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Old 03-13-2002, 04:00 PM   #1
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Sting Beyond the Tolkien Estate

I don't know if there are any answers to be had concerning this, but if there are i'm very curious.

When will the copyright and control over Tolkien's works expire?

When it does, will anyone be able to publish M-E related things, like fan fictions?
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Old 03-13-2002, 04:19 PM   #2
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I have been wondering the same thing Mho. I want to do a stage production of Beren and Lůthien. I am trying to find the information out. If I find anything, I'll let you know.
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Old 03-14-2002, 03:36 PM   #3
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Silmaril

That would be good coz then my ME Minstrel Band can really take off! [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
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Old 03-14-2002, 08:08 PM   #4
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Mhoram,

You could do a search under Brit copyright laws.
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Old 03-15-2002, 11:19 AM   #5
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Silmaril

UK Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988:
Copyright Durations:
Quote:
For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works; 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author of the work dies, or the work is made available to the public, (by authorised performance, broadcast, exhibition, etc.)
So a while yet i'm afraid guys.
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Old 03-15-2002, 02:19 PM   #6
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Is it whichever is earlier (death or public exhibition)? If so, the Hobbit may enter public domain within the next 5 years and LoTR around 2025. There may be more issues like the effect of revisions, what if the copyright is held by a corporation or Estate, etc.
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Old 03-15-2002, 08:50 PM   #7
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There could be a frigtening avalanche of really bad interpretations etc.etc. and a worse marketing blitz(I think the current stuff has been pretty tasteful on the whole!)
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Old 12-29-2004, 09:08 AM   #8
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hmmm I wonder if the law would view CT as a contributing author to the work..
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Old 12-29-2004, 09:22 AM   #9
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If I were in the Tolkien family, I would certainly view Christopher as one of the authors of at least the Silmarillion material and the HoME etc. It's defendable in court, and it would extend the period of monetary value of the material. There are also legal trusts, etc. that could take charge of the estate (possibly) and extend the copyright even longer, even indefinitely. While it is based in a different country, there are still pieces of music by Mozart and Beethoven and other composers that maintain full copyrights a century or two later. It just depends on how attentive the family is, and how valuable the material remains. I would not expect free reign on Middle Earth material in most of our lifetimes. Sorry.
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Old 12-29-2004, 09:28 AM   #10
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No offense to fanfic's, but I am glad to see it that way. Mabye there could be in the future (with the help of a creative minded estate member) a series of "approved" novels - 'a la the Star Wars Universe.
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Old 12-29-2004, 09:59 AM   #11
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Eru protect us! Those Star Wars paperbacks are pulp fiction, based upon a movie script that hardly qualifies as formal literature per se. Could anything do justice to the original of Middle-earth, which is a highly developed work of prose? Holders of literary estates can be notoriously bad in using their authority. I would rather see nothing more carry a Tolkien imprimature.

But then, I'm grumpy this morning.
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Old 12-29-2004, 10:06 AM   #12
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Im with ya Beth! IMO any attempt, no matter how well written or intentioned, would be wraith like compared to the original..
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Old 12-29-2004, 10:31 AM   #13
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I'm no loyer either, but from my seat on the periphery of the entertainment industry, I agree with radagastly -- I wager that Middle-earth rights will be tied up for many a long year to come. The Hobbit, for instance, is not expected to enter the U.S. public domain until 2032 at the earliest. I'm not sure how a book that's part of a larger setting like this is affected -- releasing Middle-earth and hobbits would arguably infringe on LotR, which would still be protected for another seventeen or eighteen years.

I'd say a greater danger to Middle-earth -- if in fact it really is a danger -- is the possibility that control of the Estate will fall into the hands of a less fastidious custodian than Christopher following his death.

There are movements afoot to extend copyright indefinitely, mostly so that corporations like Disney can continue to profit forever from certain big money-makers like Mickey Mouse. Even a cursory search on the web will reveal strong opposition to this movement. A short story called "Melancholy Elephants" by Spider Robinson sums up the views of the opposition.
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Old 12-29-2004, 01:46 PM   #14
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I've pointed this out elsewhere, but the Second Ed Sil is copyrighted:

Quote:
The JRR Tolkien Copyright Trust & CR Tolkien 1977.
& HoME has the same.

The new 50th Anniversary Edition of LotR is copyrighted:

Quote:
The Trustees of The JRR Tolkien 1967 Settlement.
I don't know whether there's a difference between copyright in an author's name & copyright owned by a 'trust'.

Let's face it, though, there is no-one (& there never will be) with Tolkien's knowledge of Middle earth, its languages, history & peoples and his storytelling abilities. Tolkien's creation was constantly evolving, & was never at any time 'fixed'. How could anyone step into his shoes?
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Old 12-29-2004, 01:55 PM   #15
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Let's face it, though, there is no-one (& there never will be) with Tolkien's knowledge of Middle earth, its languages, history & peoples and his storytelling abilities. Tolkien's creation was constantly evolving, & was never at any time 'fixed'. How could anyone step into his shoes?
Indeed. The creation of Arda was an entire lifetime's work, and so how could anyone possibly follow that? The very fact that sites such as this exist and thrive is due to the fact that we are not merely discussing a film or a book, but one man's entire lifetime's work.

Quote:
I'd say a greater danger to Middle-earth -- if in fact it really is a danger -- is the possibility that control of the Estate will fall into the hands of a less fastidious custodian than Christopher following his death.
That's a frightening thought. There is enough controversy as it is, I can't imagine what will happen after that sad event. By way of example, after Plath died her estate passed to the Hughes family, and it caused a huge amount of trouble for scholars as they wished to keep much private - whether this was right or wrong I would not like to say, but argument raged for many years.
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Old 12-29-2004, 02:24 PM   #16
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I imagine that the difference is that in 67 (I think there are some details in Carpenter) partly for income tax and also (given Tolkien's age at that time) inheritance reasons the trust was set up and large amounts of the papers were handed over to Marquette (sp?) university. However ownership of papers and copyright are not the same thing at all and of course Christopher's copyright of his own work will run for 70 years after his own death regardless. However he may be just as vulnerable to trustees whether or not his own copyright will be included in the main trust or not. I hope a Plath style dispute does not ensue but given that there is already "trouble at mill" I am not hopeful.
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Old 12-29-2004, 04:09 PM   #17
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I suspect the movies have not helped. Certainly the family's position seems to have hardened as far as what they will allow to be published (or re-published). I seem to recall that the family (read 'CT', i suppose) has refused permission for The Tolkien Family Album (a collection of family photos, etc) to be re-printed in part due to the movies & the hype & fuss surrounding them. CT clearly sees his father's work (rightly as far as most of us are concerned) as great literature, & I suspect that seeing them made into 'action movies' - however well done - will not have pleased the old man.

I'm told (by a 'little bird' at the Tolkien Society) that Priscilla is more easy going as far as her father's work is concerned, & wouldn't have so many difficulties as CT. Whether that's true or not I can't say, but CT is incredibly protective. He has a right to be, & personally if he was to get his way permanently - not just for 70 years after his death - I would not have too much of a problem with that. We'll never be able to repay our debt to him.
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Old 12-29-2004, 04:11 PM   #18
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Well, just to play devil's advocate, JRRT wrote in letter 131 prior to the publication of LotR:
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I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.
Was this an idle wish only? Arguably, sites like this one remain strong in large part due to creative response to Tolkien's works: the movies, love or hate them, have recruited legions of new fans to the Downs who otherwise might have been oblivious of Middle-earth; the RPG section and the fan-fiction boards have kept many members interested who might otherwise have long ago quit the site.

The fact is, Middle-earth is at present a dead world -- rich, wonderful, and extraordinarly detailed, yes; worthy of months or even years of study and discussion, to be sure -- but stagnant. Is there a risk that licensing Middle-earth to other authors might result in a lot of substandard work? Undoubtedly. On the other hand, it might also result in exciting new material, rich new avenues of exploration, undreamt of adventures. The long idle heart of Middle-earth might beat again; new blood, pulsing with life and imagination, might flow to its farthest extremities.

Christopher's strategy -- though it no doubt springs from honorable, even noble intentions -- is, elf-like, to embalm Middle-earth; his father knew that embalming his world was not possible or even, in the end, desirable.
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Old 12-29-2004, 04:40 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
Is there a risk that licensing Middle-earth to other authors might result in a lot of substandard work? Undoubtedly. On the other hand, it might also result in exciting new material, rich new avenues of exploration, undreamt of adventures. The long idle heart of Middle-earth might beat again; new blood, pulsing with life and imagination, might flow to its farthest extremities.

Christopher's strategy -- though it no doubt springs from honorable, even noble intentions -- is, elf-like, to embalm Middle-earth; his father knew that embalming his world was not possible or even, in the end, desirable.
LIkely, Mr. Underhill, the mere act of licensing someone to write a Middle earth tale would not necessarily ensure new life.

If Middle earth is to inspire other authors, as I suspect Tolkien was hoping his mythology would--it won't come from legal agreements but from creative endeavour. And that endeavour won't be necessarily a rigid paint by numbers approach.
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Old 12-29-2004, 04:40 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Underhill
The fact is, Middle-earth is at present a dead world -- rich, wonderful, and extraordinarly detailed, yes; worthy of months or even years of study and discussion, to be sure -- but stagnant. Is there a risk that licensing Middle-earth to other authors might result in a lot of substandard work? Undoubtedly. On the other hand, it might also result in exciting new material, rich new avenues of exploration, undreamt of adventures. The long idle heart of Middle-earth might beat again; new blood, pulsing with life and imagination, might flow to its farthest extremities.

Christopher's strategy -- though it no doubt springs from honorable, even noble intentions -- is, elf-like, to embalm Middle-earth; his father knew that embalming his world was not possible or even, in the end, desirable.
Sorry, Mr U but I couldn't disagree more. Tolkien was a genius, for one thing. No other writer could produce anything close to his standard. There may be some who understand the 'technicalities' of language & history & others who are his equal in storytelling, but I can't believe that there is any single writer who is equal to him in both things. Why, because such a writer would have to be a comparable genius - & why would someone like that wish to be a 'follower', rather than a 'leader' - no, anyone capable of producing work of the depth & complexity of Tolkien's work would not wish to do it - they would have their own inspiration to drive them onward.

Ther will never be any 'sequels' by other hands, no 'library' of Middle earth to stand alongside the originals, because no artist of equal ability would wish to do it.
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Old 12-29-2004, 05:34 PM   #21
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In a sense there already is a "library" of Middle-earth -- it exists here in the RPG section, in the fan-fiction forum, in countless other places across the web where fans have applied fingers to keyboard to create new tales of Middle-earth (all of which are technically in violation of copyright).

I'm merely suggesting that licensing would provide an opportunity for professional writers to try their hand at Middle-earth. It does not necessarily follow that this must be a rigid paint-by-numbers approach.

Tolkien was a genius, no argument there, but he's not the only capable writer ever to have drawn breath. I'm only saying maybe such action would produce worthy new tales of Middle-earth. Maybe. It's possible.

And unless Tolkien's heirs can figure a way to extend their copyright indefinitely, I wager there will be sequels by other writers, though neither you nor I may live to see them. In any case I don't think that works by other hands and minds would diminish the greatness of Tolkien's core works, any more than reams of fan fiction or three flawed movies have.
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Old 01-07-2005, 08:30 AM   #22
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One of my sale bargains was a copy of the visual companion to ROTK (99p at Smiths if anyone is interested) and I was interested to note that it was published with the "permission but not approval" of the Tolkien Estate.

This raises all sorts of questions about the legal status of the works especially given that all the chars places and things are TM.ed and that the Publisher I think is the same as the original books. It suggests a policy of not stopping stuff necessarily but not liking it.....

It is an interesting case but I don't necessarily think that a franchised authour would have any more standing in my eyes than well written fanfic / RPG that respected the nature of Middle Earth as created by Tolkien.
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Old 01-07-2005, 11:57 AM   #23
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Its amazing how a little $$ will motivate one to loosen up their, errrrr, artistic ownership...

I would think you can thank the incredible success of the movies for that deal...

Its good to see that, of the many effects the work has on people, creativity is inspired. To me, its the best compliment one can give.

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Old 01-07-2005, 12:10 PM   #24
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I would have thought that, since the visual companion was a companion to the film rather than the book, the right to publish would derive from the film or merchandising rights rather than the book rights. So I am not sure why the estate's permission was required in this case. Then again, I suppose it counts as a "literary work" ( ) and therefore falls within the book rights. In which case the estate's permission will have been required for every publication which "tells the story" (as opposed to telling of the making of the film etc).
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Old 01-07-2005, 12:53 PM   #25
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The extent of the Estate's rights is a tangled skein. They clearly think, for instance, that they retain enough rights to block the Lord of the Rings museum in New Zealand housing props, costumes, and miniatures from the movies. I'm not sure whether this matter has been resolved yet or not.

This past summer, the Estate apparently also contacted a site called http://www.shiremail.com, claiming that they own the rights to the word "Shire", which may be taking things a little far...
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Old 01-23-2005, 02:14 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
I would have thought that, since the visual companion was a companion to the film rather than the book, the right to publish would derive from the film or merchandising rights rather than the book rights. So I am not sure why the estate's permission was required in this case. Then again, I suppose it counts as a "literary work" ( ) and therefore falls within the book rights. In which case the estate's permission will have been required for every publication which "tells the story" (as opposed to telling of the making of the film etc).

It sounds like the kind of nice distinction that could rack up a lot of billable time for the legal profession. The book did make clear that dialogue quotes are from the film not the book. I am not sure that the estate would necessarily have benefitted directly - certainly not from film advertising although of course they would have had increased sales of the original books. And of course there was a film tie-in edition of the book .... so it is a peculiar situation.

I would be surprised if the Estate could have rights to the word "Shire" since it is in the dictionary .....
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Old 01-23-2005, 03:13 PM   #27
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Regarding the controversy over the term "shire", it is my understanding that this is not coming from the Estate but from the movie folk.

On this, see the following anouncement that appeared in the Forbes website:

Quote:
The backers of the Lord of the Rings movies are threatening legal action against the fledgling British Web site www.shiremail.com. A lawyer for Hollywood's Warner Bros., New Line Productions and Saul Zaentz Co. wrote owner Tarrant Costelloe, claiming the use of "shire" deceives the public into thinking there is an official Rings connection. Nonsense, says Costelloe, who posted online the written demand that he hand over the domain. He points out that "shire"--which has been used for a millennium in England--forms part of the name of dozens of towns and counties. --Dirk Smillie
The controversy apparently hinges around the question of domain names. I'm not sure how this would affect someone who had a website that incorporated the term "shire" as part of a legitimate placename or in reference to a "Shire" horse which is a registered breed.

It is also my understanding that the Tolkien estate has threatened to sue a number of websites that have poems and maps available for download. As a result, most of the map websites have been shut down while other general sites have removed the material that was under objection.

One of the websites that has been in the forefont of both controversies was Planet Tolkien, the main fan based Tolkien website in the UK. It is similar to the Downs, although larger. They are legally registered under a number of domain names including www.tolkien.org.uk. The estate approached them and stated:

Quote:
Our client believes that you have registered the domain name in "bad faith", with an intention to use its name for your own financial gain (either directly or via advertising revenue) or in the hope of selling it to our client for more than the administrative costs incurred by you. It is, therefore, an abusive registration within the meaning set out in the Nominet DRS.

n addition, this is a well known mark and we cannot see how you could hope to show that any use you might put the domain name to could be a "good faith" use.
Planet Tolkien was also threatened with a lawsuit by the movie folk (the ones described above) because they have an affiliation with www.shiremail.com.

The problems with the Tolkien estate were apparently settled; as far as I know, those with the movie people were not. For a full account, from the perspective of Planet Tolkien, see this link: What is it about domain-name ownership?

So now we have the situation where some rights are tied up in the Estate, and others are tied up with the movie folk. And the whole question of domain names is being raised. I find the whole thing immeasurably sad, and personally do not understand what domain names have to do with preserving the literary heritage of Tolkien. But I guess it can only be expected when so much money is involved.
As we know, Tolkien's original agreement with Unwin stipulated that he would get 50% of the profits, since the publishers were afraid the book would not make any money. T. S. Shippey estimates that, over the years, the publisher Stanley Unwin has made about a billion pounds and the Tolkien estate another billion pounds on the Lord of the Rings. That's a heap of money! And this is to say nothing of the profits that have gone to the movie folk.
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Old 01-23-2005, 03:21 PM   #28
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Unless they want to claim that Tolkien is responsible for the name of "Yorkshire" and inspired Charlotte Bronte's less than inventive use of "----shire" as a location in Jane Eyre and countless other instances, I think they're going to be out of luck. But there may prove to be a difference between "-shire" and "Shire".

Well, scratch the above paragraph, or at least make it a footnote to Child's, since I cross posted with her.

Actually, this:
Quote:
or in reference to a "Shire" horse which is a registered breed.
struck me as rather funny, since when I was about twelve and extremely passionate about making "my own Middle-earth" , I couldn't quite grasp this difference and named my pseudo-Shire after another breed of draft horse... Percheron. I was a strange little girl indeed.

I wonder, in this slew of website closings/alterations, is there any likelihood of the Downs being hit? Most of the maps I used to use in RPGs are gone, and we too have some copyrighted material in use here...?

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Old 01-23-2005, 06:49 PM   #29
lindil
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It may not be common knowledge, but a member of the Silm Project who hosted a draft of our version of the Fall of Gondolin was threatened w/ a lawsuit, and the material has thusly been 'disappeared'. One may also not that the JRRT [and many other great bits of art] that were an original feature of the Downs [well maybe after a few months or so], are long gone. Due, I vaguely recall to pointed legal notices.

Fascinating update overall, I barely make it here much less around to any other tolkien boards these days so I was unaware of the various debates raging. I must say I agree w/ Underhill and see a certain bit of elvish embalmitis in CJRT's actions and attitudes [as he has stated himself in may places]. I think he came to regret his Silmarillion tampering, even though in a 1977 interview I read w/ him he was very confident of his knowledge, ability and his father's blessing to fix up the Silm for publication. Later reflection on his editing of the Silm has him wishing he had NOT been so creative. So...

If he was at first confident in his steward like authority over the remaining Legendarium materials and feared later that he had misused his license, imagine then, how little confidence he has in anyone doing anything 'co-creative' with M E. Tolkien's oft quoted 'other hands' letter notwithstanding. Just my $.02.

-L

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Old 01-23-2005, 07:51 PM   #30
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White-Hand Barrow Downs legal busybody here ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithalwen
It sounds like the kind of nice distinction that could rack up a lot of billable time for the legal profession.
Sorry, I don't see the problem here.

Names are not afforded the protection of copyright law, so neither the Tolkien Estate nor the owners of the film and merchandising rights could prevent "The Shire" being used in another artistic work. Nor, for that matter, could they prevent the names "Legolas" or "Bilbo Baggins" being used.

But the debate above takes us into the realms of domain names, which is a new and developing area of law. I think that it is more akin to "passing off" whereby a business is entitled to sue a second business which does something which might mislead the public into believing that the activity is associated with the first business and therefore might allow the second business to trade off its goodwill (such as marketing a product which looks sufficiently similar to another as to be likely to mislead).

So, if someone is using a domain name which might be said to be trading off the goddwill of another, then that other person has a right to stop them. Although I fail to see how a (presumably) non-profit making Tolkien based website could be said to be trading off his works.
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Old 01-23-2005, 10:21 PM   #31
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In regards to who's getting, or has gotten, what money -- the sale of movie rights typically involves the author getting a percentage of profits realized from an adaptation. I'd be surprised if the Estate isn't owed some slice of the movie profits. Balanced against this, of course, is Hollywood's infamously creative accounting, which can show that movies even as insanely profitable as the LotR cycle has been are still in the red...
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Old 01-25-2005, 02:00 PM   #32
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No SpM I didn't think you would....... but isn't there a circle of hell ... I mean Minas Tirith... reserved for lawyers?


I am fairly sure that the estate gets nothing from the films - the rights went a long time ago. However I would be interested to know what the deal was with the film tie in edition ...........

The identity stuff is interesting and people are clearly trying to test limits like Victoria Beckham v. Peterborough United and the word "Posh"...
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Old 01-25-2005, 02:28 PM   #33
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Thumbs up Lawyer's heaven

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithalwen
but isn't there a circle of hell ... reserved for lawyers?
Indeed there is. A most lucrative one. I believe that there is a lot of filthy lucre to be made in false damnation suits.
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Old 01-25-2005, 02:36 PM   #34
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Oh good ..I will pass that information on to my cousin who seems certain to reverse the family tradition of specialising in non-lucrative areas of the law ......
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Old 01-25-2005, 06:34 PM   #35
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Quote:
I am fairly sure that the estate gets nothing from the films - the rights went a long time ago.
Who can say for sure? That is, unless we eventually see a lawsuit from the Estate similar to the one Zaentz brought. Anyway, according to Forbes.com, the Estate does get a cut.

It does make you wonder how Tolkien would feel about legions of lawyers haggling over the cash generated by his creation.
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Old 01-25-2005, 06:54 PM   #36
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White-Hand

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
Anyway, according to Forbes.com, the Estate does get a cut.
It is quite possible that the sale of the rights was structured so as to pay a reduced lump sum for the rights together with a proportion of their future earnings. I doubt that the proportion would be large, but it could still amount to a tidy little earner given the amount that the films, not to mention the associated merchandise, have generated.

But ownership would have passed to the purchaser of the rights so, unless there was some sort of right of veto built into the deal (which I doubt), the Estate will have no say over how they are used.


Quote:
It does make you wonder how Tolkien would feel about legions of lawyers haggling over the cash generated by his creation.
Although (to stick up for my profession for a moment ) those instructing the lawyers must take their fair share of the blame.
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Old 01-26-2005, 12:03 PM   #37
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If I remember rightly the film rights were sold in the 60's when percentage cuts were not really done. For example the actors who played the children in 'The Sound of Music', have got nothing from the movies beyond the original performance fees. I believe the estate has neither stake in nor say over the films - which is why it distanced itself from them. However Harper Collins as publishers of both the original works and the film spin offs has a foot in both camps or a conflict of interests depending on your perspective......

'Although (to stick up for my profession for a moment ) those instructing the lawyers must take their fair share of the blame.' SpM

LOL but only following orders is a rather dubious defence..........
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Old 01-26-2005, 01:22 PM   #38
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Well, contract players have historically always gotten the shaft on profit participation; only very powerful stars are (or were) able to command a true percentage of profits. Rank and file actors are "ten a penny" (to quote Shakespeare in Love) and unfortunately as a profession don't wield a lot of bargaining power. You might be surprised to learn that the current SAG contract does not provide for royalties from DVD sales. The producers have a death grip on that revenue stream and it doesn't seem likely that actors will be able to win any of that money in the current negotiations unless they're willing to strike for it.

On the other hand, it's fairly typical, even historically, for film rights deals with authors to include profit participation in addition to a lump sum. Like I said, who knows without seeing the contracts? But besides Forbes reporting for the past three years that the Estate gets a slice of the profits, there's an article in The Guardian which also claims that Tolkien cut a reasonably fair deal:
Quote:
Far from the Ł10,000 of lore, he got $250,000 (then worth about Ł102,500) and a percentage of the royalties, which could eventually be a massive fillip to his estate, already fat from the sale of 100m books around the globe. The estate's solicitors confirmed yesterday that it would get more royalties if the film took two and a half times its costs.
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Old 01-26-2005, 01:48 PM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
Well, contract players have historically always gotten the shaft on profit participation; only very powerful stars are (or were) able to command a true percentage of profits. Rank and file actors are "ten a penny" (to quote Shakespeare in Love) and unfortunately as a profession don't wield a lot of bargaining power. You might be surprised to learn that the current SAG contract does not provide for royalties from DVD sales. The producers have a death grip on that revenue stream and it doesn't seem likely that actors will be able to win any of that money in the current negotiations unless they're willing to strike for it.

On the other hand, it's fairly typical, even historically, for film rights deals with authors to include profit participation in addition to a lump sum. Like I said, who knows without seeing the contracts? But besides Forbes reporting for the past three years that the Estate gets a slice of the profits, there's an article in The Guardian which also claims that Tolkien cut a reasonably fair deal:
I stand corrected..... thanks ...
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Old 01-26-2005, 02:48 PM   #40
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Another loyer weighs in...

As I understand it, and I may be incorrect on the details, JRRT ran into financial problems in the 1960s due to income tax and medical liabilities. He sold the "movie rights" to The Hobbit and LoTR to a US company now known as Tolkien Enterprises (they have or had a website) for a sum of money which would now be considered small, but at that time was relatively sizeable (I have heard the number was around $15,000 US but I've also heard larger figures). I have heard rumors on both sides of the royalties issue, i.e. that the Estate does or does not receive royalties resulting from Tolkien Enterprises' marketing and use.

Works of art and printed text (which include lyrics and, now, computer code) can be copyrighted under US law. Names are subject to trademark. The term "movie rights" means that Tolkien Enterprise received a license to utilize the texts in connection with motion picture and stage productions. I also understand that the license included the marketing rights to all names contained in the books. So figurines, artwork. playing cards, games related to The Hobbit and LoTR are licensed by Tolkien Enterprises (or their licensee, New Line), not by the Tolkien Estate. Tolkien Enterprises also claims to possess rights, either via US trademark or copyright (statutory or common law), over the use of names appearing in the Hobbit and LoTR.

The Estate retained rights to the texts themselves. The Silmarillion was not included in the "movie rights", so all rumors that there will be a Silmarillion or Beren and Luthien movie are false (unless the Estate and Christopher Tolkien license such a production). So all publications of LoTR and The Hobbit (unless they are illegal knockoffs) are authorized by the Estate. Toys, cards and movies are controlled by Tolkien Enterprises. Thinking about this, I wonder which authorized the publication of the Hobbit comic books back in the 1980s.

A matter of concern could be that since Tolkien Enterprises possesses the marketing rights, they could in theory create derivative works for motion picture purposes. In other words, new stories based upon LoTR or the Hobbit. This would depend on the nature and wording of the license which could prohibit such productions. I seem to recall that a version of the Aragorn-Arwen love story was under consideration at some point.
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