Warner Bros & Tolkien Estate Battle Over Middle Earth

TAGs: harpercollins, J. R. R. Tolkien, Lee Davy, Lord of the Rings, Warner Bros Studios

Warner Bros & Tolkien Estate Battle Over Middle EarthYou can make your own mind up, but it’s pretty clear that the estate of J.R.R.Tolkien, and publisher HarperCollins, believe they are supporters of the Fellowship of the Ring, and Warner Bros. Studios have been cast in the role of Sauron and his army of Orcs. The Battle for control over Middle Earth has begun, and it’s about to get bloody.

It was Nov 12, that the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, and publisher HarperCollins, declared their intention to go into battle, when they filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. Studios over inappropriate licensing of characters and plots in gambling games derived from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The lawsuit, which was filed with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleged that Warner Bros, and its subsidiary New Line Cinema – which owns merchandising rights to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit brands – infringed on copyrights by licensing to casino slot machines, online gambling games and downloads.

“Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of 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,” the lawsuit stated.

Warner Bros. Studios have finally declared their hand this week, by counter suing the Tolkien estate for breach of contract. Warner Bros. have suggested that the lack of branded slot machines in casinos, along with online games, has damaged the profitability of the first film of the Hobbit Trilogy: An Unexpected Tale. The movie, which was premiered in Dec 12, has so far made $1 billion across the globe and stands as the 14th highest grossing movie of all time.

The Warner Bros. suit states: “Because of the repudiation, Warner has not entered into license agreements for online games and casino slot machines in connection with The Hobbit – a form of customary exploitation it previously had utilized in connection with the Lord of the Rings trilogy – which has harmed Warner both in the form of lost license revenue and also in decreased exposure for the Hobbit films.”

The Tolkien estate has retaliated by accusing Warner Bros. Studios of bullying tactics.

“The defendants’ amended counterclaims are nothing more than an effort to sue the Tolkien’s and HarperCollins for suing them. They are entirely without merit and are a classic example of studio ‘bullying tactics,'” said lawyer Bonnie Eskenazi, in a statement. “The Tolkien’s and HarperCollins filed this lawsuit in order to force Warner Bros and Zaentz to live within the boundaries of the contract to which they agreed. Warner and Zaentz’s amended counterclaims are simply an attempt to punish the Tolkien’s and HarperCollins for having the nerve to stand up to the studios and tell them that they can’t take more rights than were granted to them by contract. Luckily, the law protects people like the Tolkien’s and HarperCollins from these kinds of intimidation tactics.”

It seems the pair have created their own trilogy. I for one can’t wait to see what the third and final chapter will be.


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of