Harry Potter and the Fraudulent Author
No, the title that you see above isn’t a new fantasy novel by J.K. Rowling that chronicles the Boy Who Lived fighting against a cadre of desperate and untrustworthy writers. Instead, it involves an author from the United States named Nancy Stouffer who only heard about the Harry Potter novels in 1999, which was two years after the publication of the first book.
When Stouffer found out about these books and looked into their content, she claimed that she was horrified by what she saw. No, she wasn’t one of the ultra-religious people who worry that the spells in the books are actual magical spells that will summon demons. Instead, she says that Rowling had stolen from her.
Stouffer claims that she used the word muggles first and that she had a character named Larry Potter. She said that Rowling took the term and only changed the name of the main character by one letter. Now, if you were thinking that Nancy Stouffer was a writer with her own series of books about a boy wizard and a magical school, and that was the reason she filed a lawsuit, you would be wrong.
Stouffer created Larry in the late 1980s, where he appeared in a series of booklets that were supposed to be a part of a monthly activity package for kids. Only two of these booklets were produced and none were sold.
First, let’s look at the word muggles. In Stouffer’s booklet, The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, we find out that the muggles she’s describing are hairy mutants that are all less than 20” tall. They also happen to be bee riders. Another coincidence is in the name Larry Potter. Another booklet was titled Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly. Astute readers familiar with the Harry Potter books will note that there is even a third coincidence. Harry’s mother is named Lily, but with just one L. This book was a coloring book about a boy who needed glasses but was not happy about it.
These are some interesting coincidences, but when you look at the fact that there is no way Rowling would have had any of this information, you can see that they are just that – coincidences.
However, it was not enough to stop Stouffer from setting up a publishing company in 2001. She wanted to republish her works, and this time she did so under the name of N.K. Stouffer… a little similar J.K, don’t you think? Rowling’s lawyers were able to find that the stories were not alike at all, and they also discovered that there were patterns of fraud showing up with Stouffer.
There was no evidence of the original works, and Larry was only given the name Potter in a single paragraph. Interestingly enough, that paragraph happened to be in a font that was different from the other parts of the story. Even more interesting, that font was not created in the 1980s when Stouffer claims it was written. There was yet another font issue with The Legend of Rah and the Muggles. It seems that it was originally only titled The Legend of Rah and that Muggles was added after the fact. The printers who had published the book originally were not able to produce the font that was used for the other words in the title.
In the end, Stouffer was fined $50,000 and the case was thrown out of court. She appealed, and she lost that case, as well.
Not the Only Potter Lawsuit
There have been many other lawsuits surrounding Harry Potter in the past, and there are likely to be more in the future. It is just the nature of things. However, chances are that the Boy Who Lived will keep on doing so, despite these lawsuits.