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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » OSC, Rowling, Dark Knight and Sheer Stubborn Self-Assuredness (Page 1)

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Author Topic: OSC, Rowling, Dark Knight and Sheer Stubborn Self-Assuredness
Clumpy
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I don't get it. OSC is an intelligent individual and a perceptive writer - somebody who understands human nature better than anybody else. I mean, this guy wrote Lost Boys, for crying out loud! So why does he feel compelled every couple of months to reveal a self-righteous streak a mile wide?

http://hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2008-04-20.shtml

The worst of it was his venomous remarks regarding J.K. Rowling a couple of months back (an author who sees her work as her children crosses ethical boundaries of copyright law to quash a derivative work and OSC crucifies her, inventing a bunch of insecure concerns and even bringing up ridiculous allegations of plagiarism of Ender's Game!).

http://hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2008-08-10.shtml

In the link above OSC responds to fan input regarding "The Dark Knight" in the most stubborn way possible. OSC perceived the message of the movie in a certain way due to missing a line of dialogue, and fans corrected him. Onward come the excuses: "Well, the music was too loud. It's the creators' fault." "My movie was better anyway." "If the creators really cared, they would have made that line more obvious."

He assumes that everybody's on the same page and demonizes everybody with a different viewpoint (including the creators of the movie for not knowing when OSC wants it to be subtle and when he wants it spell things out for his benefit). He makes the standard assumption that the neat thing he thinks he noticed is the backbone of the movie's message, then further sprains his logic by assuming that the movie is turned on its head with this new variable. There are a half-dozen ways in which Batman could have said "Rachel" and yet ultimately made the right decision, but he's made his decision and he's going to stick to it.

It pains me to see him do this because he's written so much phenomenal stuff over the years. Even much of his nonfiction and political writing features amazing logic and analysis that I haven't heard anywhere else. It saddens me that when I open up a bit of OSC's writing, I don't know whether I'm going to get the well-mannered, reasoned intellectual or the knee-jerk, cantankerous curmudgeon.

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Synesthesia
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Yeah, he seems to do that, and it's very frustrating...

But the problem is, what can be done?

I think I might just chill out and listen to the Fog over and over again rather than read anymore frustrating OSC articles that just make my STOMACH ache.
The slightest bit of stress, and I'm already stressed out because of being DOOMED and not having a job, so I really need to just lay off things that will make me feel more frustrated.

Since you can't always change a person's mind, it's better to read Ender's Game several times with music and the snack of your choice rather than stress yourself out with his frustrating articles to me.

Plus I fail to see what's wrong with saving Rachel anyway? In an average superhero movie, what would have happened? Somehow Batman would have magically saved both people, but you're dealing with the JOKER, a dark Trickster, so he's not going to make it easy or cliche.
A bunch of cops thought they'd have a better chance of rescuing Dent and thus, saving the city, Batman wanted to save his love and childhood friend.
Nothing wrong with that.
It doesn't make the movie worse

urg. Stomach hurting.

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JustAskIndiana
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Regarding the Rowling issue:

First of all, if you've read the one article where he criticizes Rowling, then you must have read the many articles where he absolutely adores her work and defends it against those who think it's merely another children's tale.

Second, I seriously think you misunderstood that essay where he criticizes her. When Card said

quote:
Rowling "feels like her words were stolen," said lawyer Dan Shallman.

Well, heck, I feel like the plot of my novel Ender's Game was stolen by J.K. Rowling.

A young kid growing up in an oppressive family situation suddenly learns that he is one of a special class of children with special abilities, who are to be educated in a remote training facility where student life is dominated by an intense game played by teams flying in midair, at which this kid turns out to be exceptionally talented and a natural leader. He trains other kids in unauthorized extra sessions, which enrages his enemies, who attack him with the intention of killing him; but he is protected by his loyal, brilliant friends and gains strength from the love of some of his family members. He is given special guidance by an older man of legendary accomplishments who previously kept the enemy at bay. He goes on to become the crucial figure in a struggle against an unseen enemy who threatens the whole world.

This paragraph lists only most prominent similarities between Ender's Game and the Harry Potter series. My book was published in England years before Rowling began writing about Harry Potter. Rowling was known to be reading widely in speculative fiction during the era after the publication of my book.

I can get on the stand and cry, too, Ms. Rowling, and talk about feeling "personally violated."

he was NOT "inventing a bunch of insecure concerns and even bringing up ridiculous allegations of plagiarism of Ender's Game." He is simply pointing out that Rowling has no case when she says she feels like her words were stolen because if she does then so do the millions of authors whose work has influenced other authors. Heck, there would probably be like a thousand people who owe Tolkien's children a lot of money! The accusation which you think Card's making is exactly the thing he's trying to ridicule here.

Third, you're completely wrong when you said "to quash a derivative work". This is exactly the point Card was arguing: Rowling was not trying to squash a derivative; she was squashing a reference book, which she has absolutely no right to do. Anybody here can write a book on anything as long as it falls into the area of scholarly comment and that holds regardless of how horrible that scholarship is or what the comments are like. Now, the moment you start writing fan-fiction, short stories, or anything where you're actually using (rather than analyzing or commenting) the stories, characters, or settings, then you do have a derivative work which you can (and should) pursue legal action.

Regarding the Batman issue:

First of all, what he wrote was a very amusing reflection of an idea he talks about very often. Card says that the story we internalize is not the story we see or the words we read or hear. The real story is the one that the creator and the viewer make together through both the actions in the book and the life of the reader.

Card himself gets a lot of people who've read his works, but internalize different versions of the story (so by his theory, this is why so many of you are so shocked when you read his views on things--because you thought he wrote the story you internalized, but he didn't; you both wrote it together).

Anyway, back to the Batman thing, when I read his latest essay, I laughed so hard because here was a guy who kind of demonstrated his own theory: because his own moral framework was affirmed by his hearing "Get Rachel" when he didn't, and yet the story he chooses to internalize is the one that he and the movie created together.

If you want to call that stubbornness, go ahead. But just know that it's just like you reading his Ender series one way, then realizing that Card may have written them in the moral framework which you disagree with, and yet still choosing to view his story in your own perspective.

Which, judging by the number of posts like Clumpy' s here, will be a lot of people.

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Synesthesia
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It's not even him disagreeing with JKR's suing (Though, the issues, if you look on the net about that case are a LOT more complicated. It's not a simple matter of, "What a WITCH! How can she sue her poor innocent fan like that! She's already got a billion dollars and now she's trying to pick on the little guy out of greed." Again, no tthat simple, just look on Leaky Lounge and see what they've got to see.)
it's more his way of presenting his disagreeing with her in the rudest way possible.

Also there is the Dumbledore thing.
Urg. Enough. My stomach is burning. It's not worth fighting over it. None of these issues are every as simple, as black and white as cut and dry as Orson Scott Card or anyone else presents it.

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Clumpy
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Indiana, It's fine for him to internalize one version of the movie - we've all done that with myriads of books, movies and tons of music. And the point behind all the venom is well-made.

However, we're not debating authorial intent, but his knee-jerk judgment of the creators of the movie for not making the movie exactly the way he saw it on first viewing, even when the new information doesn't even conflict with his interpretation of the flick.

I feel very strongly about the misapplication and expansion of copyright law, and I completely understand that what Rowling did was completely shortsighted and dangerous to public interests. In a nutshell, Rowling loved her work so much that she became overzealous in "protecting" it. I even wrote a lengthy blog post analyzing the (il)legality of Rowling's action and OSC's reaction about five months ago: http://clumpy.blogspot.com/2008/05/osc-rants-on-jk-rowlings-copyfight.html

Card took it over the line, though. His comments on Rowling crossed the line into personal vendetta. Read his article and it's clear that he's REALLY stating that Rowling was influenced by Ender's Game; it's not just satire.

Then he psychoanalyzed and attacked her for not stating outright in the novels that Dumbledore was gay, merely because he would have taken a different approach. Neglecting, of course, the root of the question: when the heck would it have come up? In real life, do we always know which of our friends and associates are gay? Dumbledore was an old man and his orientation had no direct bearing on the story - it was merely a shade of subtlety for those who could see it. I don't see why a smart guy like OSC couldn't have given her the benefit of a doubt. Both authors are fairly straightforward storytellers, but it's fair to grant them the right to have something going on behind the scenes if they wish to do so.

Look - OSC is my favorite fiction writer of all time. I thought his analyses on same-sex marriage and amnesty for illegal immigrants were marvelous and truly independent: one coming out on the "traditional" side of the issue, one "progressive". He's plainly a reasonable guy, for the most part, which makes it all the more frustrating when he vivisects somebody in print merely for approaching things differently than he would have done himself.

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scifibum
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quote:
Card took it over the line, though. His comments on Rowling crossed the line into personal vendetta. Read his article and it's clear that he's REALLY stating that Rowling was influenced by Ender's Game; it's not just satire.
No, you're completely wrong. It worries me that you're trying to be authoritative on this, because you completely misunderstood what OSC's point was when he pretended to accuse Rowling of lifting ideas from Ender's Game.
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Clumpy
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I have trouble believing that his accusations are just satire, in part because they lack that little eye-twinkling irony that a parodic statement such as this may need, and partly because Card goes on to dredge up other accusations of appropriation toward Rowling and later includes snarky throwaway lines like:

"Who's she borrowing from this time?"

"Apparently she includes in that total the timeframe in which she was reading -- and borrowing from -- the work of other writers."

"The difference between us is that I actually make enough money from Ender's Game to be content, without having to try to punish other people whose creativity might have been inspired by something I wrote."

"Rowling has nowhere to go and nothing to do now that the Harry Potter series is over. After all her literary borrowing, she shot her wad and she's flailing about trying to come up with something to do that means anything."

Some of these statements have merit (Rowling's loss of identity after finishing her life's work series among them), but the ridiculous, mean-spirited speculation on Rowling's mental state and influences kills any point he might have made. He later goes on for a few paragraphs to analyze the situation coolly and rationally, so we know that he can do it.

If OSC had intended his piece to be sly satire with a point, then he shouldn't have included lines such as the following:

"[Rowling's] Cinderella story once charmed us. Her greedy evil-witch behavior now disgusts us. And her next book will be perceived as the work of that evil witch."

"It's like her stupid, self-serving claim that Dumbledore was gay."

"What a pretentious, puffed-up coward."

"Rowling has now shown herself to lack a brain, a heart and courage. Clearly, she needs to visit Oz."

Let nobody make an honest, emotional mistake in Card's world. All of the glowing reviews and defense - poof! Only a momentary lack of ability to see the forest for the trees could let you cast out an individual or a film because of trifles which don't affect the work.

I can't really be "authoritative" on this. In fact, that's patently impossible, as I have no authority to influence the opinions of others, all of which are perfectly valid as well.

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Synesthesia
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Those statements were just unnessarily harsh.

And how is it self-serving to say Dumbledore is gay if she's a writer who knows all sorts of things about the characters she created?
We don't know who, say, McGonagal is married to or whether or not Filch or Flitwick have a wife and kids.
She also said that it didn't work out between Madame Maxine and Hagrid. Is that self-serving, or just stuff that authors know about characters that the readers don't know?

Plus his sexuality had little to do with the story. Urg. He annoys me so deeply.

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Clumpy
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Exactly. Why does an author have the right to go back and add things to a story (the Bean series for an example, serve as well-written parallax storytelling), but not to just tell people additional information? Is an author's word only binding in print?

In a way, she made more of a point the way she did it. We DON'T always know everything about everybody while they're still alive, or even for some time thereafter.

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DDDaysh
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Ugh - why do you care? Why do you even read it?

If you know you do not agree and his behavior annoys you, why do you add to the feeling by reading the articles? He is entitled to his opinion. He is entitled to publish his opinion. However, I would be he'd stop bothering to write the articles if no one read them.

I don't read his opinion columns very often. Usually it is only because he is commenting on things I simply do not care about. I do not have very much exposure to any of the "pop culture" things because my TV watching habits are pretty limited. (I don't want to spend money on cable, and in general my ADD makes TV and movies un-enjoyable for me.) I don't really care what Card thinks about a TV show or movie because I will likely never watch or see said TV show or movie.

I also don't read his opinion columns when they are obviously on things I know we disagree about. I don't agree with is stance on gay marriage. I've heard his viewpoint and I still don't agree. However, I respect the fact that it is his opinion and that he is entitled to it. I just don't bother reading his essays on the matter any more. I'm not going to convince him, he's not going to convince me, case closed.

On the other hand, if he is writing something on a topic that does interest me, I will read it. Sometimes I agree, but other times I do not. At times, an argument coming from him will carry more weight with me than if it was believed by, say, my grandfather. This is because I know, based on things he has written, that in many ways he is more experienced than my grandfather. On other subjects (for example Pork or Agriculture) I will tend to listen more to my grandfather, since Mr. Card has not shown that he has sufficient experience in those areas.

The point is, these are just his opinions. Just because you love "Ender's Game" or had your heart strings pulled by "Lost Boys" does NOT mean you have to read every word by this man and take it to heart as if he were some sort of prophet. He's not - or at least I've never heard him say he is. If you don't like what he's saying, just put it down or close the window.

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Clumpy
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I really should [Smile] . Most of the time I like reading his reviews because they balance me from the more critical cinema reviewers I read. He generally likes "entertaining" movies, even if they don't have a grand point to make, and has some interesting observations to back up his point of view. Sure he likes Tyler Perry movies, but I won't take him to task for his point of view.

I don't mind the opinions of an individual, but the logic used to justify those opinions. I like to read his goofy reviews of soap, card games and local coffee shops I'll probably never visit. Most of his movie reviews are interesting snapshots of personal preference, and his political analysis pretty scintillating (even if those articles can be frickin' long).

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manji
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quote:
Originally posted by DDDaysh:
I also don't read his opinion columns when they are obviously on things I know we disagree about. I don't agree with is stance on gay marriage. I've heard his viewpoint and I still don't agree. However, I respect the fact that it is his opinion and that he is entitled to it. I just don't bother reading his essays on the matter any more. I'm not going to convince him, he's not going to convince me, case closed.

Yes, but his opinion on the more controversial topics such as gay marriage are in his Civilization Watch column, which is easier to avoid, since you know what you're getting when you read it. Both of the articles Clumpy mentioned come from his "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" column, which is more of a mixed bag. Which OSC will I be getting today? The one that makes me want to go out and read whatever book he's reviewed, or the one that makes me want to close the browser window?
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Synesthesia
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I do like it when he talks about brownies and stuff.

Mmm. Brownies.
And cookies.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Which OSC will I be getting today? The one that makes me want to go out and read whatever book he's reviewed, or the one that makes me want to close the browser window?
I don't read any of his articles unless they're linked to on this forum with a suitable degree of controversy. This has been a bad idea that has left me with that 'what did I just read' expression on my face, many times.

I halfway want to stop and leave the entire thing alone, but I can't. The cruelest analogy is to say that I feel it is like watching a train wreck. You can't take your eyes off it. You want to witness the way it is unfolding. I imagine plenty of people here are the same way.

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Synesthesia
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Yeah [Frown]
It's bad for people like me who seem to torment themselves at times.

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Cashew
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To me the problem with Rowling's announcement that Dumbledore was gay wasn't the gay-ness, but the fact that it seemed, to me anyway, totally arbitrary.
I've read the books twice and can't remember anything that gives any indication that D~ was gay, or anything that that would've contributed to his character or actions or my understanding of them.
It seemed much more an afterthought on Rowling's part rather than an integral part of her conception of the character, either at the very beginning or as Dumbledore's character developed through the books.

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Clumpy
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Well, not to change the subject, but Dumbledore wears a flowered bonnet at Christmas in the first book, and eagerly trades with Snape for a purple witch's hat in the third. He's an old, never-married man whose closest contact to a woman was a dance in the fourth book, and one required by his position. And it wasn't exactly implied that he was straight, either, giving wolf whistles to Prof. McGonagall or shaking his wand to photos of Carla Gugino.

Plus the whole "Grindewald/tragic flaw" thing is served nicely by the revelation. Given all of this I don't really see it as a complete dart out of the blue, though I wouldn't have guessed it myself.

Just because something doesn't necessarily come up directly in the books doesn't mean that it can't be the case (at least in Rowling's mind if not official canon). Fudge might have been colorblind, Hagrid may have six fingers on one of his toes and, for all we know, Professor Trelawney was adopted.

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Cashew
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Quoting Clumpy: Fudge might have been colorblind, Hagrid may have six fingers on one of his toes and, for all we know, Professor Trelawney was adopted. Unquote

Yes, true, but those things (with the exception of Trelawney's 'adoption') wouldn't be as fundamentally important character traits as being gay.

Quote:Dumbledore wears a flowered bonnet Unquote
So, liking flower patterns makes you gay? A few years ago I took a flower-arranging classes with my wife. What does that say about my sexuality?

Quote:...eagerly trades with Snape for a purple witch's hat....Unquote
Purple's a gay colour? Those Roman emperors... [Smile]
Perhaps Snape was attempting to deny his latent homosexuality by getting rid of the hat in question? [Wink]

Seriously, I just can't see why something so fundamental to a character's personality wouldn't be alluded to in ways that produced at least something of an, "Aha, so that's why...". That's why it seems like an afterthought. Obviously Rowling is allowed to keep evolving her characters, they're her creations after all, and Tolkien certainly viewed his creation as an organic, fluid thing. If she wants to bring that aspect of Dumbledore's character in later work, no problem. I just can't see it in the books as they are.

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Aris Katsaris
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<i>Seriously, I just can't see why something so fundamental to a character's personality wouldn't be alluded to in ways that produced at least something of an, "Aha, so that's why...".</i>

Many of us had this "Aha" in regards to Grindelwald. He was willing to abandon his family to travel with him -- when the exact opposite had happened with an earlier friend, Elphias Doge (he abandoned plans to travel with Doge to stay with his family).

But perhaps our perspectives are merely different: perhaps you write heterosexual letters to your same-gendered friends which finish up with how you can't complain about such-and-such bad things having happened "for if that had not happened, we would not have met".

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Yes, true, but those things (with the exception of Trelawney's 'adoption') wouldn't be as fundamentally important character traits as being gay.
Why? Not everyone defines themselves according to the gender of their partners. It'd probably be a better planet if fewer people did.

Honestly, it seems to me like the biggest complaint about Dumbledore's sexuality is that it wasn't a big enough deal. I have trouble understanding why that's a problem.

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Qaz
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quote:
Originally posted by Clumpy:
I don't get it. OSC is an intelligent individual and a perceptive writer - somebody who understands human nature better than anybody else. I mean, this guy wrote Lost Boys, for crying out loud! So why does he feel compelled every couple of months to reveal a self-righteous streak a mile wide?

The question is not whether OSC is intelligent, wise, humble, etc. The question is whether *we* are. When we flame, we are not.
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Clumpy
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Online "flaming" requires a few things that I did not do. I established a criticism, supported it with evidence that I feel adds merit to my statement, then participated in a conversation related to said criticism. Flamers jump in with uncontexted, irrelevant insults and then insult those who disagree with them.

Criticism and flaming are two different things. You may not agree with me, and that's fine. But I wasn't flaming.

quote:
The question is not whether OSC is intelligent, wise, humble, etc. The question is whether *we* are.
We're in "discussions about Orson Scott Card", not "human nature and related philosophy".
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Trent Destian
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Semantics aside... critisicm or flaming is honestly a cornerstone that keeps most forums alive, embrace the debate. And as OSC is within his rights to "criticize" others, so too is Clumpy free to express his feelings on said critisicms.

And no doubt OSC is both wise and intelligent, yet I think no one has ever accused him of being overly humble.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Semantics aside... critisicm or flaming is honestly a cornerstone that keeps most forums alive, embrace the debate
Yeah, right. Flaming is different than criticism. Criticism is good, and forums should allow people to really throw down and go after each other without a bunch of nancy hold-hands and be-polite conduct rules, or things get asinine.

Yet flaming is different. Flaming is well beyond attacking points and positions, and is a point instead devolved into tired personality feuds, fakeposting, or the toolish trolling kicks of bored, immature, or even cruel people.

I'm a good moderator with a degree in crappy internet social science MD and I'm here to tell you that flaming is not a cornerstone of a forum. It's actually a great way to drive people away and turn the community insular and self-reinforcing, a quality that manifests in activity logs as a slow death.

quote:
And no doubt OSC is both wise and intelligent
There is actually ample doubt. That is what this is all about, this whole kick where people are aghast at Card's recent anti-gay/etc un-logic spree.
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Clumpy
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I'll say one thing, though. Card hasn't set up a bunch of bloodthirsty mods on his forums to edit any negative portrayals of himself (Hello, Sean Hannity).
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neo-dragon
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quote:
Originally posted by Clumpy:
I'll say one thing, though. Card hasn't set up a bunch of bloodthirsty mods on his forums to edit any negative portrayals of himself (Hello, Sean Hannity).

Have you been to the official "Dune" forum which is moderated by Frank Herbert's grandson? No one criticizes Frank though, just his son and his son's co-author, who keep pumping out inferior books.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Clumpy:
I'll say one thing, though. Card hasn't set up a bunch of bloodthirsty mods on his forums to edit any negative portrayals of himself (Hello, Sean Hannity).

That's what you do when you are trying to set up an echo chamber. This place ain't even remotely close to that or any equivalent pro-owner mod bias.
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Trent Destian
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You of course are correct Sam and perhaps my post was to general in scope. My intention was towards Qaz's position on what flame seemed to mean to that particular poster. It should have read:

("Semantics aside... critisicm or, by your apparent understanding of the word, "flaming" is honestly a cornerstone that keeps most forums alive, embrace the debate.)

I was merely trying to express to Qaz that there wasn't anything horrid in Clumpy's post or any of the posts following.

And perhaps I can meet you halfway on the wise bit with OSC, but I still think he is quite intelligent, despite some posts or positions that I might not agree with or even like.

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brentb
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I've been checking out these thread that seem to teeter totter between Card's non-fiction and fiction, and although I tend to not follow the argument very closely I do have some comment to make about the bigger picture.
One point is that it tends to be non productive to fight fire with fire.
I also think that Mr. Card's non-fiction may serve as a pressure release valve. I have not read much from him but I'm seeing a tendency for people to be shocked, taken aback, and offended by his views. That tells me that he is disciplined about incorporating these views within his fiction. He does, it appears, stay objective because he places, you, the reader, as the highest priority in this experience he is creating. But seeing as he is a writer, and thoroughly so, it would be agony to hold a strong moral center and opinions that we're constantly deffered for you, the reader and NOT express these with his gift. And so the non-fiction.
People also need to realize that opinions are indeed like a--holes. Card's power is only which you give to him, and seems considerable, judging by peoples reactions.

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Flaming Toad on a Stick
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I'm more than a little sure that I don't buy that.
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brentb
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That's FANTASTIC cause I'm not selling, and canadian coin isn't much good around here anyhow.
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AchillesHeel
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While I do understand that Card was merely pointing out that when one has a vocabulary and rich history of experience on how to use it, he could almost make it sound as if all seven of her books were dumbed down fantasized Ender's Games. It is a tad pretentious to pretend that he himself could have ever had the creative dibs on young boy finds himself in an unlikely position to ascend from his painful begginings.

One may even question as to how close Card resembles his character Bean, believe him when he tells you your wrong, because he is the smartest man alive.

P.S. Search for Niel Gaiman's Books of Magic, and you will find something all too suspicious as well, but Rowling already has all of our American money now doesnt she?

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DDDaysh
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Card was being SARCASTIC with the Ender's Game thing. Read it again. It's pretty obvious that he's saying Rowling was being over sensitive, and showing that if everyone was over sensitive almost every work could resemble any other.
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kacard
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Thanks for actually getting it DDDaysh [Smile]
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Synesthesia
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I got the sarcasm, but I'm still more on JKR's side about this, just like i am on Stephanie Meyer's side when she said she was too upset to continue her book from Edward's perspective. They seem to be feeling real pain over what they see as a violation of their rights.
It seems JKR was ok with the site when it was a free site and helped out with it and everything, but there's a difference between a free site and charging money for it without changing the content around. I don't think she would have mind the guide book if it had been rewritten and if it was less of a direct copy of her work.
So, I'm definitely on her side about this.
Plus that article was just a bit... well... acidicly harsh. How evil can someone be when they are donating the whole profits to Romanian orphans who need as much help as they can get, their situation is awful and adoption hasn't been open to countries outside of Romania for years.

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Orson Scott Card
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There's such a thing as "fair use" in copyright. Rowling's lawsuit makes hash of that. It endangers scholarship and the worst of it is that she invited and used her victim's work herself. Her victim provided a useful service but when he actually tried to make a little money from a product he created, she sued. I was stunned when the court decision ignored copyright fair-use provisions, and I'm assuming that she will lose on appeal.

But I also feel contempt for Rowling, rich as she is, begrudging a fan whose service she used his chance to make a little money from HIS work, which only enhances the value and utility of hers. Is that self-righteous of me? Maybe - or maybe it's self-righteous to judge ME for wanting to hold other writers to the same fair-use standards I adhere to myself.

My statements about how somebody could make a case for Rowling plagiarizing me are my demonstration of the fact that idiotic cases can be made all the time. It's quite possible Rowling read EG or heard the plot; it's also possible that she didn't. But you can't copyright ideas and only in Hollywood would anybody be dumb enough to sue over such a thing. My point was that you don't sue just because you can - especially when you're really rich and have infinite money to pay lawyers, and you're suing somebody who might be bankrupted in the process of defending himself from you.

But for what it's worth, real damage CAN be done. The movie Enchanted has made my novel Enchantment unfilmable. The log-lines are too similar: Fairy-tale character is transported to modern America, falls in love with American. This is not speculation - we had a package that included a bankable star and an A-list screenwriter, and every studio turned it down for precisely that reason. We're still pursuing it elsewhere, because we don't think the movies would be remotely similar (mine's way more serious, for one thing, and involves no animation, and isn't a Disney parody, etc.). But stories ARE borrowed or are so similar they damage the filmability of other stories. What does a writer like me do about it? NOTHING. Because you can't copyright ideas or even plots. Just language.

No way was Rowling's victim "plagiarizing" - taking her words and passing it off as his own original work. Nor was he damaging her in any way: even if she wanted to come out with a competing product, having the name J.K. Rowling on it would have blown his little product out of the water. Meanwhile, his book would have helped maintain interest - especially scholarly interest - in her book.

I'm not alone in my attitude, by the way. There is a defense fund for this guy, and some copyright fair-use groups are trying to help. The claims of rich corporations and, now, mega-rich authors have virtually stripped copyright law of its fair use provisions which are designed to protect public dialogue, scholarship, criticism, and comment. It's time to rein it all in and put strict limitations on corporate copyrights and on IP owners' ability to sue and out-purse people who are well within the standards of legitimate fair use, as this poor victim was.

It's rather cheap, in my view, to call someone with a legitimate cause "self-righteous," especially when my pure self-interest would dictate I should be on the side of IP owners. I really DO care about the public interest and the need for fair use. And to call me "self-righteous" for that is what you do INSTEAD of engaging in the debate or providing a reasoned counterargument.

As for JKRowling's "real pain," that's just silly. She claimed her "real pain" was from all the problems with a lawsuit that SHE ORIGINATED. Since the content of his book was essentially identical with the website she had already endorsed and used, it's hard to imagine when her real pain began. I suspect her "pain" began the moment she began to plan for a competing product that she would make money from. To me it looks like she's pulling the rug out from under someone else who has served her well, so that she can make a buck and he can't. What's wrong with this picture? When did Rowling get the right to be the ONLY person who makes money from her IP? After all, her publishers and agents and a lot of bookstores have ALSO made enormous sums from her IP. But they also put in work and effort and spent serious money to contribute to the product that paid them all so well. SO DID THIS VICTIM of hers. He put in a lot of work, he created a useful product in support of her financial juggernaut, and she knew about it and benefited from it. Where is her pain? It seems to me to be the pain of frustrated greed.

But ... I'm wrong to judge her ... but you're right to judge me. Wow. Great consistent thinking.

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Synesthesia
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I think it might be just a bit more complicated than that. Especially the part about greed.
There are several other reference books about Harry Potter in the marketplace, and yet, to my knowledge none of these folks have been sued.
I think JKR and Warner Brothers would not have had a problem with the lexicon if it had been rewritten, if it had the commentary from the website it came from instead of, in their eyes, just a copy-pasted rearrangemnt of her work.
It's one thing to have a free website with fan input and the like, selling it without chanting it to be more scholarly seems to be a different thing.
So I am glad she won. I don't think the lawsuit will prevent people from writing and publishing their own lexicons.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I was stunned when the court decision ignored copyright fair-use provisions, and I'm assuming that she will lose on appeal.
As I understand it, the court decision did not ignore fair-use provisions; I've seen a number of charts flying around that were presumably presented at court indicating the percentage of text on the site that was "original scholarship" versus the percentage that was directly cited from her work.

The problem with modern "fair-use" arguments, as I've seen them shake out, is that they tend to be resolved in just this way; you've asked that people quoting songs and poems on your site, for example, avoid quoting more than a handful of lines. Even if the quoting is intended merely to show appreciation for the song, or to analyze its structure, you've noted that it exposes you to legal problems and have asked that it not happen.

I think my personal concern with your observations, here, is that you're ascribing her actions to greed without acknowledging the other likely possibilities. After all, you've deleted links to fan fiction on your site here by saying that you're doing so not because you dislike or feel personally threatened by fan fiction, but because you've been advised to do so by legal counsel; surely Rowling, as one of the richest women in the world, has retained lawyers at least as protective, and has as much reason to trust their advice as you do. More importantly, though, I think she felt personally betrayed by Stephen Vander Ark, who'd promised her that he specifically wouldn't attempt to monetize the site (both because it included her IP and because it represented thousands of hours of work by site visitors, none of whom were going to be paid for their efforts).

I don't think personal betrayal is good grounds for legal precedent, either, but I think it's a much more likely motivation in this case than greed.

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Scott R
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quote:
I've seen a number of charts flying around that were presumably presented at court indicating the percentage of text on the site that was "original scholarship" versus the percentage that was directly cited from her work.
What I've read says they were inadmissible in court.

Tom:

Harri Puttar

I don't like ascribing motivation. At all. Still. The above lawsuit does seem to make a case for the idea that something more than just IP protection is going on here.

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sarcasticmuppet
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After reading the first part of the court decision, I expressed my opinions on the other side. The things that stood out to me are:

1. Van der Ark had a very, *very* poorly written work, that failed on several levels to provide the necessary citations (not just to Rowling's work, but to 3rd party sources on fantasy and mythology) to constitute fair use. This is how I understand fair use, which may be wrong, but I always learned that you'd darn well better cite your sources well in a research paper, or you risk failing the class and getting in serious trouble with the university. This wasn't even a research paper or thesis: there were points when he was copying almost word-for-word Rowling's exact phrases from the books. No quotations, no citations, no footnotes. It's a textbook example of what *not* to do in a derivative work.

2. The judge specifically stated that Rowling and WB had no grounds for suing just because she was going to write a similar product sometime in the future.

3. This is from the court decision:

quote:
At his first meeting with Rapoport [the president of RDR publishing] in August 2007, Vander Ark raised his concerns regarding the permissibility of publishing the Lexicon in view of Rowling's plan to publish an encyclopedia and her copyrights in the Harry Potter books...Prior to August 2007, Vander Ark had developed and circulated the opinion that publishing "any book that is a guide to [the Harry Potter] world" would be a violation of Rowling's intellectual property rights...Vander Ark changed his mind about publishing the Lexicon after Rapoport reassured him that he had looked into the legal issue and determined that publication of content from the Lexicon website in book form was legal...Rapoport agreed to stand by this opinion by adding an atypical clause to the publishing contract providing that RDR would defend and indemnify Vander Ark in the event of any lawsuits.
(that's page 9-10 of the decision on the given webpage, btw)

It looks like the president of the publishing company is far more culpable for this than Van der Ark. I'm so glad the publishing company included that clause, otherwise I wouldn't doubt that Rapoport would just cut his losses and let Van der Ark be the sacrificial goat. Then he really *would* be a victim.

4. While the original cease-and-desist order by Rowling and WB might have been out of line, it doesn't change the fact that the work in its current form was unacceptable and violated copyright laws. If they had taken it a bit slower, if he had an editor, if he had included more original commentary and actually cited his sources, I think this might have gone much differently. But the publishing company pushed it forward, in my mind in order to make a quick buck off the success of Rowling's work. The president seems like the ultimate sleaseball, and I hope he pays for his actions out the nose.

edit: because I can't leave my own writing alone.

[ September 11, 2008, 11:18 AM: Message edited by: sarcasticmuppet ]

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Orson Scott Card
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Thanks for a reasoned argument.

Citing sources is only necessary when the work would otherwise be taken as your own (i.e., when you have a paraphrase from a source but don't cite the source). When you make it clear that it is a quotation and not your own words, but don't individually cite the exact page or whatever, you're still well within fair use. Sloppy and in violation of the MLA format, but not in violation of copyright.

No one had any doubt that Van der Ark was quoting from J.K. Rowling. He never pretended he made up the information or quotes, because the work would have had no value if he had.

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sarcasticmuppet
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*is now a puddle on the floor*
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sarcasticmuppet
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But seriously, it might not have been unreasonable, given that Van der Ark had included personal commentary at other points, that he should have differentiated where his words ended and Rowling's began. And there's still the matter of the third party sources -- Van der Ark admits to using several fantasy commentaries (Bullfinch's Mythology, Field Guide to little people), but other than a few dictionary citations, no sources other than Rowling's work is cited (badly, at that) as a source at all in his book. Perhaps they have a better case for plagarism against him than Rowling?

The man is a librarian. I should think he'd know better.

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Trent Destian
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quote:
Citing sources is only necessary when the work would otherwise be taken as your own.
I think that this was the meat and potatoes of the situation. It wasn't his own work. Somewhere in the realm of 90% wasn't his work. He wasn't taking the information and making it his own, he wasn't creating anything new. Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V. It was a book of exerpts (precise wordings) that paid no royalties to the original works or even to the ones that compiled it. So what, she's rich. Does that make her less entitled to throw a hissy when someone cheats her? "She won't miss it" or "Just a drop in the bucket" are probably the same lines of thought as a thief stealing from a big house.
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manji
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I always seem to be the one to bring this up. Some of the words Vander Ark used were already in encyclopedia format. See Fantastic Beasts and Quidditch Through the Ages. Work that is already alphabetized and can be used for the exact same purpose as the Lexicon, although, I will admit, that it does have slightly more entertainment value with Harry Potter's marginalia.

What sort of transformative purpose was there in taking from those works besides combining it into one book with work from the Harry Potter septology? You could as easily have three books sitting on a bookshelf, Fantastic Beasts, Quidditch Through the Ages, and the Lexicon (without material from said preceding books), and it would have the exact same value as the Lexicon presented in court.

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sarcasticmuppet
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That's brought up in the case -- I think (I can't glance at the decision just this moment) the defendants decided to forgo using those two sources, which were essentially already encyclopedias, but for whatever reason (again, the publishing was sped along for the sake of profit) the content was left in.
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Clumpy
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For the record, I don't disagree with anything OSC has said in this thread. One of the single greatest issues I believe our world will be facing over the coming years will be the complete self-interested, corporate control of copyright. We're on a dangerous road.

I'd also like to point out that I probably went over the line a bit in frustration in some of my commentary, first by not providing appropriate context (after all, OSC wrote some of the foundational books of my childhood and literary awakening - I could never get TOO mad at the guy [Smile] ). A local bookstore had an OSC sale last week (hardcovers for $2.99!) and I merrily cleaned out my wallet buying a good dozen titles.

Secondly, all of the context in his post regarding Ender's Game influencing Rowling pointed to an attempt to make a point, but I let the lack of an obvious note pinning it as satire lead me to think that it was a real allegation. That was unprovable. So many people get offended every day because they miss the point of something that I should have shown more prudence with my criticism.

In deference to my favorite author and the fact that so many people in the uppity media criticize him for stupid things (plus the fact that his legal analysis of the issue was and is spot on), I'm going to back up a bit and redact everything but my criticism of OSC for use of fairly vicious insults against Rowling. Rereading my thread after a week, it certainly appears more brutal and meanspirited than I meant it to be (or, indeed, than I felt at the time).

Anyway, sorry. Everything looks harsher online, so I should have pulled back and broke into this gently rather than writing a freakin' manifesto which was harsher than I intended. Sorry, Mr. Card. A long and meandering apology, but an apology nonetheless [Smile] .

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Cara
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quote:
No way was Rowling's victim "plagiarizing" - taking her words and passing it off as his own original work. Nor was he damaging her in any way: even if she wanted to come out with a competing product, having the name J.K. Rowling on it would have blown his little product out of the water.
B.S.

The book, which is still viewable in its entirety on the Justia.com site, shows very clearly that Vander Ark just copy and pasted Rowling's work and then put it in alphabetical order without adding anything substantial of his own. What is not copied verbatim is strongly paraphrased to the tune of 91%. Look up the book and read it for yourself if you doubt.

Understand that I fully admit my bias here but I did not come to my decision lightly. I read the facts of the case as disputed by both sides, read the supporting documentation, and then made an informed decision. I find it really rather bizarre, myself, to actually be pro-corporate in this matter. But I am.

Vander Ark most definitely copied verbatim the two companion books, more than 100 game cards, and 4 Bloomsbury newsletters. That's not even taking into consideration the seven HP novels.

91% of the Lexicon book is Rowling's work and not Vander Ark's "original composition". Further, 4% of the book is outside citation of etymologies that were also copied verbatim, and yes, those outside sources have their own copyrights. The final 5% is what is original content. That 5% is not wholly attributable to Vander Ark, though. Instead he splits that 5% of originality with three other people: Lisa Bunker, Belinda Hobbs, and John Kearns (I believe)---all of whom are uncredited in the manuscript that was submitted in court, but were verbally credited by Vander Ark himself in a letter to Ansible.

You know, when this first came out, author Michael Perry (of Untangling Tolkien) was rabidly pro-RDR and publicly blasting Rowling and WB in a NYT blog. Now that the case has been ruled in Rowling's favor, however, his tune has changed.

He underwent his own very costly infringement suit, launched by the Tolkien Estate, and won. He has many salient points, as I believe you do, in regards to copyright and frivolous lawsuits by corporate giants with seemingly endless pockets of money. He still altered his opinion of this case, based upon his first hand knowledge of it.

Read the blog here: http://www.teleread.org/blog/2008/09/08/harry-potter-lexicon/
quote:

RDR Books other difficulty stems from the fact that the book draws from very few outsides sources. It really is mostly Rowlings ideas and often her very words. I didn’t realize that until I got a copy of it just before they went to trial. Then it was too late to get them to change the book. The author is a major part of that problem. The poor guy is apparently obsessed with Harry Potter. The book should have spent a lot of time commenting on other literature of the same sort. Elves mean something totally different in Shakespeare and Tolkien, If the book had talked about that, it would have stood a much better chance of winning. Literary criticism also has to display a critical spirit. If Rowlings handles a character poorly, it should say so. If she has an inconsistency, it should point that out.
*snip*
This Rowlings book would have been in better shape legally if a second author had been brought on board, one with a literary background and one willing to be less than worshipful of Rowlings and her tale. Then this would have been an independent book engaging in obvious “scholarship” and having the right to compete with Rowlings’ official version whenever it comes out.
*snip*
I suspect that the lawyers representing RDR Books thought they could win with the book as it was and that might have been true outside the Second Circuit. But it’d have been better to do a major rewrite, making the book as legally bulletproof as humanly possible.

Reference guides are wonderful tools, but I use them for additional insight into the stories, not to read a poorly regurgitated form of it.

As for citation, yes, the entire intent behind this book was to be a 'ready-reference', that's what made it a transformative work. When there are no quotes to differentiate between where her language/words stops and his begins, especially in a book mass-marketed to children, then I have a huge problem with it. Either the book is a critical reference work or it isn't, and unfortunately this one definitely is not.

None of this touches upon the idea / expression dichotomy that you satirically poked a stick at.

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Launchywiggin
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Cara, before you write this:

quote:
The book, which is still viewable in its entirety on the Justia.com site, shows very clearly that Vander Ark just copy and pasted Rowling's work and then put it in alphabetical order without adding anything substantial of his own.
it might help to actually READ Card's posts:

quote:
No one had any doubt that Van der Ark was quoting from J.K. Rowling. He never pretended he made up the information or quotes, because the work would have had no value if he had.

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Cara
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I did read it, thank you. There is zero justification for the theft of someone else's work.

By not providing appropriate citation, by not providing quotations to show work, and by not adding anything of analytic value, he was indeed claiming her work as his own.

From the RDR website:

Does the Lexicon appear to have Ms. Rowling's blessing?
No, the Lexicon makes it perfectly clear that this unique reference resource is in no way endorsed by Ms. Rowling or Warner Bros. In fact, this is clearly spelled out to the reader. It is an original book with a vast array of independently written scholarly reference materials.

From the letter that RDR set to Mr. Meyers on October 11, 2007---pre-litigation:

...like all material on the 1,000-plus-page Harry Potter Lexicon, is the original work of Mr. Vander Ark and his elite team of academic scholars, literary critics, and reference librarians.

[ September 15, 2008, 07:05 PM: Message edited by: Cara ]

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