Friday, November 23, 2012
The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has brought suit against the producers of the new feature film, The Hobbit. The film in production is based upon the book by Tolkien. To promote the movie, the producers released gambling games and online video games.
The estate brought suit and gave two basic arguments against the producers. First, the estate claimed that the producers violated the copyright licensed to them by the estate. Tolkien's estate claimed that the sale of the film rights to Warner Bros. "only included limited merchandising rights to use characters, places, objects and events referenced in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit." The estate asserted that the sale only included tangible property and did not include electronic or other intangible rights. They claim that those rights still belong to the estate. Second, the estate contended that the use of the license to promote gambling and other online games has caused "irreparable harm" to Tolkien's "'reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works.'" The estate is seeking $80 Million in compensatory damages and an injunction against Warner Bros.
See Alison Flood, Tolkien Estate Sues Hobbit Producers Over Video and Gambling Games, The Guardian, Nov. 20, 2012.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.