Tolkien estate sues over Lord of the Rings online games

Group that represents J.R.R. Tolkien files $80 million suit against Warner Bros., claiming company is "usurping rights to which they are not entitled."

Just weeks before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is due to theaters, Warner Bros. is facing a high-profile lawsuit. The Tolkien estate has sued the company for $80 million, claiming Warner Bros. is "usurping rights to which they are not entitled" with regards to Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit merchandising materials, specifically virtual slot machines and online games.

The thrust of the suit (obtained by The Hollywood Reporter) is the Tolkien estate's assertion that Warner Bros. has violated a decades-old rights agreement that allows the company to create only "tangible" merchandise based on Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and not digital offerings.

The suit names numerous categories of goods that it is not pleased with, but specifically notes that its new gambling games are of significant harm. "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."

Additionally, the Tolkien estate is upset with downloadable video games based on the books that are available through mobile and tablet devices, as well as Facebook. In September, Warner Bros. partnered with social game studio Kabam for two new Hobbit-based free-to-play strategy games: The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth and The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age. Both games are due this year.

A Warner Bros. representative was not immediately available for comment. The full suit is available here.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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0 comments
ardent163
ardent163

I can't help but laugh at this, because of the cease and desist order given to the Middle Earth Role Play mod makers by Warner Bros.. 

I hope the mod team is able to continue.

tightwad34
tightwad34

While I hate people suing for everything they can think of, I also understand that it isn't pointless in some cases. Still, if I had more money than i knew what to do with, I wouldn't bother using my time with something like this.

sohrab1369
sohrab1369

best movie of all time will back

SeAzhrei
SeAzhrei

Anyone else remember the LotR game way back on SNES? THAT was freaking irreparable harm!

Neo_OnionKnight
Neo_OnionKnight

Yes!...They're fighting for the one Ring....The one Ring that will RULE THEM ALL!

Jaxith
Jaxith

...There are LOTR gambling games...?  ...That's just wrong...

The__Kraken
The__Kraken

Warner Bros. Killed MERP.

 

Suffice be it to say that Warner Bros. gets no support from me. Part of me wishes to see them burn.

TheZeroPercent
TheZeroPercent

tolkien believed modern technology was bad for humans

the evil in the lord of the rings was his take on what would happen

the question is , what was the ring?

Shawn45
Shawn45

"irreparable harm"

 

Are you kidding me? In ten years do you think that people will remember this gambling game or Facebook game over the books or movies? This term is tossed around way too lightly.

 

Other than that, I really don't know enough about this issue, or care enough to really see who is in the right.

gifthorsie
gifthorsie

Wow, I wonder if this will impact LOTRO. 

gufberg
gufberg

Good. Its about time the Tolkien Estate draws a line in the sand and says "THIS SHALL NOT PASS!" 

Falru
Falru

Contract says "don't do this" and you proceed to do it, you get sued.

 

I'm honestly glad about it, it's depressing seeing how exploited Tolkien's world has been. I have no problem with serious entries into the LotR universe, but stupid crap like Facebook games need to be binned.

FlyingAce1016
FlyingAce1016

Haha ironic WB trying to steal MERP when they didn't even have the right to anything related to it also you cannot keep someone from making a mod it's a free world people! welcome to the 21st century

TigusVidiks
TigusVidiks

well done Tolkien. It was about time.

Mr_Scarecrow901
Mr_Scarecrow901

Hopefully we can get that Skyrim Mod now that! Fuck You Warner Bros!!

 

tgwolf
tgwolf

...'USURPING'??? Whoa, SOMEONE'S moving up on Al Gore, Bethesda and Microsoft for world domination!

lordshifu
lordshifu

I lkie you Ed. You always know whats the best thing to report about. Perfect job!!

edinsftw
edinsftw

I agree with the lawsuit just because the movies were so good because they followed the world that was made in the book and followed it so closely. Tolkien put enough information in those books and his notes to where you should not even put anything that wasn't in either in video games simply because there is enough information. I at least hope its a hobbit betting game and not blackjack or poker.

DerKrieger44
DerKrieger44

I think the Tolkien estate has grounds to sue purely because of that weird-ass floaty jump Legolas does when they get out of the boats in Return of the King :)

tightwad34
tightwad34

 @SeAzhrei

 I had no idea they were making LOTR games back then, what was that, like 10 years before the first modern movie came out?(don't know if there was any before that)

gufberg
gufberg

 @TheZeroPercent I dont think he neccesarily believed that technology itself was evil (though im not denying the possibility) As i understand him he believed that industralism was evil and removed us from nature which i totally agree with.Reading his books as as an allegory for this is rock solid though the naturally is much more to the tale than that .. I dont get how the mainstream still thinks fantasy is just some escapist nerd thing. It contains more sophisticated social commentary than 99% of the shit on the bestseller lists lol

Dudeinator
Dudeinator

 @Shawn45 

 

I don't think "irreparable harm" is an appropriate term, it makes things sound worse than it really is.

 

But one can argue that a virtual slot machine with a LOTR theme is exploiting the existing popularity of a franchise for something that really has nothing to do with LOTR.

gufberg
gufberg

 @gifthorsie I hope not. As i understand it the Tolkien Estate's beef is with the recent prostitution of the license to stupid tablet/browser games. I think they're okay with serious attempts at recreating the universe. 

Curzad
Curzad

 @edinsftw 

Loved the movies also just wish they would have dumped the Legolas snowboards in  Helm's Deep part. And the Legolas ride's the elephant truck part.

oflow
oflow

 @edinsftw the movies arent totally accurate.  Especially the upcoming 'The Hobbit'.  Legolas was not in the book but will be in the movie.  Then they also had made up characters like Haldir. He wasnt in any of the books.

oflow
oflow

 @DerKrieger44 they should sue just on how they portrayed Legolas in general.

ClaTheNinja
ClaTheNinja

 @tightwad34  @SeAzhrei Lord Of The Rings is an old book series. Those old games were based on the books. There was also a animated movie made like 20 - 30 years ago.

DerKrieger44
DerKrieger44

 @emperiox  @oflow  @edinsftw BUT, there is a HUGE battle at the end of the Hobbit - I think the last movie in the trilogy will largely consist of the Battle of Five Armies. 

DerKrieger44
DerKrieger44

 @emperiox  @oflow  @edinsftw You're right, the tone of the Hobbit is way different, because it was written about a children's book. From what I hear, the Hobbit movies are going to try and stay with the more mature tone of the LOTR, and will spend more time fleshing out what's going on "behind the scenes" (the history and rise of sauron, for example)

emperiox
emperiox

 @DerKrieger44  @oflow  @edinsftw One thing I'm worried about is the action. The Hobbit seems too childish and lighthearted...will there be epic battles on par with the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

 

DerKrieger44
DerKrieger44

 @emperiox  @oflow  @edinsftw if there's any "main" protagonist in the Hobbit, I might say it's Smaug the Dragon - he stole the dwarves treasure - their quest to reclaim it is sort of the main plot vector

DerKrieger44
DerKrieger44

 @emperiox  @oflow  @edinsftw not a dumb question  - the Witch King does exist, but Sauron is sorta putting himself back together, so the Witch King and the other  Ringwraiths aren't active. 

 

Sauron is still the main bad guy in the world, but he's gathering power in Mirkwood and doesn't really influence the story of the Hobbit too much. 

oflow
oflow

 @DerKrieger44  @edinsftw Agreed.  I take that back Haldir was in the book but he wasnt the commander of the forces at Helms Deep and didnt have a big dramatic death scene.

DerKrieger44
DerKrieger44

@oflow  yeah...minor niggles and the blatant cash-in aside, I'm pretty stoked for more movies :)

oflow
oflow

 @DerKrieger44 just from a few of the scenes from 'The Hobbit' I've scene I'm pretty sure this trend is going to continue.  One of the dwarves doesnt even look like a dwarf.  I'm waiting to see how they pull off Smaug. That will be interesting.  He probably wont even be in the first movie since its broken into three parts.Will also be interesting to see how they do Beorn.

oflow
oflow

 @DerKrieger44 lol ya Gimli was the comedy relief character instead of a kick ass giant axe wielding orc smasher like he should have been.