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Harry Potter author relieved court case is over so she can keep writing

By Jane Wardell, Associated Press, 9/19/2002 17:38

LONDON (AP) J.K. Rowling, author of the immensely popular Harry Potter books, said Thursday she was relieved about a court decision clearing her of plagiarism because the case distracted her from putting the boy wizard's next adventures on paper.

A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday rejected claims by American author Nancy Stouffer that Rowling had stolen ideas from her own children's books, including ''Rah and the Muggles'' and stories about a boy named Larry Potter.

The judge fined Stouffer $50,000, saying she ''perpetuated a fraud'' by doctoring documents submitted as evidence.

Rowling said the stress of the U.S. lawsuit had hindered her progress on the long-awaited fifth installment of the multimillion-selling Potter series.

''Anyone who's been involved in a court case will know that it's time consuming, it plays on your mind,'' she said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. television.

''There have been times when I've been writing and that's been uppermost in my mind, whereas what should have been uppermost in my mind is what's going on with Harry and Co.

''This is a large weight which has been lifted off me,'' Rowling said. ''I feel very different today it's great.''

Rowling said much of the fifth book, ''Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,'' was written, but declined to say when it would be ready for publication.

''There's a lot of book done. That's all I want to say, because if I give it a date and then I pass it everyone will be upset,'' she said.

''I will say that I have a beginning, a middle and an end you could read it all the way through and I know a lot of Harry Potter fans will say, 'just to give it to us.' But I'm a perfectionist and I want a bit more of a tweak,'' she said.

Fans had hoped the latest book would be on sale this summer, in line with publication dates for the previous four installments. Rowling laughed off any suggestions of writer's block.

''I really am getting there and I have to laugh when I read the bits about writer's block, because I don't think I've ever been left blocked in my life,'' she said.

In the U.S. court ruling, District Judge Allen G. Schwartz found only minimal similarities between the Potter series and books by Stouffer. Schwartz said there was convincing evidence that Stouffer had submitted fraudulent documents and given ''untruthful testimony'' to the court.

Stouffer's primary complaint against Rowling concerned references to ''Muggles'' in the Harry Potter books. Stouffer claims her Muggles, who populate ''The Legend of Rah and the Muggles,'' came first.

In Rowling's books, ''Muggles'' is the word wizards use for non-magical humans. In Stouffer's world, Muggles are bald, mutated nuclear holocaust survivors whose dark and polluted land becomes a happy place after they end up caring for orphaned twin boys.