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An Amsterdam court ruled Thursday that a Russian children’s book about a magical girl named Tanja Grotter cannot be published in the Netherlands because it has too many similarities to J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter.” The district court ordered the Dutch publisher Byblos to withhold 7,000 translated copies of the first book by Russian writer Dmitry Yemets, rejecting an argument the book was a parody of “Harry Potter,” not plagiarism. The court ruled that if released in the Netherlands, the Russian tale would violate registered copyrights and trademarks. The book already has sold more than 1 million copies in Russia. Even for a casual reader, the similarities between “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Tanja Grotter and the Magic Bass” are unmistakable. Harry rides a broomstick, while Tanja flies a musical instrument. Both have strange facial markings, are 10 years old and attend wizarding school where they become stars in a dangerous ball sport played in mid-air. Even the name of the supernatural villain in the Grotter books, Chuma-del-Tort, seems a little too close to the original Voldemort, whose names must never be spoken. Byblos acknowledged the “Harry Potter” story line had been used as a framework, but said the Russian book, that was to go on sale Tuesday, targeted an older audience that understands “subtle humor.” “Harry Potter has won and Tanja Grotter cannot be published in the Netherlands,” said Rowling’s Dutch lawyer Eric Keyzer, minutes after phoning the British author’s agent to pass on the news. “We are especially happy that the court confirmed that this is plagiarism, that it’s not a parody and that its trademark infringement,” he said in an interview. “No books with the story line of ‘Harry Potter’ or with a name that resembles Harry Potter, like Tanja Grotter, can be published,” he said. The decision, based on European law, may lead publishers in other countries to think twice before taking on the powerful Potter. Keyzer said the Russian publisher of Tanja Grotter has contracts in many countries to print translations and that they too could face lawsuits. Byblos has said it will file an appeal, which must be done within four weeks. Owner Boudewijn Richel, who was not available for comment after the ruling, has said he would call expert witnesses to testify to the Russian work’s originality. Thursday’s ruling was also a victory for the U.S. company Time Warner Entertainment, also a party in the suit, which filmed the books and sells “Harry Potter” dolls, videos and countless other memorabilia. Lawyers for Rowling and Time Warner were supported in their contention that Yemets was “blatantly stealing” the “Harry Potter” story line, characters and plot for his Russian-language books. The fifth “Harry Potter” book, the next in a series of seven, is expected in June. The first four publications have sold 200 million copies in 55 countries, ranking among the most popular children’s stories ever. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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