A self-proclaimed “book artist” in Toronto is redesigning the cover art of JK Rowling's hugely successful Harry Potter book series, removing her name, and then reselling the novels on his website. A legal expert says that he is well within his legal rights to do so.
Artist Laur Flom offers the services via his website, where a newly rebound set of all the Harry Potter novels, with JK Rowling's name entirely scrubbed from the books, will set you back C$1,600. He will however knock C$75 off the price if you sent in your own set of books.
Ron Coleman, partner at the Dhillon Law Group, told Fox News that the artist is “probably” within his rights to resell the books.
“There is a doctrine in copyright law called the ‘first sale doctrine,' and under this, broadly speaking, when you buy something that's protected by copyright, it's yours,” Coleman told Fox News.
According to the US Department of Justice Archives, “The first sale doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 109, provides that an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner.”
“You're not free to make what's called a derivative work from it,” Coleman said. “In other words, you can't take someone else's book, cut and paste it, move things around, change things around and sell it as your own book.”
“But are you free to make wallpaper out of it? Probably,” he added.
The artist is not changing any of the book's content, nor is he putting another author's name on the work.
A self-described “printmaker, book artist, and Taylor Swift fan,” whose work explores “themes surrounding identity, memory, and trans masculinity,” Flom offers “The entire Harry Potter series rebound and de-Rowlinged,” including erasing the author's name from any other pages of the book in which it appears.
The artist told SWNS that “the purpose of this project is to create a safe space for fans to find comfort in the books and critically engage with JK Rowling's work.”
“It's not as if anyone is going to forget that she's the one who wrote these [‘Harry Potter'] books,” Coleman said, arguing that his actions are “actually drawing more attention” to her as an author.
“Even if there were some unique take on this that resulted in some sort of prima facie infringement of a legal right that Rowling has, there's a very strong argument that what this person is doing is protected as fair use, which is a form of commentary or reporting about the subject of the copyright,” he added.
“It may be the zenith of petulant childishness — but the [activity] is probably protected.”