Originally created 06/20/03

Harry Potter author sues newspaper over preview



NEW YORK -- The author of the Harry Potter book series slapped the Daily News with a $100 million lawsuit after the newspaper published tidbits about the fifth novel four days before its official release.

The News said it bought a copy of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" from a health food store that had mistakenly put the book out for sale Wednesday despite an embargo until Saturday.

A Walgreens drugstore in Daytona Beach also put a handful of copies out early, to the delight of one 14-year-old girl.

"I feel like I'm the luckiest kid in America and Britain," said Kaitlin Webster, who restrained herself to a single copy Wednesday.

"I debated about buying them all," she admitted. "But ... we only needed one."

By that evening, the store had taken the two or three remaining copies off the shelf.

The lawsuit against the News, prepared by lawyers for author J.K. Rowling and U.S. publisher Scholastic Inc., claims the newspaper damaged Rowling's intellectual property rights and harmed Scholastic's $3 million worldwide marketing campaign.

The book - the fifth installment of the adventures of the boy wizard - has been under extraordinary security ahead of the release. In a statement, Scholastic said it hoped "this unfortunate situation will not spoil the surprise for millions of children around the country who have been eagerly awaiting the book."

Scholastic provided a copy of the suit to The Associated Press and said it had been filed late Wednesday in Manhattan federal court. The claim could not be verified by early Thursday afternoon.

"We will vigorously defend any action and are confident we did nothing wrong journalistically or legally," Daily News spokesman Ken Frydman said.

The News story contained what it called a "brief glimpse into the 870 action-packed pages" of the novel. An accompanying graphic displayed two of the novel's pages, with legible text.

The News said the health store owner received a shipment of four books from a wholesaler and decided to put them in the window. The owner told the paper he didn't know he was supposed to wait until Saturday. The paper withheld the name of the store and its owner.

The book goes on sale at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Stores across the United States plan late-night parties Friday, and a countdown is scheduled in New York's Times Square. Festivities also were planned in England, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Scholastic has commissioned a first printing of 8.5 million copies.

Meanwhile, authorities in Newtown-le-Willows, England, were looking for a tractor-trailer containing 7,800 copies of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" that was taken from outside a warehouse.

On the Net:

Harry Potter site: http://www.harrypotter.com



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