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And All Was Right With the World

J.K. Rowling Wins Damages, Donates to Charity After Her Law Firm Leaks Her Pseudonym


After it was leaked that she wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert GalbraithJ.K. Rowling has received damages from the law firm that let the information slip.

How did it all go down? Where did the money go? Answers under the cut.

The news was revealed in a Sunday Times article. The reporter was told the true identity of Cuckoo’s author by someone who themselves got the information directly from Rowling’s legal representation.

Writes the Times, Rowling was “left dismayed and distressed by such a fundamental betrayal of trust,” and understandably so. The book, however, has been incredibly successful—and was even prior to all of the publicity. It got strong reviews and positive attention as a solid, well-written mystery story. The public finding out that the Harry Potter scribe was at the helm may have shot up the sales, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t get traction without Rowling’s name attached.

After Galbraith’s true identity was leaked all parties involved agreed to give payment in the form of damages to Rowling by way of donating the money to The Soldier’s Charity, an organization that aids current soldiers and veterans as well as their families.

Reports BBC News, Rowling:

“said she had ‘always intended’ to give the charity ‘a donation out of Robert’s royalties’ but ‘had not anticipated him making the bestseller list a mere three months after publication’…”

Keep in mind that this is the woman who dropped her billionaire status because of the enormous amounts of money she donated to charity, so this plan doesn’t seem likely to be an afterthought. Furthermore, considering that the book itself is about veterans and soldiers, her choice of organization certainly makes sense.

(via BBC News)

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  • Mr The Batman

    Such a modest woman. I’ve actually seen her take the bus a few times (she used to live quite close to my university campus in Edinburgh).

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I’ve been reading Cuckoo to my wife before she drops off to sleep at night, so it’s been kind of a slog, but I’m enjoying to the hell out of it. Very archetypical L.A. gumshoe transported to London and every page has at least something amusing.

  • dorothy_notgale

    While the law firm should not have leaked the info, and it’s nice that Rowling’s donating the money to a soldier’s charity, I personally thought it was inappropriate of her to have falsely claimed in “Robert Galbraith’s” bio that he had served in the military. Trading on that to sell a crime novel seems very wrong to me, so it’s difficult to muster up much sympathy for her having been caught at it.

  • Anonymous

    Very kind of her to give to such a large amount to charity.

    It’s too bad the pseudonym was uncovered so soon, it would be nice to have seen how far it went and to see if people could suspend their judgement’s about Rowling when reviewing the book.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I’m not much for fawning over the military. She created a character to sell her story.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I’m lopsided on this. I wouldn’t have even heard of (or, if I had, cared about) the book if I didn’t know Rowling was behind it. I’m currently reading it with the enthusiasm I never did muster for A Casual Vacancy. It’s great!

  • dorothy_notgale

    Oh, yes, that’s me. Fawning and cooing, just love me a mayun in you-nee-furm!

  • Anonymous

    Good on her for donating the proceeds, I guess, but Rowling certainly seems to be the litigious sort. Can’t say I really get the warm fuzzies when I hear about yet another of her lawsuits.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    That made me giggle.

  • dorothy_notgale

    I think it’s disingenuous of her to say “Oh, but I wanted the writing to stand on its own, that’s why I used a pseudonym,” and then to turn around and give her fake name a background that 1) like it or not, hits people’s “respect! authority!” buttons, and 2) implies practical rather than researched expertise, causing people to more easily swallow presented “facts” within the narrative.

    She could have made Galbraith anything; he could have been a history teacher or a washed-up wannabe actor. He could have been identical to Rowling but with a different name. His background was developed cynically and it’s manipulative.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Did she actually say she wanted the writing to stand on its own or did she say that she wanted to see how it would sell without her name attached or did she say anything like that?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Yeah. But. Come on. She’s almost out of money!

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    We don’t always get along, but I think your wife is quite lucky to have a man who reads her to sleep.

  • i hate twittter

    Did she portray him as a desk jockey or someone who was in combat and earned medals? There’s a big difference IMO.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Gotta watch that local nomenclature thing. The city bus is where people go to the bathroom here in America.

  • Anonymous

    I think this response is exactly what Adam is talking about when he implies “fawning.” Apparently you think it is fine to create a false occupation for a pseudonym as long as it isn’t a military background. Why is that? What is so sacred about military service that makes it off limits for an author to use it to flesh out the background of a false persona? And why wouldn’t it be offensive to do the same with history teacher or wannabe actor?

    Rowling was in no way attempting to sell books by playing on our respect for those in the military. She was attempting to add a realistic sounding detail to the background of her pseudonym to discourage curiosity about “his” true identity or knowledge of the subject.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I won’t belittle this by making a bad joke (which is my instinct). That’s really nice and I appreciate you saying it.

    And I don’t mind so much that we don’t always get along. I’m often wrong, I’m always still learning, and I change my mind as constantly as I can that way it doesn’t stagnate, so different opinions from my own aren’t a threat, nor are they something I will immediately adopt…everyone can teach you something. Unless they’re stupendously wrong, in which case…

  • Melynda

    Her lawsuits to protect her intellectual property and her privacy? Yes. It is awful.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Hell, I don’t think everyone needs to always get along. Many days I can barely tolerate the man I call partner, so…..

  • dorothy_notgale

    Did you not notice that the professions I hypothetically suggested were *unconnected to the content of the work* the fake person is selling? Robert Galbraith is an ex-MP in the security business writing a detective novel about a former soldier turned detective. He’s a framing device intended to make us read uncritically, because of course he knows what he’s talking about. He’s lived it, not just researched it.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I wonder if my wife has similar days. It just occurred to me that I could be replaced by an audiobook.

  • Melynda

    It isn’t terribly hard to believe that she donated money to a charity as she does so all the time when she isn’t setting them up out of her own pocket. It’s a shame that a law firm couldn’t keep their mouths shut. It seemed like she was looking forward to writing without all the hype.

  • dorothy_notgale

    Military police turned civilian security.

  • dorothy_notgale

    She wanted it not to have “hype.” In other words, to be accepted as the work of a newcomer.

    A newcomer with credentials that would make people believe him.

    I wouldn’t write a historical fiction novel and then claim that the author, Prof. Geoffry Merchant, has a Ph.D. in history.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Just because you have a decent background doesn’t mean you can write well.

  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t matter how rich you are — your legal representation cannot break your confidences with impunity. Good for her for sticking up for herself (and by extension, for anyone whose attorneys break such confidences), and doubly good for her for doing what she always does and gives it all away.

  • dorothy_notgale

    No, it doesn’t. Did I say it did?

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    “A newcomer with credentials that would make people believe him.” Either you were talking about believing in his ability to tell a competent story based on his background or you were judging the authenticity of his story via his background. I’m not sure what authenticity has to do with fiction if not the calibre of the writing.

  • dorothy_notgale

    Writing well, especially in fiction, has to do with the crafting of effective plots, characters, and prose. I suspect you know this, frankly, since you do read.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Right, and I wouldn’t assume that someone with a PhD is a competent writer, nor that an ex-military man would write a good pulp yarn. I agree that choosing her author’s persona was deliberate, but I don’t see how it’s dishonest. She’s writing fiction, after all, and this time that fiction expanded to encompass the author.

  • dorothy_notgale

    We will have to agree to disagree, then. Because I think that using a persona who can, in the reader’s imagination, say, “You weren’t THERE, man! You don’t know!” IS dishonest. Just like writing with one who makes the reader say, “Hmm, I thought that from of corset wasn’t introduced until the Edwardian era… but that doesn’t make sense. The author has a degree in exactly this; knows way, way more than I do.”

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Yep, opposite poles. So’k.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Holy shit, that’s a brilliant point. Upvote, dammit. Come on, people. Let’s argue about THIS.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Because the cat’s out of the bag now, and any sequels Rowling was intending to write (I know at least one is planned) is going to have that “hype” she went to all this trouble to avoid.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I have never once let anything about an author’s bio lend any credibility to a fictional story, and I cannot imagine a person that does.

    Now, military types DO do that, when they are writing fictional accounts of actual events, but that is never what was claimed by Rowling.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Considering the most common patrons of local buses tend to be either A) poor people with jobs and no transportation, or B) people who live in cities with a functioning transit system, I can see how some people could have viewed your remarks as derogatory and classist.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I did notice that. It doesn’t change the problematic nature of your argument. You think creating a fake persona/pseudonym is fine. You also think giving that pseudonym a “false” background is fine. You just don’t think that giving a pseudonym a military background is fine because, as you say, “like it or not, [it] hits people’s “respect! authority!” buttons,” and thus means “His background was developed cynically and it’s manipulative.”

    The detail is not meant to dissuade readers from being critical about the story or its contents, it’s meant to dissuade readers from nosing around about the “true” identity of the author exactly because she wants the story can stand on its own merits. Rowling WANTS the reader to be critical of the story, and not just buy the book because of her popularity. She explains this very clearly in her reactions to the leak.

    And a military background as detail to flesh out a pseudonym is no more “manipulative” than using that of history teacher (teacher is a respected profession) or actor (entertainers are worshiped more than soldiers). Hell, if she really wanted to manipulate folks, she would have claimed that the author was a 12 year old dying of cancer.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I took the dang bus for two years and managed to avoid peeing on it for the entire time. I’d argue that I’m elitist, not classist, except I have no money. One can always aspire, of course.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Avoiding the hype but not the paycheck, I’m sure. I doubt she’ll go Alan Moore on us and abandon the project because of X, Y, and Z.

  • Anonymous

    Rowling was upset, first, because a law firm that she’d done business with – and whose business depends in large part on confidentiality – revealed a very sensitive piece of information about Rowling that they were expected to keep secret. If she can’t trust a law firm to keep their mouths shut about her private dealings, then who can she trust. I understand why she would be upset about that.

    Secondly, she’s not interested in the increased sales (and boost to her finances) that come with the revelation that she’s the author. She has enough money to live comfortably for a hundred lifetimes. She wanted the artistic freedom that anonymity gave her to have her work evaluated without the baggage and acclaim that the Potter series would have (and has since) brought to this book. The pseudonym gave her a chance to be an artist again – and not “that Harry Potter writer.”

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    So, in the lawsuit, I’m sure she asked that they be given armbands they have to wear or a flag they have to hoist saying that they don’t keep their clients’ information confidential. And she didn’t ask for money.

  • Anonymous

    Why would she have to ask for a “scarlet letter.” The lawsuit is public, and thus the name of the law firm is out there (Russells, if you hadn’t already heard or read on any of a thousands sites). They are not still operating in obscurity. Their reputation has taken a hit – it’s why they were so quick to issue an apology and make a charitable donation. They knew they were wrong and that their business would suffer because of it. Rowling had no need to go on a press tour to continually rag on the law firm nor drape them in funny clothing to shame them.

    And as far as I have read, there has been no demand of money from Rowling’s camp. In fact, the biggest threat to the law firm wasn’t a cash payout, but in fact a censure against their business (or de-barring the individual specifically responsible for the leak) that would have put their ability to practice law into serious jeopardy. The payout from the law firm is going directly to a charity, and Rowling has increased the amount from the proceeds of the book that she is directing to that same charity.

    If you think her motivation for the lawsuit was money, every bit of info reported since the revelation contradicts your belief.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    If there was no money involved, then I agree that it wasn’t about money. Since there was money involved, it’s impossible for me to agree. The world doesn’t run on hopes and dreams. She has plenty of money. They lost credibility. That’s all fine and good. But there was money involved. Even if it’s donated to charity, it’s taken out of one pocket and placed in another.

  • Anonymous

    Your argument wasn’t about whether there was money involved somewhere in the fine print of the lawsuit, it was about greed and the implication that Rowling was trying to put more money into her own pockets. A monetary award in a legal dispute isn’t always about lining someone’s pocket, it’s about punishing a business where it hurts most – ensuring that they get the message about wrongdoing. If the law firm has to pay up they’ll be less likely to let confidential info slip again. The money has been directed to a charity, Rowling has increased the amount of money from her proceeds going to the charity. End of story. No need to criticize Rowling for something (greed) that is obviously not the case. I mean, it isn’t like she couldn’t toss out a new Potter book to add a billion dollars to her net worth if she wanted to.

  • Flitzy

    I think it might have been a huge favour but it also puts all the pressure back on her to live up to Harry Potter and not just write for herself and not have everything be judged on a scale of 1 to Harry Potter. :)

  • Flitzy

    Reason #23423498 why she is amazing. Can we just like clone her and put her in charge of all the countries of the world? <3

  • Mina

    I’m not so sure she wanted the extra demand for the book, hence why she released under a pseudonym to begin with. Either way, though, it is definitely not okay when a law firm leaks confidential information. You pay them to NOT do that. They foiled her scheme and, more importantly, released private info without her consent. It counts.

  • Mina

    Maybe you would have though. Apparently Robert Galbraith had already gotten two television adaptation offers before she was outed.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    i’m pretty sure that was the point, to show how he would be taken more seriously than a female writer (if she had used a female pseudonym, that is).

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Alright. I’m sure the lawfirm understands, then. That the money isn’t important, I mean. Since they wouldn’t have been punished plenty if she had just gone on television and said, “So-and-so Law doesn’t keep information confidential.”

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Maybe!

  • Davidktd

    As someone somewhere pointed out shouldn’t you only be awarded damges for defamation, loss of earnings or physical harm?? This hasn’t hurt J K Rowling in the slightest! She can simply write another book under another pseudonym. This was just a grudge that Rowling was holding.

  • Brian

    Someone took her work and did something she explicitly did not want done with it, fundamentally changing the way it was seen by the world. There’s damage in that.

  • Davidktd

    Fundamentally changing the way the world sees it?? What? As more successful? Yes I agree the lawyers shouldn’t have blabbed but come on! It’s not like her reputation has been damaged and she can never successfully sell another novel ever again!

  • Anonymous

    I was referring to the IP lawsuits, and yes, I think IP law goes too far these days and multimillionaire creators who sue their fans over fanfic sites deserve more than a little side-eye for such pettiness.

  • Anonymous

    That’s what you get when you win damages: money. They’re not running an eye-for-an-eye system. Rowling can’t opt for ‘you revealed a secret I wanted kept secret so in return I get to reveal the clandestine affairs of everyone in management’.

    Rowling was able to successfully plea that the law form’s breach of trust had a negative consequence for her (in this case emotionally), and the compensation is in money.

    I think the fact that Rowling’s concern was not financial is evidenced by the fact that she gave away the money awarded.

  • Nat

    They also you know, violated a contract. Hence the damages.

  • Nat

    I believe it falls under contract violation.

  • Brian

    “Fundamentally changing the way the world sees it?”

    Yes. She wanted to release it as Robert Galbraith. Instead, it’s “the new JK Rowling book”. Are you going to say that people don’t see the first novel of a promising new author differently than they see the latest work of a massively successful author?

    “What? As more successful?”

    Doesn’t matter.

    “Yes I agree the lawyers shouldn’t have blabbed but come on! It’s not like her reputation has been damaged and she can never successfully sell another novel ever again!”

    So you’re saying that lawyers should be allowed to violate their clients’ trust, that artists should have their work used in ways they don’t approve of, and as long as they make money, they can’t be angry?

  • Anonymous

    They sure understood when Rowling filed that suit. Next time a big company screws you over, see how far you get by making a tepid, forgettable comment to a tv camera. That company will be laughing all the way to the bank thinking about how they’ll spend their yearly bonuses. I mean, it’s not like businesses get serious about taking responsibility when a lawsuit gets thrown their way…oh wait…

  • Anonymous

    Good for her. Client-Attorney Privilege is a cornerstone of modern civil and criminal law. For it to be broken is inexcusable. I trust those involved will be disbarred.

  • Anonymous

    I’m from Indiana, and I have never heard that before in my life.

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    Are there buses in Indiana? …are there places to go on a bus?

  • Anonymous

    Hurr hurr. Yes, there are plenty.