The Harry Potter Lexicon wants to publish the site in book form. JKR has always been cool with the site as a non-profit public resource, and even said she's consulted it a few times herself when she didn't have copies of her books on hand (say, in that Edinburgh hotel room). But publishing the site as a book, for profit, opens a whole Pandora's box of copyright issues--namely, 1) since the "facts" in question are fictional facts and not historical facts (like those in, say, the Encyclopedia Britannica), the Lexicon can't use them freely in a profit situation and 2) the Lexicon would not include enough commentary (or does it? More on this in a minute) to pass the way other critical works have (and JKR mentions having no problem with these). The best summary of these issues that I have seen is praetorianguard's here. (ETA: Part two.)
(Sidenote: Many people, myself included, find the Lexicon to be incomplete and patchy. I ended up using Wikipedia for GOF in Fifteen Minutes, but there is now a Harry Potter Wiki unto itself. Rejoice!)
JK Rowling is not pleased. And is suing.
From what I understand, the proposed book is not criticism or review of Harry Potter's world, which would be entirely legitimate – neither I nor anybody connected with Harry Potter has ever tried to prevent such works being published. It is, we believe, a print version of the website, except now the information that was freely available to everybody is to become a commercial enterprise. It is not reasonable, or legal, for anybody, fan or otherwise, to take an author's hard work, re-organize their characters and plots, and sell them for their own commercial gain. However much an individual claims to love somebody else's work, it does not become theirs to sell. [JKRowling.com]
Contributors to the Lexicon are not pleased. The book may or may not include critical essays that appeared on the site. In something like 1200 comments combined, I have yet to hear from a single contributor who has said that s/he was asked, notified, or approached about material not written by Steve Vander Ark being used in the book. RDR Books says that the book does include commentary; a spokeswoman for the Lexicon says it does not.
Contributors to the Lexicon may be interested to learn that "[t]he book contains critical analysis from 'Steven Vander Ark and his staff.' When asked what he meant by critical analysis Mr. Harris said, 'You can go to the site and read the articles. I’m not going to itemize them for you.' Questioned further he said 'the book was typeset directly from the site,' and that it was word-for-word taken from the web site." [The Leaky Cauldron]
It is an original book with a vast array of independently written scholarly articles. [RDR Books]
Either way, the Lexicon is screwed--it either doesn't have enough commentary to not count as infringement, or it's going to have a boatload of angry, ripped-off contributors coming after it next.
Steve Vander Ark apparently asked JKR in advance and was told no, he couldn't publish a book. JFer westmoon: "I was told that she was asked. And quite clearly said no. It was talked about at the Prophecy convention in Toronto this summer [August?], and apparently Steve was quite miffed that she refused to give him permission - as were some of the people to whom he related his tale of woe."
The Lexicon apparently incorporates a large amount of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them already. And it may or may not have had permission to use the text on the non-profit site as it was. Note this passage from an earlier TLC article, in that light: "I don't give permission for people to just copy my work for their own use. Not only is that illegal, since everything in the Lexicon is copyrighted, it's also just plain wrong. Hey, I did all the work, I put in all the time, it's my skill and talent in this area which allowed the Lexicon to come into being. No one else has the right to use my work."
There's a separate issue as to whether WB stole a timeline of HP events from the Lexicon. "WB doesn’t feel this is an issue of first amendment rights, and that there are unequivocally no rights owed to the Lexicon for a timeline deriving from the rights of others" [The Leaky Cauldron]. Whether the precise wording of that timeline was stolen, and whether the Lexicon has rights to that wording, may or may not be dwarfed by the issue that JKR and/or WB owns the rights to the facts in that wording. I honestly don't know. But I am pretty sure that "THEY STOLE FROM US FIRST!" is going to be knocked down pretty quickly.
RDR Books, Steve Vander Ark's publisher for the Lexicon book, is insane.
Exhibit A: JKR's people want to see an advance copy of the book, ostensibly to see how hard they want to sue RDR Books. RDR Books replies, in speaking to the Leaky Cauldron, that 1) “we don’t have a copy to give them…because the book hasn’t been published yet” and "How would that benefit us?" Which... is not really how it works, there. Also:
In the meantime Warner Bros. asked for a copy of the"print version" of the Lexicon Website referred to by RDR Books in order to aid in its evaluation of the claims. RDR Books summarily dismissed Warner Bros. reasonable request," the suit claims, "stating rudely: 'If you do not know how to print that material [from the Lexicon Website] please ask one of your people to show you how.' "Exhibit B: Speaking of which, let's repeat from above: "The book was typeset directly from the site." What? How? Does it have critical essays or not? Does anyone even know what's in the book at this point? Is there even a manuscript?
Exhibit C: "Stopping a book of [Vander Ark's] own creation is not something that happens in America. It's something that could only happen in a police state."
Exhibit D: RDR Books alleges that WB "bore false witness" in the papers filed. All I'm saying is, they'd better be telling the truth about that if they want to live.
Exhibit E: The Lexicon book's UK cover highly resembles the style of the Deathly Hallows UK cover, and the title in no way indicates, despite this resemblance, that it is not an official tie-in.
Exhibit F: But it's for the children, y'all!
Knowing that the Harry Potter novels have had a profound effect in encouraging literacy among young people around the world, we believe that publishing the website content in printed form will make its information available to underprivileged children and those in impoverished nations, who may have no access to computers or to the World Wide Web.Exhibit G: No, seriously! WHY WON'T YOU THINK OF THE CHILDREN?
Warner Bros. responded by rushing into court with this ill-tempered and badly thought out legal action. This wastes financial resources that Ms. Rowling could give to one of her favorite charities.Exhibit H: C&D orders are just like nuclear weapons.
Summarizing Ms. Nelson's view, one reporter wrote that Warner's "cease and desist letters constituted an attempt to open a dialogue." How could that be?
This is obviously a contradiction in terms. It reminds of a statement made by General Leslie Groves when he was asked if the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was leading to lingering deaths of tens of thousands of civilian[s].
Exhibit I: RDR Books' spokesman is named Richard Harris. That's not insane, really; that's just weird.
Important bottom-line statements, both via TLC:
RDR Books: "It’s RDR’s position that the Lexicon did not need permission to do work on the book."
Warner Bros: "There is no intention to have this suit apply to other fan endeavors such as web sites, wizard rock, etc."
I've heard something about one of the publication dates being Monday. This Monday. Day-after-tomorrow Monday. I don't know if that's true, or if it's still going to happen, but... it's going to get interesting.