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Judge Zaps Copyright Claim Over ‘Harry Potter’

MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal judge dismissed a copyright infringement claim against J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," finding "stark differences" separated the fourth book in Rowling's best-selling series from Adrian Jacobs' "one-dimensional" 1987 book about an adult wizard's quest that "lacks any cohesive narrative elements."

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin found "no overlap" between "Goblet of Fire" and Jacobs' "The Adventures of Willy the Wizard - No 1 Livid Land."

Jacobs died in 1997, but the trustee of the late author's estate, Paul Gregory Allen, filed the lawsuit against Scholastic, Rowling's American publisher.

"The contrast between the total concept and feel of the works is so stark that any serious comparison of the two strains credulity," Scheindlin wrote.

"Livid Land," a 32-page book with 16 pages of illustrations, "progresses as a series of fragmented and often tangential scenes ... entirely devoid of a moral message or intellectual depth," the ruling states.

On the other hand, Scheindlin wrote that "Goblet of Fire," a 734-page Children's Book Award winner published in 2000, is "rich in imagery, emotive and suspenseful."

The vast difference in length "immediately undermines" Allen's claims, the judge noted.

And simply reading the two books "unequivocally confirms that they are distinctly different in both substance and style," Scheindlin added.

Scheindlin disagreed with the argument in Allen's complaint that Rowling had stolen the idea for a contest between wizards from "Livid Land."

"The competition [in 'Livid Land'] stands as an end in itself, and there is no purpose to Willy's participation aside from victory," Scheindlin wrote. "The characters never face any difficult choices, or experience any type of conflict. Their feelings are not addressed and their interpersonal relationships are not explored. Essentially, 'Livid Land' offers only narration, not nuance."

The judge distinguished Jacobs' tale from Rowlings' epic-like novel.

"The storyline [in 'Goblet of Fire'] is highly developed and complex, and captures the attention of both children and adults for long periods of time," Scheindlin wrote. "The wizard competition clearly drives the plot and is fleshed out in great detail, but is not, in and of itself, the primary subject of the book - rather, the competition serves as packaging for various underlying storylines."

Rowling's novel also "has a highly developed moral core" that Jacobs' book lacks, according to the ruling.

"Harry is not concerned with winning the competition, but with doing what is right - for example, he foregoes an easy victory in the second task of the competition to ensure that his competitors reach and save all the hostages at the bottom of the lake," the ruling states.

But in Jacobs' book, "it is not even clear whether Willy is a 'good' moral character," Scheindlin wrote.

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