J.K. Rowling cleared of plagiarism charges in the US

'Harry Potter' author J.K. Rowling was cleared of plagiarism charges when a judge found that the plaintiff's case 'strains credulity.'

Joel Ryan/AP
J.K. Rowling, seen here at the première of the latest 'Harry Potter' film, has been cleared of plagiarism charges in a US court.

Did "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling steal key wizardry concepts from another writer?

No, said US District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York on Thursday. The US court dismissed the suit brought by the estate of author Adrian Jacobs against Scholastic, Rowling's US publisher, saying that Rowling's and Jacobs's books were too different to allow for any credible claim of plagiarism.

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

Some observers were surprised last October when a British judge refused to dismiss Jacobs's lawsuit, which charged that "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling stole concepts – wizard contests, wizard prisons, wizard hospitals, and wizard colleges – for "Harry Potter" Book No. 4 ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") from Jacobs's 1987 book "'The Adventures of Willy the Wizard."

At the time, Rowling called the charges "unfounded" and "absurd" and insisted that she had not even read Jacobs's book. The British court acknowledged that the case was "improbable" but wanted to allow the plaintiffs a day in court – at their own expense. [This story originally mistakenly stated that the British case had since been dismissed.]

But the US suit has now collapsed. "The court's swift dismissal supports our position that the case was completely without merit and that comparing 'Willy the Wizard' to the 'Harry Potter' series was absurd," said a Scholastic spokesperson.

It's not the first time that Rowling, estimated to be the world's wealthiest author, has had to defend herself against charges of plagiarism.

Should it happen again, says her publisher, "Scholastic will continue to vigorously defend any such frivolous claims challenging the originality of 'Harry Potter' and the brilliant imagination of its author, J.K. Rowling."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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