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Tolkien Estate Sues Warner Bros.

At issue: online slot machines and other digital merchandising


Time Warner (NYSE: TWX)The estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien, most famous for writing The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, is suing Warner Bros. (NYSE:TWX) for $80 million over online merchandising issues.

In the complaint, the estate and publisher HarperCollins (NASDAQ:NWS) charge the studio, along with its subsidiary New Line and The Saul Zaentz Company’s Middle-earth Enterprises, with breach of contract and copyright infringement. The charge concerns the type of merchandising deals the studio and its partners are making, reports Deadline Hollywood.

Originally, the rights to merchandise Tolkien’s works were sold in 1969. The estate now argues that the expectation was that it would include such normally sold items as dolls, stationary, clothing and similar items. It says the agreement didn’t anticipate online and digital products.

The estate is concerned that the licensing of Tolkien’s characters and settings for online use, such as digital slot machines, will damage the legacy of the author. The complaint states that fans of the work will be “offended and distressed” by such deals.

In 2009, the estate sued Warner Bros. concerning profits from The Lord of the Rings movies. The two groups reached an out-of-court settlement, opening the door for next month’s release of The Hobbit.

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