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Censorship Lord of the Rings United Kingdom Your Rights Online

Hobbit Pub Saved By Actors Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the gandalf-the-generous dept.
Fluffeh writes "Recently the Hobbit Pub in England was sued for rights infringement, but it seems Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen are going to re-pony-up the cash to keep the pub alive. Landlady Stella Roberts said she had been shocked by the actors' offer. She said: 'I had a telephone call on Saturday evening, while we were trading, from Stephen Fry's business partner and manager. That's when he told me. I was very shocked. They've said as soon as they finish filming they would like to come down and visit the pub.' However Ms Roberts said she was not celebrating just yet. She added: 'Until everything is in black and white, on paper, we're going to be a bit reserved because it could be $100 this year and $20,000 next year.'"
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Hobbit Pub Saved By Actors Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen

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  • by pla (258480) on Friday March 23, 2012 @12:45AM (#39447947) Journal
    This needs to stop, now

    The word "Hobbit" predates Tolkein (the real one) by a good century. The prefix "hob" (from "hobbe"), with a variety of faerie-folksy suffixes, predates that by another three centuries - At least.

    JRR knew all this perfectly well, and never claimed exclusive rights to a common word used to describe the wee people of mythology. Only these asshats that have tried to cash in on Grand-dad's legacy have so poor of a grasp of the work of their ancestor as to claim it as a "copyright". He, as a proper good ol' Don, would no doubt have outright disowned his fool-descendants for their ignorance.

    Sad, really, and just one more reason we need to get rid of this entire BS charade we call "intellectual property" ASAP.
    • by batkiwi (137781) on Friday March 23, 2012 @01:00AM (#39448011)

      1. I agree this is petty bullshit.

      That said...

      2. The pub has likenesses FROM THE MOVIE. "It features characters from Tolkien's stories on its signs, has "Frodo" and "Gandalf" cocktails on the menu, and the face of Lord of the Rings film star Elijah Wood on its loyalty card."

      The name "hobbit" is only about 1% of the issue.

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        2. The pub has likenesses FROM THE MOVIE. "It features characters from Tolkien's stories on its signs, has "Frodo" and "Gandalf" cocktails on the menu,

        So what? Are names now subject to copyright?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2012 @02:22AM (#39448233)

          No, definitely not. However, the image of a character from the movie is definitely copyrightable, and the names can be trademarked in the context of the movie. So if you just happened to be named Frodo, you could use your name all you want, unless you attempted to present some connection with the movie (or possibly the book).

          dom

        • by hemanman (35302) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:01AM (#39449945)

          The name "Gandalf" was lifted by Tolkien from Norse mythology(along with a shitload of other stuff), and was actually the name of a dwarf.

          Norse mythology is worshiped as Asetro today, and is a legit faith in Scandinavia, so if you try to trademark a name like that, you'd be violating human rights.

          It would be like trying to trademark a name from the Christian Bible, which I don't think is possible, even in USA.

          If so, I think I'll write a novel with this guy, lets call him Jesus, and sue for rights infringement!

          -H

      • by msobkow (48369)

        ...It features characters from Tolkien's stories on it's signs...

        No, it features characters which are named after those in Tolkien's stories.

        As the images are not taken from the movies, the fact that they share names is not a copyright violation of the movie images or characters.

        Prior to the movies, I'm quite certain most people had their own ideas what the characters Tolkien described actually might have looked like. In my case, the only things that even resembled my imaginings in the movies were the

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday March 23, 2012 @01:06AM (#39448041) Homepage

      Sad, really

      The sad part is that you actually believe your childish little rant has any bearing on the issue. You don't You're absolutely clueless.

      That word "Hobbit" predates JRR is irrelevant. That words starting with "hob" have existed in even less relevant. (Words don't even exist in any human language to express how irrelevant the latter is.)

      They aren't being sued because they used the word "Hobbit". They're being sued because they used the word Hobbit in association with The Lord of The Rings - Something JRR did claim exclusive right over by the very act of copyrighting his works. And by establishing a literary estate, he willingly and knowingly granted his descendents the right to enforce that claim.

      They're also being sued because they used imagery from the movie on their website.

      • by pla (258480)
        They're also being sued because they used imagery from the movie on their website.

        I consider that part, and only that part of this mess, somewhat legitimate. As in, "stop doing that" legitimate, not "you used our ball, so we'll take your whole court" legitimate.

        Perhaps one of our resident armchair lawyers can answer a question for me - TFA discusses two of the actors from the movie supporting this pub. If Ian McKellen posed for a picture, totally unrelated to LoTR, in vaguely renny-like attire and ga
    • by mark-t (151149)
      But imagery from the LotR movies does not predate Tolkien, and the pub has been gratuitously using that in recent years.
      • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday March 23, 2012 @03:36AM (#39448471) Journal

        But imagery from the LotR movies does not predate Tolkien, and the pub has been gratuitously using that in recent years.

        So why not tell them to stop doing that rather than trying to sue them out of existence?

        • by binkzz (779594)

          So why not tell them to stop doing that rather than trying to sue them out of existence?

          FTFA:

          He said: "When it's an established business, we like to get the company to acknowledge they are using our trademarks, stop selling infringing articles and then we will grant them a licence for a nominal fee - approximately $100 a year." It features characters from Tolkien's stories on its signs, has "Frodo" and "Gandalf" cocktails on the menu and the face of Lord of the Rings film star Elijah Wood on its loyalty card. A letter from SZC had asked the pub to remove all references to the characters.

          They weren't sued out of existence, just asked to pay the license fee and stop using trademarked items.

          • by mark-t (151149)
            No question about the infringement on the issue of the pic on the pub's loyalty card, but there shouldn't be trademark infringement on the cocktails, because while the drinks may be named *AFTER* characters, they can't reasonably be mistaken for the characters themselves, and should no more trademark infringements in that respect than it is trademark infringemement for somebody to name their white cat Gandalf, and put a hit video (one that happens to start generating some revenue) of him up on Youtube.
        • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999&gmail,com> on Friday March 23, 2012 @07:26AM (#39449261)

          If your business is going to be sued out of existence due to a $100 licensing fee, then you have bigger problems than trademark infringement.

    • They use actual screencaps and promotional materials ripped from the movies and associated trademarked/copyrighted works, without permission.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      "This needs to stop, now "

      Yes, tolerance to alcohol consumption should stop. Alcohol destroys family it's addictive dangerous narcotic, it denigrates a human to a state of an animal.

      Prohibition now!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Sad, really, and just one more reason we need to get rid of this entire BS charade we call "intellectual property" ASAP

      The worst thing is, the concept of "intellectual property" is a very new one. I'd never heard the term before the Bono Act was dry. Prior to that, copyrights were, in fact, limited in time as our Constitution specifies.

      Of all the things wrong with the extreme length of copyright, besides the destruction of our cultural heritage (imagine if patents lasted as long, how technological progress

  • Misleading Cause (Score:5, Informative)

    by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday March 23, 2012 @12:47AM (#39447955) Homepage Journal

    It's not just the use of the name "The Hobbit" it's the use of Still Images from the LOTR movies in their promotional material. Essentially, these people are lifting copyrighted imagery and using it to promote themselves -- most definitely NOT cool and if I was one of the parties that ponied up hundreds of millions to make these films, I'd be a bit peeved by someone taking that work and using it without permission to make a profit.

    I can only imagine that Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen do not know the full story here and possibly think that this is a matter of a harmless pub merely using the word "Hobbit" in their name and have not seen the website or promotional material produced by this pub.

    And for the record, the web site and promo material is completely amateur and quite tacky. Hopefully any money given to the pub to support them would mandate that they cease using imagery from the movies and perhaps use hand drawn illustrations by fans and artists who wish to contribute artwork for them to use.

    • by Zemran (3101) on Friday March 23, 2012 @12:54AM (#39447987) Homepage Journal

      Do you honestly think you know more about this than Steven Fry? Themed pubs are part of our culture and part of American culture and it is wrong that they are being litigated out of existence. They are not claiming to be official places, they are just pubs or restaurants and it is time that the legal system started defending them.

      • Re:Misleading Cause (Score:4, Informative)

        by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday March 23, 2012 @01:05AM (#39448035) Homepage Journal

        What cultural heritage do you have to show that illustrates why "The Hobbit Pub" should be able to take still images from the LoTR films and place them on their promotional material?

        As I said in my post, I'm all for them using fan art and art inspired by the Hobbit and LoTR in general, that are original and either donated to them or placed under public license. But, taking images from the movie is indeed copyright infringement and they are making use of those works in order to profit from them. Can I make this distinction more clear? Is this not reasonable?

        • Is this not reasonable?

          Not to me. The owner of a photograph is the picture taker, not the subject. Why should the same not be true for a screen grab?

          • I suggest you investigate your own question, because your current understanding is incorrect. An image containing copyrighted materials within it does fall under that copyrights restrictions, even tho the image may be owned by someone else.

      • Do you honestly think you know more about this than Steven Fry?

        You have failed to establish any reason to think otherwise. Just because themed pubs are "part of your culture" doesn't mean that Fry is in fact aware of the story of this particular one.

        Themed pubs are part of our culture and part of American culture and it is wrong that they are being litigated out of existence.

        At least here in America they aren't, and I've never heard of any such movement in the UK either... so, [[citation needed]].

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        After all, the British Empire was built on stealing other people's work - just ask India.

      • Re:Misleading Cause (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dahamma (304068) on Friday March 23, 2012 @01:43AM (#39448145)

        If anyone had bothered to actually look up the details they were only asking for $100 to license the rights. As they also explained, they were legally obligated to license the copyrighted/trademarked material, since failure to pursue a known violation would allow anyone else to do the same. So they did the best thing they could, which is to preserve their IP and license the rights for a trivial fee.

        $100 to use all of the likenesses and images from the movie to promote the pub? That sounds like a great deal to me. And as the OP said, it does sound like Fry doesn't know the real story, as ponying up $100 to pay for the license is just a PR stunt.

        To quote the licensor:

        Zaentz has said: “we’ve tried to be very gracious. We said in the letter [that was sent to Roberts], rather than engage in protracted and expensive litigation, we would prefer to resolve this matter amicably.

        “We think asking for a nominal licensing fee is very reasonable. I think $100 would be about the maximum we would charge.”

        He went on to say that if he is ever in the neighbourhood then he will stop by for a drink.

        OH NO! HOW EVIL!

        Besides, it's not American culture, it's a British novel and a British pub...

        • by MisterMidi (1119653) on Friday March 23, 2012 @02:36AM (#39448263) Homepage
          No, they weren't just asking for $100, they were demanding to stop using "Hobbit" and all references to the book. Only after all the bad press and the support of Stephen Fry, Neil Gaiman and Ian McKellen they offered licensing for $100 a year. That's what this story is about, they're saved by this offer. What you're quoting is from when they decided to license existing businesses for this nominal fee.
          • by Dahamma (304068)

            Honestly, what's wrong with that? Have you read the actual correspondence? No, me neither. For all we know it could have gone like this:

            1. "Hey, we found some random British pub using a crap load of characters, stills, etc from our movies, we need to send them a legal letter telling them to stop or license our images". [if you don't believe this, GO TO THEIR SITE. Viggo Mortensen's face *still* features prominently]
            2. "Oh, sounds like it's a college town pub that's been around for 20 years, why don't w

            • This pub was one of the first targets in a campaign by the Saul Zentz Company, demanding small businesses in the UK to stop using their trademarks. It doesn't matter in this case if the pub uses stills from the movies, because this is not Warner Bros sueing over copyrights of the Peter Jackson movies. The SZC acquired rights to the Hobbit and LOTR stories in '76, but never bothered enforcing them to small businesses, until well after Peter Jackson repopularized the stories (some 20 years after the pub start
        • by houghi (78078)

          Ever been to a pub? Ever seen anything hanging around that has a trademark/copyright on it an yet was not licensed in any way? (Yet is not advertisement given to them to promote sales directly) Almost every pub I go to has them.

          What they want to do is get money. If they wanted, they could give it away for free, if that is what they actually wanted. They don't.

          Oh how noble of him to ask ONLY $100. And he is apparently not even sure about that.

      • Do you honestly think you know more about this than Steven Fry?

        Of course he does. Fry's a pizza delivery guy whose best friend is a robot. Anybody knows more about... oh wait a minute. This is a pub, right? Bender knows a lot about beer, so... yeah, maybe Steven has been coached about the topic by an expert after all. Nevermind, carry on.

      • Do you honestly think you know more about this than Steven Fry?

        Using long words and having a posh accent doesn't make a person omniscient.

  • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Friday March 23, 2012 @01:04AM (#39448029)
    I'll mince no words: Saul Zaentz is and always has been an ahole. He only owns the rights to the film version of the book, he does not own the book. He ripped off Credence Clearwater's John Fogerty long ago, and then had the audacity to sue Fogerty for hundreds of millions, claiming John did not have the right to use his own riffs. He lost the suit but remained a complete dick. This man is the epitomy of wrong.
  • More details (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2012 @01:34AM (#39448121)

    Website of the pub: http://www.hobbitpub.co.uk/" [hobbitpub.co.uk]

    Most of the "infringing material" is mere fan art like this graffiti in the beer garden: http://www.hobbitpub.co.uk/gallery/hobbitgraffiti/67/

    Even thought it is just a drawing they were asked to over-paint it.

    Here is a still from the movie used as background for a card: http://www.hobbitpub.co.uk/hobbit-cocktails/

    That's pretty much it.

    I think Steven Fry and Sir Ian McKellen are right when they call the claims "petty". How many pubs are there with images of e.g. Elvis Presley? I am sure someone has a copyright to them as well. So all auxiliary lawyers here should calm the f*** down.

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Friday March 23, 2012 @01:59AM (#39448195)
    ...an old guy who stands in front of implacable foes. Granted, lawyers are worse than ancient supernatural fire demons.
  • "Repony" isn't a word. "Prancing Pony" is two, though.

  • Imagine I were to open a theme pub where whenever someone orders a certain drink its name flashes on a screen and a buzzer sounds, and all the staff talk like pretentious knobheads except for one who acts intentionally obtuse.

    What would Mr Fry think about that?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2012 @05:44AM (#39448851)

    I feel I should address some of the issues raised in these comments. Firstly, the lawsuit was threatened because of their name. Second, the letter Mr Zaentz sent us was certainly NOT amicable, but we're not allowed to share it for legal reasons. Regarding use of images from the movie, perhaps that wasn't very well thought through, but anyone who has been to the pub could tell you that the places these images are used don't really have a bearing on sales at all - people don't buy loyalty cards because they've got Elijah Wood's face on, and nor do they buy an Aragorn drink simply because the poster has Viggo Mortensen's face on it. The pub has never tried to piggy-back on the movies' success. It's just a slightly geeky pub run by Tolkien fans for students who wouldn't see it changed for the world. Perhaps there have been some foolish but well-meaning errors committed. There are bigger things to deal with in the world of IP than small British pubs.

  • Good. I find it ridiculous that this pub can be in existence for so long without one hushed word from Tolkien's people, then BANG, IZZA MOVIE and those involved in the film (The Money) start throwing their toys out of the pram. The only way I could see this as a problem is if the place was built less than ten years ago, with every inch of wall space coated in movie stills and there was hard evidence that the pub somehow affected New Line's economic climate. Everyone involved in the films does understand how

  • I can imagine the owners of http://www.hotblackdesiato.co.uk/ [hotblackdesiato.co.uk] getting scared too :)
  • That pub might've been operated under the name "The Hobbit" for 20 years .. but I'll bet dollars (or pounds) to donuts (or hashers) that the sign with the blatant movie character ripoffs is not nearly that old. THERE is the copyright infringement, and the owners were damned fools to put up that sign.

    Take down the sign, put up something elfish or wizardry, anything that isn't readily identifiable from the LOTR movie, and THEN fight the greedy movie lawyer bastiges.

    Remember the old adage (American, I do beli

  • Surely there are others here who've been to the pub? I was there on the Open Repositories Conference 2008. Huge beer garden straight out of Spinal Tap without the budget (check out the gallery on the website). Great disturbed poet (think McGonagall after 20 years of acid) on a synth that night. Great black-painted old-school longhairds' pub. Good luck to them.

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