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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."
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Tolkien Estate Censors the Word "Tolkien"

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  • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @06:42PM (#35333390) Journal

    The Tolkien estate isn't "censoring speech," it's protecting its trademarks, which it is required to do by law.

    Quoting Cory Doctorow, from the BoingBoing coverage: "a writer I admire was forced to put a series of books that in no way infringed upon Tolkien's copyrights out of print because the estate threatened to make her publisher's life a living nightmare (not naming names, because the writer has chosen not to go public with the story)."

    Zazzle has a clear policy that it will not sell items that violate copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property. These buttons do that.

    A very, very dubious claim. Simply using a word is not wholly sufficient for trademark infringement.

    More generally, this is a fine example of what's wrong with intellectual property law. The guy's not only making his money from work his father did almost sixty years ago, but preventing others from even using his father's name. Trademarked or not, it's worthwhile stopping and questioning whether the legal framework that allows and encourages this is in the public interest or not. Again, quoting Doctorow "The professional descendants making millions off a long-dead writer have become a serious impediment to living, working writers -- and readers. If this isn't the greatest proof that extending copyright in scope and duration screws living creators and impedes the creation of new works, I don't know what is."

  • by grapeape ( 137008 ) < minus author> on Sunday February 27, 2011 @06:58PM (#35333526) Homepage

    Is anyone surprised? Christopher tried his hand at continuing his fathers legacy but despite turning anything written by his father be it incomplete manuscripts or scribbles on a napkin into publishing deals he has shown he is nothing but a pale shadow...milking his fathers legacy is all he has left.

  • by DJLuc1d ( 1010987 ) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @07:29PM (#35333706)
    What I have a problem with is that this button is, to me, a criticism of Tolkien. While it may not be explicit criticism, i.e., 'Tolkien was a bad writer' I think it is very much implied. Under section 107 of the 1976 act, criticism is covered under fair use. Although the article doesn't say which law the Tolkien estate is citing, or even that they are using US law (although they have been fond of it in the past), I suspect it would have very little impact on "(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work"

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger