Weeks before the release of The Hobbit, the film’s producers are being sued for $80 million by none other than the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien.
The main point of contention? A Lord of the Rings-themed online slot game that the estate deemed highly offensive. Apparently Gandalf is not a gambler.
According to The Hollywood Reporter,the Tolkien estate and its book publisher, HarperCollins, claimed in a lawsuit filed Monday that Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary, and Rings/Hobbit rights holder Saul Zaentz Co. breached a contract and infringed the copyright in the famous books.
In the complaint obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, the contract’s original writers “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.”
Only “articles of tangible personal property” are permissible, the contract states, which puts online/downloadable games on the chopping block, as well as themed restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, and ringtones—just a few of the goods and services the complaint stated the defendants were claiming rights to.
The new Lord of the Rings-themed gambling games, which the estate discovered via a spam email in September 2010 have “outraged Tolkien’s devoted fan base,” the complaint states, “causing irreparable harm to Tolkien’s legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works.”