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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Grotter Ruffles Potter's Feathers

For MTJ.K. Rowling's lawyers say the Tanya Grotter books exploit the Harry Potter story.
One hero is an orphan with secret magical powers who wears glasses, flies around and has a strange scar on his forehead, the other is an orphan who wears glasses, flies, has secret magical powers and a strange mole on her nose.

The first is Harry Potter, whose tales have sold millions of copies since the first one was published in 1997. The other is Tanya Grotter, who appeared last August in "Tanya Grotter and Her Magical Double Bass," a Russian adaptation of J.K. Rowling's stories.

Dmitry Yemets, the creator of Grotter, says his character is a parody, but Rowling's lawyers, her Russian publishers and Warner Bros. see it differently.

They say Yemets' book is plagiarism and have sent a letter to his publishers, Eksmo, threatening court action unless the book is withdrawn by Nov. 10.

"We think the publication of the book has violated the rights of our client," said Leyla Litvinova, a senior lawyer at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Green and MacRae, pointing out the similarities between the two books.

"Look at the cover, and the way it is written and the style. ... You can go on forever."

Both covers show their characters flying between pillars with their titles spelled out in similar lettering.

"It's not parody. Parody is when an author laughs at another, but this book is a children's book that simply exploits the Potter books," Litvinova said.

The lawyers have hired literary experts to compare the two books.

The publisher of Grotter dismissed the accusations.

"Everyone can find something similar," said Alexei Shekhov, the spokesman for Eksmo. "Most detective books resemble other detective books.

"In our book, there are elements of Harry Potter, Peter Pan and folklore."

Shekhov said the accusers were just jealous of Grotter's success.

"If I hadn't seen the letter, I wouldn't have believed such a company could write it," he said. "It's a barroom brawl."

"It has nothing to do with it being a commercial success," said Brian Zimbler, senior partner of the law firm.

Russians have -- like most of the world -- been swept up by the Potter craze. All four books have been translated into Russian, selling more than 1.2 million copies, and the fifth book is eagerly awaited. The first film was a huge success, and Harry Potter schoolbooks, bags and games are seen everywhere.

Like Rowling, Yemetz is writing a series. The second book, "Tanya Grotter and the Disappearing Floor," is already in print, and two more are planned.

The Grotter books have sold around 100,000 copies.

Yemetz defended his novels, saying he was trying to create a Russian cultural version of Harry Potter.

"It's a Russian alternative with elements of parody. There's no basis for such serious accusations," said Yemetz.

"There are two completely different books: one with its core in English culture and the other in Russian."