LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien is suing the Hollywood studio behind “Lord of the Rings,” alleging that the film company is not authorized to license casino and online gambling games featuring characters from the fantasy trilogy, papers today show.
According to the Tolkien estate’s $80 million complaint for copyright infringement and breach of contract, Warner Bros. Entertainment lacks the right to approve online slots, casino slot machines and Internet games based on “Lord of the Rings” characters and story elements created by the late British author.
Warner Bros. spokesman Paul McGuire said the studio had no immediate response.
The estate claims that such games as “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game” have “outraged Tolkien’s devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien’s legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works,” according to the complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles federal court.
“This epic story is widely considered among the greatest literary works of 20th century imaginative fiction, and is reported to be the second most- read book in the United States after the Bible,” the document states. “Professor Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ is equally beloved and revered as a treasured literary classic.”
When the estate sold the film rights to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit” to Warners’ predecessors in 1969, it also granted “limited” merchandising rights for “tangible” objects only, Tolkien’s heirs contend.
“However, in recent years, and particularly in the aftermath of the unprecedented financial and critical success of the films, defendants have, with increasing boldness, engaged in a continuing and escalating pattern of usurping rights to which they are not entitled — rights which belong exclusively to plaintiffs,” the estate claims.
The lawsuit seeks at least $80 million in damages, a judge’s order halting production and distribution of the games and legal fees.
The three “Lord of the Rings” films were released in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and were distributed by New Line Cinema, which is also party to the suit.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of three planned movies based on Tolkien’s 1937 “Hobbit” book, is set for release next month.