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The estate of author J.R.R. Tolkein is suing The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit producers for copyright infringement totaling $80 million in damages.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tolkein’s estate, as well as its book publisher, is suing the film's production company, Warner Bros., and related parties. HarperCollins states that Warner Bros. had a contract which agreed that the studio would only create “tangible” merchandise and that any online slot machines or other “digital explorations” representing the film and its characters are in breach of said contract.
The estate learned of an online Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring online slot machine via spam e-mail and they released a statement saying, “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 estate argues that the defendants "with increasing boldness, engaged in a continuing and escalating pattern of usurping rights to which they are not entitled.”
They argue that the contract does not note anything regarding downloadable games included on Facebook, iPad or other tablet devices.
"Defendants also have asserted and continue to assert that they have rights relating to a wide variety of goods and services beyond 'articles of tangible personal property' and have registered trademarks and/or filed 'intent to use' applications in those same categories, including without limitation hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, ringtones, online/downloadable games and housing developments -- categories of rights which plainly have not been granted to them."
According to AZ Star, Warner Bros. has refused to comment on the situation any further.
The lawsuit comes just weeks before the highly anticipated prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.