The Tolkien estate and its book publisher HarperCollins have filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. for copyright infringement and breach of contract. The gist of the suit is that their agreement allows the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise based on the books, not digital products like the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game.
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 suit also complains the defendants have asserted rights to exploit the books through anything from ringtones and downloadable games to hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.
[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh and Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]