You may have heard by now that J.K. Rowling and her publisher have filed suit against a Michigan publisher - RDR Books - to stop it from publishing a book compiled by Steve Ark based mostly on information presented on the Harry Potter Lexicon Web site. The rub is that Rowling has openly priased the efforts of fan Web sites regarding her Potter series but now she and her publisher contend that this book - as opposed to the fan sites - will infringe of Rowling's intellectual property rights. While other tomes have been written and published by fan site creators the tome in question is one for profit and this has clearly created a problem. Apparently, Rowling is also planning on her own encyclopedia of her famous boy wizard, his world and friends but hers is expected to benefit several charities. The Michigan publisher has stated that it will proceed with publication of Steve Ark's book despite the law suit.
So, when does the work of fans, including fan fic, become an infringement? Reviews after all have been widely accepted as a legitimate way to embrace an authors work. So, clearly reviews do not cross the line. It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit goes and what kind of answers we all get. Some years back the estate of Andy Warhol sued after an individual took one of Warhol's works and morphed it with one of the new software morphing programs. As I recall the gist was once the new work no longer subsantially resembles the original work then a new work has been created.
Again, this will be an interesting law suit for authors to follow and to watch for in terms of rights and legal protection on and off the internet.