Readersforum's Blog

November 23, 2012

Tolkien estate sues Hobbit producers over video and gambling games

The Hobbit: an unexpected journey to the lawyers

Lawsuit alleges Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit merchandising infringes copyright and upsets fans.

By Alison Flood

“Irreparable harm” has been done to JRR Tolkien’s legacy by gambling games featuring characters from The Lord of the Rings, according to an $80m (£50m) lawsuit filed by the Tolkien estate against the producers of the imminent film of The Hobbit.

The suit [PDF], filed in a Los Angeles court on Monday, sees the Tolkien estate, its trustees and publisher HarperCollins taking legal action against Warner Bros, its subsidiary New Line Productions and the Saul Zaentz Company’s Middle-earth Enterprises. It alleges that they have infringed the copyright granted to them by releasing gambling games and online video games based on Tolkien’s inventions, claiming that the 1969 sale of film rights only included limited merchandising rights to use characters, places, objects and events referenced in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. These limited rights included the right to sell “tangible” products such as “figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing, and the like”, but did not include “electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services”.

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