Warner Brothers Faces Tolkien Suit for Using ‘Lord of Rings’ in Gambling Games

Wednesday, 21 Nov 2012 11:12 AM

By Michael Mullins

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An $80 million lawsuit over using “Lord of the Rings” in gambling games has been filed by the family of famed fantasy novelist J.R.R. Tolkien and publisher HarperCollins against Warner Brothers and others.

The suit, which was filed Monday in a Los Angeles court, alleges copyright infringement and breach of contract on the part of Warner Brothers, its subsidiary New Line Cinema and Hollywood Producer Saul Zaentz regarding gambling games which feature “Lord of the Rings” stories and characters.

According to the plaintiffs, the 1969 “Lord of the Rings” film rights sale was limited and included specific rights such as the permission to sell “tangible” products like “figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing, and the like,” not “electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services.”

According to the suit, the Tolkien estate and HarperCollins claim to have “done everything in their power to appeal to defendants to stop this unlawful exploitation without resort to litigation,” but the “defendants have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of ceasing their infringing and wrongful conduct.”

The suit comes weeks before the scheduled Dec. 14 release of the first of three Warner Brothers films in “The Hobbit” trilogy, which like “Lord of the Rings” is based on epic novels written by Tolkien in the early to mid-twentieth century.

This is the second controversy surrounding these works to surface this week.

After PETA alleged that animals were injured and died due to mistreatment during production of “The Hobbit,” studio executives and the film’s producers unequivocally denied PETA's charges of animal cruelty.

In addition to allegations of infringement and breach of contract, the lawsuit argues that Warner Brothers’ use of “Lord of the Rings” in gambling games and the like have “outraged Tolkien's devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works.”

Warner Brothers and the co-defendants have not commented on the case.

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