2008_04_jkrowling.jpgHarry Potter author J.K. Rowling is testifying in a Manhattan federal courtroom this morning against a small publisher trying to release an encyclopedia based on her work. In the past, Rowling has been supportive of the fan-based websites that explore her novels, but when RDR Books announced last fall that it would be publishing a book version of the The Harry Potter Lexicon website, Rowling filed a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement.

Lawyers for RDR Books say the encyclopedia would “provide a significant amount of original analysis and commentary,” but Rowling’s attorneys say it’s "nothing more than a rearrangement" of their client’s popular book series, which have sold more than 400 million copies, led to a $4.5 billion film franchise, and given millions of grownups a purpose in life.

Rowling also argues that the Lexicon book would undermine plans to pen her own encyclopedia and give the proceeds to charity. However, a lawyer for RDR Books, Anthony Falzone, told the Times the Lexicon is part of a long tradition of literary commentary:

For hundreds of years everybody has agreed that folks are free to write companion guides. This is the first time that anybody has argued seriously that folks don’t have the right to do that.

The controversy is causing a major rift in the Harry Potter fanbase; Melissa Anelli, who runs the Leaky Cauldron fan site, told the Times her board had voted to sever ties with the Harry Potter Lexicon site because of the lawsuit. Meanwhile, tickets to the Broadway production of Equus, in which Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe gets naked as a jaybird, went on sale Saturday to Am Ex cardholders. (The show opens September 5th.)

Photo courtesy AP/Louis Lanzano.