From broken embargoes on book release dates to academic papers on the legal principles of magic (just say "estoppel!"), the Harry Potter books have intersected with the law more than one might think. The most recent bit of legal wizardry has been author J.K. Rowling’s lawsuit to stop a Harry Potter fan site’s proprietor from publishing a lexicon of the books’ characters, places and potions, and over at Salon.com's Machinist blog, Farhad Manjoo goes into some of the legal and moral quandaries wrapped up in the suit.
The first thing to note: Rowling's suit has, at least temporarily, worked. Plans to publish the Harry Potter Lexicon, compiled by Steve Vander Ark, have been shelved pending judicial review.
Manjoo notes that Rowling’s attorneys have significant copyright precedent in their favor, including a ruling that found that “The Seinfeld Aptitude Test,” a book of show-related trivia, infringed upon Castle Rock Entertainment’s copyrights for the sitcom. Detracting from her case, however, is the writer’s prior statements of affection for the online version of the Harry Potter Lexicon. (In one blog post, Rowling even mentions how she has used it to settle factual matters about the characters from time to time.)
The issue of fan-created works is, of course, very contentious. See this recent dispatch by a Wired Magazine writer from a Tokyo manga mega-market that sells both leading comics and fan-created knock offs, a genre that in Japan receives tacit approval.