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No Hobbits on slot machines: Tolkien estate sues Warner Bros.

Published time: November 20, 2012 14:25
Edited time: November 21, 2012 02:56
Pedestrians walk past a giant poster of a movie "Lord of the Rings" (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

Pedestrians walk past a giant poster of a movie "Lord of the Rings" (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

The estate of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien together with publisher Harper Collins has filed a law suit against Warner Bros. demanding at least $80 million in damages for unauthorized merchandising of the Tolkien books.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday with a District Court in LA. The Tolkien estate and its publisher claim the producers of the Rings movie trilogy Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit rights holder Saul Zaentz Co. are breaching copyright, The Hollywood Reporter says.

"The original contracting parties thus contemplated a limited grant of the right to sell consumer products of the type regularly merchandised at the time (such as figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing and the like,"
the complaint says. "They did not include any grant of exploitations such as electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services," the lawsuit reads.

The contract with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit rights holder Saul Zaentz Co. has existed since the late 1960s and according to the plaintiff, it reserved rights "not herein specifically granted."

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: The Online Slot Game (Image from Flickr/PlayNowSlots)
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: The Online Slot Game (Image from Flickr/PlayNowSlots)

­The writer’s estate was enraged after the producers of the fantasy trilogy based on Tolkien’s best-selling books launched Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: The Online Slot Game.

In the lawsuit the plaintiff says the estate learnt about the online slot game by accident when one of the lawyers received a spam e-mail promoting the game back in 2010. The estate was highly offended with the product.

According to the lawsuit the Tolkien estate and its publisher have grounds to believe that Warner Bros. is also planning to introduce traditional slot machines with Rings characters, as well as other products outside the limited scope of its original rights deal.

"Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of the defendants' rights, but this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien's devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works."

Just a week is left before the premiere of the first film in The Hobbit trilogy, based on Tolkien’s other best-selling fantasy book.

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