Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Censorship Your Rights Online

Tolkien Estate Censors the Word "Tolkien" 433

An anonymous reader writes "Following their recent attempt to censor a work of historical fiction containing Tolkien as a character, the estate have now issued a takedown notice to someone making buttons with the words 'While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion' on them, claiming 'intellectual property right infringement.' Predictably, a new store has appeared offering a range of censored Tolkien items, and the 'offending' product has had vastly increased exposure as a direct result of the removal."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Tolkien Estate Censors the Word "Tolkien"

Comments Filter:
  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @06:29PM (#35333278) Homepage

    Can we please get off this hobby horse? The Tolkien estate isn't "censoring speech," it's protecting its trademarks, which it is required to do by law. If this guy had made a bunch of buttons for himself and as many of his friends as wanted them (all three), nothing would have happened. Instead he set up a store on Zazzle and tried to sell them. Zazzle has a clear policy that it will not sell items that violate copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property. These buttons do that. So the Tolkien estate complained, this guy's product was pulled, end of story. He wasn't sued, he wasn't thrown in jail -- in fact, he can still go buy a button maker and make himself some buttons and nothing would happen to him. The idea that he's being "censored" is silly, and there are lots of companies that are far more litigious about such things than the Tolkien estate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2011 @06:39PM (#35333364)

    Go to Japan this summer and drop by the Tokyo Big Sight convention center. If you go at the right time, you might run into Comiket, the world's largest convention, with a million attendees and over 30,000 groups (circles) selling merchandise, such as comics, video games, and music. For three days, millions of pieces of human culture trade hands.

    The vast majority of this merchandise infringes copyright.

    Yet the world is far better off for it existing -- even the companies whose copyright it infringes. Most companies have long ago realized that this is a massive, massive boon to their profits. Some companies have explicitly started to leverage this power, with franchises like Vocaloid making ridiculous amounts of money.

    Meanwhile, in the West, we sue over buttons containing the names of long-dead public figures.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @06:44PM (#35333408) Homepage

    nobody here dislikes tolkien or his estate. but everybody here dislikes the bullshit intellectual property laws that enable this behavior. your rant assumes the wrong target. nobody is gunning for tolkien or his estate, they are gunning for bullshit laws

    I don't know about that. Go back and see all the griping about the evil Tolkien estate on the last thread, a few days back.

    And let me throw something else into the mix. This guy seems to be reacting like the vast, evil Tolkien estate is bringing the hammer down on one hapless individual who made a few buttons. What he doesn't seem to grok is that the Tolkien estate isn't going after one guy, it is going after Zazzle, which, if it were allowed to print Tolkien-related products with impunity, could do the Tolkien estate a lot more damage than one guy with some buttons ever could. A law that enables a company to maliciously take down one guy might be a bullshit law, but a law that protects an entire product licensing business is not. (At least, not necessarily.) Case in point: Zazzle drafted policy long ago that it is not willing to fight the issue.

    Now this guy has some options. As I said, he could make the buttons himself. He could also look for another printer that has fewer qualms about using the word "Tolkien" in its offerings. It strikes me that he's chosen Plan C: Whine about it, wrap himself in the flag, and settle for a pat on the back from the Internet.

  • by SudoGhost ( 1779150 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @08:06PM (#35333906)
    Well, you can, actually. It's not easy to do, but certain people have done it. Martha Stewart, for example. Personal names are included in the class of common words that may not secure protected trademark status until secondary meaning has attached. Tolkien would certainly fit in this category. What kind of elves are they? Tolkien elves you say? Certainly fits the criteria of a secondary meaning.
  • by metacell ( 523607 ) on Monday February 28, 2011 @06:07AM (#35336392)


    The Internet was funded by governments and universities, not commercial companies, and the technology which enables it has always been free (as in speech).

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27