Tolkien Estate Sues Warner Brothers Over Merchandising

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iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2000
Tolkien Estate Sues Warner Brothers Over Merchandising
Tue, 11-20-2012 - 11:56am

Interesting little tidbit I came across this morning; Tolkien's estate and his publisher, HarperCollins, are now suing Warner Bros. for $80 million over royalties they say they're owed from profits generated from ancillaries never envisioned at the time they sold the film rights back in 1969.

This includes "digital exploitation include LOTR and Hobbit video games available only by download via the Internet. But even worse, according to Tolkien's heirs, the defendants exceeded the scope of the limited-rights clause by "licensing the production and distribution of gambling games" on the Web and at brick-and-mortar casinos that feature characters and story elements from Middle-earth."

The LOTR slots are some of the most popular in the casinos I've been to. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out! Technology has changed a lot since the original sales of rights; I don't know that anyone in 1969 would have envisioned the internet, let alone the money machine video games have become. And slots in 1969 were most likely limited to mechanical ones, not the high definition graphics ones of today. I can see where a win for the estate on this could really impact the sales of future rights for a lot of authors. What do you think?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-09-2010

It seems to me like someone is desperate. I don't see how Tolkien's estate can win this but you never know. It doesn't seem fair that someone can sue over technology never envisioned. I do however see that contracts and agreements start including wording to cover this kind of thing.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-14-2008

Hmmm... I wonder what a judge will make of that suit, given that few people could have imagined the technological avenues that would become available for licensing when the agreement was signed over 40 years ago. I'm betting they settle like they did the last one... out of court.