It's a busy time for everything connected to Tolkien, with the first of the Hobbit trilogy soon to be released, but a lawsuit filed by the Tolkien estate against Warner Bros for their use of digital merchandising has stolen the headlines, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The $80 million lawsuit is contingent on a contention that a decades-old rights agreement entitles the studio to create only "tangible" merchandise based on the books, not an "online slot machine" or other digital exploitations that the estate calls highly offensive. "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," the complaint states. "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."
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game, then, is not something the Tolkien estate are best pleased with, after they discovered it back in 2010 via some spam email. After some research, they are alleging that the use of The Lord of The Rings franchise in that way are contrary to the initial merchandising agreement. The estate lists several categories of goods but is especially angry about new gambling games developed with story elements from Lord of the Rings. "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."