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article imageTolkien estate suing Warner Bros over online gaming

By Anne Sewell     Nov 20, 2012 in Entertainment
Los Angeles - Publisher HarperCollins, together with the Estate of Lord of the Rings author, J.R.R. Tolkien have launched a law suit against Warner Bros. for unauthorized merchandising of the Tolkien books in an online game.
The plaintiffs are demanding at least $80 million in damages in a lawsuit filed on Monday with a District Court in Los Angeles, California.
The Tolkien estate and its publisher are claiming that Warner Bros, producers of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, its New Line subsidiary and also Saul Zaentz Co. (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit rights holder) are breaching copyright. The contract with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit rights holder Saul Zaentz Co. has existed since the late 1960's and according to the plaintiff, it reserved rights "not herein specifically granted."
The complaint reads: "The original contracting parties thus contemplated a limited grant of the right to sell consumer products of the type regularly merchandised at the time (such as figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing and the like. They did not include any grant of exploitations such as electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services."
The full lawsuit can be read here.
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The reason for the outrage by Tolkien's estate is that after the producers of the Rings trilogy launched the movie trilogy, they also launched "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: The Online Slot Game" (pictured above).
In the lawsuit the plaintiffs state that the estate only learned about the online slot game by accident, when one of the lawyers received a spam e-mail promoting the game in 2010. Naturally, the Tolkien estate was highly offended with the product.
Further the plaintiffs have grounds to believe that Warner Bros. is also planning to introduce traditional slot machines with Rings characters, along with other products outside the limited scope of its original rights deal.
The suit reads, "Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of the 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."
More scandal recently emerged in connection with the newest Tolkien-related movie, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" which is due to premiere in Wellington, New Zealand on November 28. Animal wranglers complained that the conditions at the farm, which housed 150 animals starring in the film, were unsuitable and that 27 animals died.
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