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Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle $80 Million 'Hobbit' Lawsuit (hollywoodreporter.com) 71

Five years later and it appears Warner Bros. and the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien have settled their lawsuit over the digital exploitation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. "The Tolkien Estate and book publisher HarperCollins filed a $80 million lawsuit in 2012 alleging that Warners, its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. infringed copyright and breached contract by overstepping their authority," reports Hollywood Reporter. "The plaintiffs claimed that a decades-old rights agreement entitled the studio to create only 'tangible' merchandise based on the books, not other digital exploitations that the estate called highly offensive." From the report: The lawsuit brought the two sides into a new battle. Previously, New Line and the Tolkien Estate had fought over profit participation, coming to a deal in 2009 pegged as being worth more than $100 million. As Warner Bros. readied a Peter Jackson big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit, the Tolkien Estate began investigating digital exploitations when its attorney received a spam e-mail about the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game. The subsequent complaint filed in court talked about irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation from the prospect of everything from online games to housing developments. In reaction, Warner Bros. filed counterclaims, alleging that repudiation of a 1969 contract and 2010 regrant caused the studio to miss out on millions in Hobbit licensing and decreased exposure to the Jackson films. Warners contended that digital exploitations was both customary and within its scope of rights. Those counterclaims became the subject of a side fight over whether Warners could sue for being sued. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Warner Bros. had properly asserted contract claims.
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Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle $80 Million 'Hobbit' Lawsuit

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  • Thank God (Score:1, Offtopic)

    Thank God the lawyers got paid. What is the point of "news" like this. Who cares?
  • What? Is there a Sméagol realdoll available? Because that would be highly offensive.

  • So... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jasnw ( 1913892 )
    I guess the Tolkien Estate etal LLP Inc folks never read "Bored of the Rings" by the good folks at the Havard Lampoon? Maybe their lawyers can't read, only watch video.
  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Monday July 03, 2017 @07:06PM (#54738655)

    ... but the comments are garbage, so I'll just add to the landfill:

    I watched the trilogy last year and it's a goddam fucked up waste of time.

    The first movie was interesting.

    The second went off on some tangential plot of vacuousness and the third didn't have many of the original characters and an impotent, wimpy, fizzle of an ending.

    I don't really care who got what out of the LOTR deal because I only think of myself and I didn't get shit.

    • by bjdevil66 ( 583941 ) on Monday July 03, 2017 @07:31PM (#54738777)

      A single, 3 hour movie would've done the story well enough (sans the padding, the Sauron backstory fan service, etc.). A two movie set (2 hours each, max.) could've given the story the properly padded, "Jackson" treatment without wasting our time.

      Instead, we got a "profits before quality" trilogy that I'll never watch again. As a whole, it's the Tolkien equivalent of the Star Wars prequels - only it actually got worse as it went.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You fuckers don't have the first clue about making something that respects its own medium and the source material at the same time.

        And the lawyers in this story are far more interested in profits than any creative mind associated with this legacy.

  • As in, the estate was highly offended that they didn't get as much cash out of if as they thought they could have.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Naaaaaaah, the man behind the Tolkein Estate is Christopher Tolkein. The man is to all appearances a fundamentalist, scripturalist prophet of the legendarium his dad made. It's quite likely that the ultimate motivation behind the suit was actual offence.

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Monday July 03, 2017 @08:59PM (#54739125)

      They were trying to avoid their IP being associated with gambling. Now I'm not a fan of absurdly long copyright terms, but even less a fan of using children's books to get kids into gambling.

      • but even less a fan of using children's books to get kids into gambling.

        Meanwhile in lottery commissions across the country, government employees are trying their damnedest to figure out how to get those kids to gamble. Lottery revenues are trending down in most states, especially those that for many years got fat on the Video Poker gravy train. Millennials - but especially those for whom smartphones have been around most of their lives - aren't gambling in nearly the same numbers as their elders. And for s

  • by kelanos ( 4973983 ) on Monday July 03, 2017 @07:25PM (#54738749)

    This shows how the plutocracy can economically pressure artists, appropriate their work, and suppress their message, and spit on them as their work makes tons of money they will never more than a penny of.

    The significance of Tolkein's work is ground-shattering.
    It embodies every value our civilization was built on, most of which are presently being torn to shreds by the media machine and its...associates...and their other businesses.
    It's potential to inspire people against the status quo is enormous. So much so that it's a very real danger to the system.

    The main purpose of the creation of the movies was not just to accumulate a mountain of gold, it was to suppress the message of the book and prevent a generation of young people from being truly inspired by it.
    The story is similar with the burst of 'fantasy' genre fiction. Instead of allowing Tolkien the possibility to promote his book freely, the publishing industry, horrified by the success of Lord of the Rings, sprang to generate a wave of vacuous bullshit to choke its potential to spread.

    Most people are not too smart, they think something like 'OH FANTASY, I KNOW THAT SHIT, SWORDS AND MAGIC AND SHIT, AND MIDGETS SMOKE WEED LMFAO', and that's exactly what the film and publishing industries, and their common associates, want.
    Lord of the Rings is an order of magnitude above the rest. It's not 'fantasy' genre fiction, it's literary monolith, a mythology for the ages.

    If you dig into this story and ask yourself some hard questions, the story around the treatment of the Lord of the Rings can open your eyes to how this society works, for who, and why.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Baron_Yam ( 643147 )

      You need to go outside once in a while. LoTR is not meant to be a manifesto.

      • No, it's meant to be something to inspire "manifestos", as you say (nice use of a 'super special word' to make everything your opponent says wrong, by the way), and a great deal of other things

      • Or he needs to go back inside and reread the author's foreword, as it explicitly says:

        As for any inner meaning or ‘message’, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical.

        The rest of the foreword is a pretty good read, and he expounds on that theme that the story is essentially unrelated to contemporary events.

        • I certainly believe that Tolkien wasn't pushing a message but 'merely' telling a story, but it really isn't difficult to see he was drawing on certainly topical themes to build that story upon.

          Mainly, an idealized pre-industrial past vs. an evil caricature of the disruption of the industrial revolution. I think every generation uses a similar theme of 'better days' in its stories, it's hardly unique.

    • While we are engaging in hyperbole... surely George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four achieves all of the above, has proven to be far more descriptive of the real world (media control and alternate facts anyone?), and does it in a mere handful of pages compared to the morass of LoTR-themed books. (I guess that LoTR is as much a "literary monolith" as a collection three main books, and several related works can be.)

    • Hi, Christopher, didn't know you were on Slashdot.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The main purpose of the creation of the movies was not just to accumulate a mountain of gold, it was to suppress the message of the book and prevent a generation of young people from being truly inspired by it.

      Long before the book was written, in the 1930s, we tried putting that racial message to work here in Germany. [Spoiler alert: It didn't work out too well.]

  • there lived a lawyer.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday July 03, 2017 @08:15PM (#54738953) Journal

    Regardless of what side one might be on, or where one stands on the issues, one has to admit, the lawsuits have been every much as entertaining as the movies.

    I wonder if I'm alone in thinking that if anything has caused irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy over the years, it was Christopher's whining.

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Monday July 03, 2017 @08:47PM (#54739083)
    As a point of interest, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty (leader of Credence Clearwater Revival) wrote a song back in the 1980s about Saul Zaentz himself. Called "Zanz Kant Danz", it had lyrics like "Zanz can't dance, but he'll steal your money. Watch him or he'll rob you blind." Zaentz sued and a settlement forced Fogerty to rename the song "Vanz Kant Danz". Zaentz was pretty infamous in his day for his treatment of Credence. In an industry known for abusing its artists their record deal was infamously bad, called by some the worst deal in the entire industry for a major band. To be somewhat fair to Zaentz, Fogerty agreed to this deal and his agreement with his bandmates gave him the authority to do so. Fogerty has a real problem, in my opinion, of refusing to accept any responsibility himself for bad decisions he made, such as allowing Zaentz to siphon off band royalties into an off shore trust that didn't seem to accomplish anything but transfer their wealth to him. Zaentz was not a good guy at all and I can't say I'm surprised that approximately 3 years after his death he somehow is part of a lawsuit alleging infringement and a contract breach. If there was anybody who could cause legal problems from the grave, he'd be the guy.
  • But there were supposed to be five armies in this battle...

  • Copyright (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SimonInOz ( 579741 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @02:35AM (#54740327)

    Lord Of The Rings was written in 1949 - shouldn't it be public domain by now?
    Why should "the family" benefit from a creators product when said creator is long dead? Wasn't the aim of copyright a temporary right to enrich the creator, so they will create more?

    It seems fairly unlikely JRR Tolkien will write anything else. The encouragement isn't going to work.

    • Wasn't the aim of copyright a temporary right to enrich the creator, so they will create more?

      Nope, the aim of copyright was twofold: 1. enrich the king (and give the printers a cut so they don't complain), 2. enforce censorship (only the Worshipful Company of Stationers had a right to print). Anything else is pure propaganda.

      Copyrights, since day one, are about as harmful as patents. Whose purpose also, guess what, was to enrich the king.

    • Well it looks like he just published a new book! Can't wait for the next one! :)

      http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-eng... [bbc.com]
      https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com]

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