they do, such as the Keeper of the Gardens, the Keeper of the Children, or the Keeper of the Food. In Ms Rowling's books, there is a half-Muggle character called Neville and another character described as the Keeper of the Keys.
Another book in Ms Stouffer's series, titled "Lilly", includes the characters Larry and Lilly Potter - names that she claims bear an uncanny resemblance to Ms Rowling's Harry Potter and his dead mother Lily Potter.
After the publication of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, Ms Stouffer created and marketed Muggles knick-knacks such as dolls and refrigerator magnets. Her publisher even promoted them on the Oprah Winfrey TV talk show.. Her publisher's bankruptcy in 1987, however, forced her to stop selling the Muggles merchandise until she regained clear copyright in 1991. In 1993, she successfully opposed the registration of the trade mark Muggle by a Hollywood production company.
Three years ago, she decided to try to republish The Legend of Rah and the Muggles and sent off promotional copies to publishers but was told it was likely to be confused with the Harry Potter books.Ms Rowling's three books - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - have sold 19 million copies in America and fans are clamouring for more.
The anticipation of the next instalment, Harry Potter and Doomspell Tournament, is so great that booksellers have established "Harry Potter Withdrawal" reading circles and one bookshop has converted a millennium count-down clock to measure the days until its release this summer.
The case seems to be heading inexorably towards a trial next year - just after the release of the planned Harry Potter movie.

Spelling out the wizard similarities

Nancy Stouffer's inventions
: human beings who lack magical powers. Stouffer invented the term when her young son referred to her face as a "muggie"
Nevils: A group of Muggles
Keeper of the Children, Keeper of the Food: Characters known by the type of work they do
Lilly: The title of a "magic" novel by Nancy Stouffer which has characters called Larry and Lilly Potter

J. K. Rowling's characters
: Non-magical characters who are easily fooled. Rowling says that it is a twist on the English word "mug"
Neville: A half-Muggle character
Keeper of the Keys: A character in the Harry Potter books
Lily Potter: Harry Potter's deceased mother in J. K. Rowling's books