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J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate has filed a multi-million copyright infringement lawsuit against Warner Bros. and the Saul Zaentz Co., which has the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In the suit, the estate claims that it went overboard with its merchandising agreement when it made an online slot machine.
The deal goes back to 1969, when the Zaentz Co. first signed a deal with the estate, notes The Hollywood Reporter. The estate says in the $80 million lawsuit, filed Monday, that the agreement only gives Warner Bros., New Line and the Zaentz Co. the right to create “tangible” merchandise. It argues that the “online slot machine” and other digital products are not included.
“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 service,” the complaint reads, reports E! News.
The estate takes particular aim at the online slot machines, which were used for gambling. “Gambling constitutes a further category of rights which have never been granted to defendants (and which plaintiffs themselves would never intend to exploit).”
The suit comes while director Peter Jackson is fighting allegations that animals died during the production of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Warner Bros. and the Tolkien estate previously went to court over unpaid royalties from the Lord of the Rings trilogies. That dispute was settled out of court.
The first Hobbit film hits theaters on Dec. 14.