Tolkien Estate

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Tolkien Estate trademark

The Tolkien Estate is the legal body which manages the property of the English writer J. R. R. Tolkien, including the copyright for most of his works. The individual copyrights have for the most part been assigned by the estate to subsidiary entities such as the J. R. R. Tolkien Discretionary Settlement and the Tolkien charitable trust. The various holdings of the Tolkien family, including the estate, have been organized under The Tolkien Company, the directors of which were Christopher Tolkien until August 2017 and his wife Baillie Tolkien, and J. R. R. Tolkien's grandson Michael George Tolkien. The executors of the estate proper were Christopher Tolkien (died 16 January 2020 [1] ), who was sole literary executor, and (succeeding J.R.R. Tolkien's lawyer Frank Williamson), Cathleen Blackburn of Maier Blackburn, [2] who has been the estate's solicitor for many years.


The lawsuits below refer to an entity entitled "Fourth Age, Ltd." which was formed in November 2011. Although court records do not reflect this, according to UK corporate records Fourth Age, Ltd. changed its name on 21 February 2013 to Tolkien Estate, Ltd. Its directors include Tolkien family members Baillie Tolkien, Simon Tolkien and Michael George Tolkien, as well as the Tolkien Estate attorney, Steven Andrew Maier, and formerly included Christopher Tolkien and Priscilla Tolkien, both deceased. [3]

Rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of J. R. R. Tolkien including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were sold by Tolkien himself to United Artists in 1969, reportedly for a very small amount, [4] [5] and are currently owned by Middle-earth Enterprises (formerly Tolkien Enterprises), inc., a company controlled by Saul Zaentz until his death in 2014. [6]

Film royalties

In February 2008, the Tolkien Trust sued New Line Cinema, the studio behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for £75 million claiming they had not received "even one penny" from the films. [7] A request for punitive damages was denied in September 2008. [8] The case was resolved out of court on 8 September 2009 with the terms not made public.

In a press release, Christopher Tolkien stated, "The Trustees regret that legal action was necessary, but are glad that this dispute has been settled on satisfactory terms that will allow the Tolkien Trust properly to pursue its charitable objectives. The Trustees acknowledge that New Line may now proceed with its proposed films of The Hobbit." [9] [10]

Gambling devices

In November 2012 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Fourth Age Limited, the Trustees of the Tolkien Trust, and publishers Harper Collins Publishers, Ltd., Unwin Hyman, Ltd. and George Allen and Unwin (Publishers) Ltd. sued Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, Inc., a division of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Inc.; Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. as successor-in-interest to New Line Cinema Corp.; Warner Brothers Consumer Products, Inc.; Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Inc.; New Line Productions, Inc.; and the Saul Zaentz Company, doing business as Middle-earth Enterprises, alleging copyright infringement, breach of contract, and seeking declaratory relief, arguing that the defendants exceeded the scope of their rights. [11]

The suit alleged that by producing gambling and video games using his characters, the parties had ignored the limitations of the rights purchased more than four decades prior in 1969; contending the original licence to Tolkien's works was limited to the right to sell "tangible" products such as "figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing, and the like", but did not cover "electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services". [12] Tolkien's estate claimed that the defendants actions had caused "irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy".

On 11 March 2013, the Saul Zaentz Co. (doing business as Middle-earth Enterprises), the rightsholder for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit properties, filed an amended counterclaim against Fourth Age for declaratory relief, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and quantum meruit . On the same day, the Warner Parties filed an amended counterclaim against Fourth Age for breach of contract and declaratory relief. [11] [13]

The Tolkien Estate et al. attempted to block these countersuits under California's anti-SLAPP statute, claiming that Warner Brothers was interfering with their right to petition under the First Amendment to the US Constitution. On 11 July 2013, US District Judge Audrey Collins denied a motion to dismiss, disagreeing that what Warner Brothers was doing was making "disguised claims for malicious prosecution" and wrote "these claims arise out of the parties' divergent understanding of the Warner Parties' and Zaentz's rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. They are routine contract-based claims and counterclaims." In October 2015 the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld that ruling. [14]

The lawsuit was confidentially settled in July 2017. [15]

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

On 13 November 2017, Amazon acquired the global television rights to The Lord of the Rings' appendices found at the end of The Return of the King. Amazon committed to a multi-season television series titled The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power . It features stories that are set in the Second Age. [16] Amazon said the deal included potential for spin-off series as well. [17] The press release referred to "previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings". Amazon is the producer in conjunction with the Tolkien Estate and The Tolkien Trust, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema. [18]

Christopher Tolkien's resignation

On 31 August 2017, at age 93, Christopher Tolkien resigned as a director of the Tolkien estate and the Tolkien trust, while remaining as the literary executor. [19] He died on 16 January 2020 at the age of 95. [20]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">J. R. R. Tolkien</span> English writer and philologist (1892–1973)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer and philologist. He was the author of the high fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

<i>The Lord of the Rings</i> 1954–1955 fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings is an epic high-fantasy novel by the English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. Set in Middle-earth, the story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 children's book The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling books ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christopher Tolkien</span> British book editor, son of J. R. R. Tolkien

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien was an English and naturalised French academic editor. The son of author and academic J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien edited much of his father's posthumously published work, including The Silmarillion and the 12-volume series The History of Middle-Earth. Tolkien also drew the original maps for his father's The Lord of the Rings.

<i>The Lord of the Rings</i> (1978 film) 1978 animated fantasy film

The Lord of the Rings is a 1978 animated fantasy film directed by Ralph Bakshi from a screenplay by Chris Conkling and Peter S. Beagle. It is based on the novel of the same name by J. R. R. Tolkien, adapting from the volumes The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

The Lord of the Rings is a series of three epic fantasy adventure films directed by Peter Jackson, based on the novel The Lord of the Rings by British author J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are subtitled The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). Produced and distributed by New Line Cinema with the co-production of WingNut Films. The films feature an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis and Sean Bean.

<i>The Return of the King</i> (1980 film) 1980 animated musical television film by Jules Bass

The Return of the King is a 1980 animated musical fantasy television film created by Rankin/Bass and Topcraft. It is an adaptation of the 1955 high fantasy novel Lord of the Rings, taking its name from The Return of the King, the third and final volume of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien and is a sequel to the 1977 film The Hobbit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saul Zaentz</span> American record company executive and film producer

Saul Zaentz was an American film producer and record company executive. He won the Academy Award for Best Picture three times and, in 1996, was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the real-world history and notable fictional elements of J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy universe. It covers materials created by Tolkien; the works on his unpublished manuscripts, by his son Christopher Tolkien; and films, games and other media created by other people.

Middle-earth Enterprises, formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises, is a subdivision of the Embracer Freemode division of Embracer Group and formerly a trade name for a division of The Saul Zaentz Company. The subdivision owns the worldwide exclusive rights to certain elements of J. R. R. Tolkien's two most famous literary works: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These elements include the names of characters contained within as well as the names of places, objects and events within them, and certain short phrases and sayings from the works.

The word hobbit was used by J. R. R. Tolkien as the name of a race of small humanoids in his fantasy fiction, the first published being The Hobbit in 1937. The Oxford English Dictionary, which added an entry for the word in the 1970s, credits Tolkien with coining it. Since then, however, it has been noted that there is prior evidence of the word, in a 19th-century list of legendary creatures. In 1971, Tolkien stated that he remembered making up the word himself, admitting that there was nothing but his "nude parole" to support the claim that he was uninfluenced by such similar words as hobgoblin. His choice may have been affected on his own admission by the title of Sinclair Lewis's 1922 novel Babbitt. The Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey has pointed out several parallels, including comparisons in The Hobbit, with the word "rabbit".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Middle-earth in video games</span> Video games inspired by J. R. R. Tolkiens Middle-earth

There are many video games that have been inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's works set in Middle-earth. Titles have been produced by studios such as Electronic Arts, Vivendi Games, Melbourne House, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

Many adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, an epic by the English author J. R. R. Tolkien, have been made in the media of film, radio, theatre, video games and recorded readings.

The Tolkien Trust is a British charity founded in 1977 that manages the money received from J. R. R. Tolkien's estate. Specifically, the trust enables its trustees, the members of Tolkien's family, to donate regularly to whichever causes they may choose. The trust states that such charitable causes include the "arts, education, environment, homelessness, international development, international relations and peace building, migration, prison reform, and UK and international health and medical research".

Mirkwood is a name used for a great dark fictional forest in novels by Sir Walter Scott and William Morris in the 19th century, and by J. R. R. Tolkien in the 20th century. The critic Tom Shippey explains that the name evoked the excitement of the wildness of Europe's ancient North.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Middle-earth</span> Continent in Tolkiens legendarium

Middle-earth is the setting of much of the English writer J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy. The term is equivalent to the Miðgarðr of Norse mythology and Middangeard in Old English works, including Beowulf. Middle-earth is the human-inhabited world, that is, the central continent of the Earth, in Tolkien's imagined mythological past. Tolkien's most widely read works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, are set entirely in Middle-earth. "Middle-earth" has also become a short-hand term for Tolkien's legendarium, his large body of fantasy writings, and for the entirety of his fictional world.

J. R. R. Tolkien's novels The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954–55), set in Middle-earth, have been the subject of numerous motion picture adaptations, whether for film (cinema), television, or streaming. There were many early failed attempts to bring the fictional universe to life on screen, some even rejected by the author himself, who was skeptical of the prospects of an adaptation. While animated and live-action shorts were made in 1967 and 1971, the first commercial depiction of the book onscreen was in an animated TV special in 1977. In 1978 the first big screen adaptation of the fictional setting was introduced in the animated The Lord of the Rings.

Clash of the Empires is an American fantasy/adventure film produced by The Asylum and directed by Joseph Lawson. It stars Christopher Judge, Bai Ling and Sun Korng.

<i>The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power</i> American streaming television series

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is an American fantasy television series developed by J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay for the streaming service Amazon Prime Video. Based on the novel The Lord of the Rings and its appendices by J. R. R. Tolkien, the series is set thousands of years before Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and depicts the major events of Middle-earth's Second Age. It is produced by Amazon Studios in association with New Line Cinema and in consultation with the Tolkien Estate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Priscilla Reuel Tolkien</span> British literary preservationist (1929–2022)

Priscilla Mary Anne Reuel Tolkien was a British literary preservationist who was the youngest child of J. R. R. Tolkien. On her death the ownership of the Tolkien Trust passed to an entity called Fourth Age, Ltd.


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  13. - Case 2:12-cv-09912-ABC-SH Document 21 Filed 01/18/13
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