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Old 02-21-2013, 06:06 PM   #1
davem
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Another one bites the dust....

Daniel Grotta, author of one of the earliest biographies of Tolkien, has had a reprint of his work, which he wanted to publish as a free ebook, nixed by the Estate (getting a bit boring now imho) http://www.grotta.net/blog.htm?post=899042

Looks like CT had wanted to prevent it going ahead in the first place, and has finally succeeded.
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Old 02-21-2013, 07:36 PM   #2
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I'd be interested in hearing the Estate's side of the issue.

I did note the following quote:

Quote:
Since The Hobbit movies were in production, I decided to capitalize on Tolkien’s reemerging popularity by revising and expanding my original biography, which would then be reissued as an eBook. What’s more, we were going to distribute it for free, as a way of publicizing our new boutique publishing house, Pixel Hall Press.
Perhaps CT is simply tired of every man and his dog wanting to "capitalize" on his father's work.
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Old 02-21-2013, 08:46 PM   #3
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Grotta's miserable "biography" is a piece of dog-merde. Good riddance. As Tolkien's friend Dorothy Sayers said, "This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly; this is a book to be hurled away with great force."

One review:

"I picked up the original version of this biography a few months
ago, and it was the most uninformed and ignorant waste of fifty cents I ever
saw. Grotta was terribly upset that the Tolkiens didn't let him rummage
through JRRTs possessions, but I doubt it would have done any good if he had --
it was clear that he not only hadn't read the Silmarillion, even the parts
available at the time, he hadn't even read the appendices of the Lord of the
Rings."
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Old 02-22-2013, 05:16 AM   #4
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Lots of people are cashing in on the Hobbit at the moment - and on a lot of other things. That doesn't justify banning a book. Neither does the fact it contains inaccuracies. Taking recent history into account it looks like banning things is the Estate's default position when it comes to anything it doesn't like.

Mind you, I'd love to get Christopher's reaction to the description of him in Oliver Beard's comment.
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Old 02-22-2013, 05:55 AM   #5
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Presumably he is quite free to rewrite it without using infringing copyright. Rather hard to feel much sympathy for someone complaining that theyare no longer allowed to benefit from the ballantine paperback.
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Old 02-22-2013, 07:28 AM   #6
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I read the post. It strikes me as someone with a sob story to get a buck out of you. Using quotes from a work published illegally and crying that the appropriate copyright holder won't give you the time of day is despicable. He can certainly post his work as a free epub anonymously on the internet if he is so worried about this terribly important work not being read. yes.. that was sarcasm.
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Old 02-22-2013, 08:08 AM   #7
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Great as my love Tolkien's work is, I have never had much sympathy with the copyright thing - given the sheer degree of 'theft' of earlier writers' work he indulged in. If Beowulf, the Mabinogion, the Kalevala, the Eddas, the Arthurian legends and most works of myth, legend and folklore he 'drew on', was 'inspired by', or that 'influenced' him had been covered by copyright, and the holders had been as eager to protect their rights as Tolkien's heirs are he quite probably wouldn't have published any middle earth stories at all.
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Old 02-22-2013, 08:17 AM   #8
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Great as my love Tolkien's work is, I have never had much sympathy with the copyright thing - given the sheer degree of 'theft' of earlier writers' work he indulged in. If Beowulf, the Mabinogion, the Kalevala, the Eddas, the Arthurian legends and most works of myth, legend and folklore he 'drew on', was 'inspired by', or that 'influenced' him had been covered by copyright, and the holders had been as eager to protect their rights as Tolkien's heirs are he quite probably wouldn't have published any middle earth stories at all.
Tolkien's work being influenced by earlier writers doesn't seem quite the same as someone expressly writing (or re-writing) a book about a popular author in order to cash in on that author's resurgent popularity.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:16 AM   #9
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Great as my love Tolkien's work is, I have never had much sympathy with the copyright thing - given the sheer degree of 'theft' of earlier writers' work he indulged in. If Beowulf, the Mabinogion, the Kalevala, the Eddas, the Arthurian legends and most works of myth, legend and folklore he 'drew on', was 'inspired by', or that 'influenced' him had been covered by copyright, and the holders had been as eager to protect their rights as Tolkien's heirs are he quite probably wouldn't have published any middle earth stories at all.
Surely all of those would have been long out of copyright in Tolkien's lifetime. And he was hardly capitalising on the vast popular success of those works.

Bet that was the instant reaction at Unwins... based on the Kalevala? Kerching!!!!!
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:30 AM   #10
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Taking recent history into account it looks like banning things is the Estate's default position when it comes to anything it doesn't like.

Care to expound on that "recent history?"
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:42 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Inziladun;6815'in76
Tolkien's work being influenced by earlier writers doesn't seem quite the same as someone expressly writing (or re-writing) a book about a popular author in order to cash in on that author's resurgent popularity.
I think with Tolkien 'influence' always has to be in quotes. He basically lifted images, characters and whple scenes -.often without even bothering to change the names (cf the dwarf names in TH). If another author tried that kind of thing with Tolkien's writings the Estate would have a legal lynch mob out. I don't have a problem with that kind of 'borrowing' personally, I just find it hypocritical of the Estate given that far, far more than most authors Tolkien drew on the works of other minds.

Recall that the Estate threatened legal action against a Canadian children's summer camp for their use of the words Elf, Dwarf and Hobbit - none of which Tolkien actually invented.

As far as this case goes, the Grotta bio was in print for years, and had done zero harm to Tolkien or
his work. This seems a bit of sour grapes, given CT's original failure top prevent it going ahead. It's not even as if Grotta intended to charge for it.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:45 AM   #12
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Taking recent history into account it looks like banning things is the Estate's default position when it comes to anything it doesn't like.

Care to expound on that "recent history?"
The attempt to ban the Mirkwood novel, the actual ban on the Hilary biography and the threatened legal action against the Canadian children's camp.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:47 AM   #13
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Recall that the Estate threatened legal action against a Canadian children's summer camp for their use of the words Elf, Dwarf and Hobbit - none of which Tolkien actually invented.

No, it was because the camp named itself "Rivendell."
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:03 AM   #14
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He basically lifted images, characters and whple scenes -.often without even bothering to change the names (cf the dwarf names in TH)

Pleeze. Lifted "characters" by borrowing 1000-year old names? Care to tell us how Thorin, Bifur, Dori and the rest are "characters" from The Prophecy of the Sybil?

Whole scenes? Really? Anything more substantial than Bilbo's lifting of a cup a la Beowulf?




----------------------
A great part of the Estate's remit is quality control. When a book is issued under the JRRT monogram- effectively the Estate's imprimatur - the book can be assumed right off the bat to be *good:* Shippey, Hammond & Scull, Garth, Rateliff: all printed with the Seal of Approval, and all representing the very best in Tolkien scholarship. The Estate doesn't license just any old crap (unlike Zaentz/Wingnut).

The "Mirkwood" novel was tripe, and I cannot blame the Estate for not wanting to provide a Nihil Obstat, any more than I blame them for blocking "sequels" and other fan-fic.

The Estate *did* btw take action against Grotta-Kurska; the original edition contains blank pages marked (very cattily) "redacted for legal reasons"

-----------------

The Estate didn't "suppress" the Hilary biography; it withheld permission to use JRRT's letters, after which the authors decided not to publish without them.

------------------


NB: Tolkien didn't invent hobbits? Please don't go back to that Denham Tract stuff....
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:57 AM   #15
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This one (unlike the Zaentz lawsuit) looks fairly clear cut...

Grotta exploited a loophole in the copyright laws of the 70s to get his biography (I hesitate to even use that term...a worthy biographer wouldn't let a personal grudge carry into the biography he's writing) pushed through. Good for him. The loophole no longer exists today...tough luck, but good riddance.

Anyway, the TE may be stingy when it comes to allowing access to certain papers/letters JRRT wrote, but they're excersing legal rights no differently than WB, Disney, Zaentz or anyone else would. And would you let any hack writer access to your own papers (or papers you're the legal guardian of) who wanted it?
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Old 02-22-2013, 12:33 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
---------------------
A great part of the Estate's remit is quality control. When a book is issued under the JRRT monogram- effectively the Estate's imprimatur - the book can be assumed right off the bat to be *good:* Shippey, Hammond & Scull, Garth, Rateliff: all printed with the Seal of Approval, and all representing the very best in Tolkien scholarship. The Estate doesn't license just any old crap (unlike Zaentz/Wingnut).

The "Mirkwood" novel was tripe, and I commit blame the Estate for not wanting to provide a Nihil Obstat, any more than I blame them for blocking "sequels" and other fan-fic.

The Estate *did* btw take action against Grotta-Kurska; the original edition contains blank pages marked (very cattily) "redacted for legal reasons"

-----------------

The Estate didn't "suppress" the Hilary biography; it withheld permission to use JRRT's letters, after which the authors decided not to publish without them.

------------------


NB: Tolkien didn't invent hobbits? Please don't go back to that Denham Tract stuff....
Pretty dire quality control if you're correct as most of those authors would support my statement that Tolkien drew very liberally on the sources I mentioned. Hammond and Scull's frankly creepy literary stalking job I leave in the gutter-in spite of CT's approval of it. Also, whatever the merits our otherwise of the Mirkwood novel I don't think the estate should have the right to decide whether a book should be published based purely on literary quality.

As for the Hilary bio, my understanding was that they wanted to prevent any reference to events mentioned in the letters, not publication of the texts.

I do like the way you bring in the Denham Tracts as a way of dismissing their use in the argument, when it is the main evidence that Tolkien didn't invent hobbits.
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Old 02-22-2013, 01:01 PM   #17
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Recall that the Estate threatened legal action against a Canadian children's summer camp for their use of the words Elf, Dwarf and Hobbit - none of which Tolkien actually invented.

No, it was because the camp named itself "Rivendell."
But why did they go after a non-profit (and that's a precise legal term in Canada) camp for children? Particularly when there are any number of other companies and organizations, some of which are clearly profit-based, that call themselves Rivendell?

Do a google search. There's a bike company, a Christian retreat, an organic farm, a golf club/course, a horse farm, a radio broadcast enterprise, a software company, a ski company, holiday cottages (in Norfolk), a fantasy radio station, a construction company, a bookstore, a mountain equipment company, a guest house in Namibia, an environmental services company. Some of them are recent; others, quite old.

Why go after a children's camp, particularly one designed to give city kids whose parents cannot afford summer camp a place to experience the joys of summer camp? Have any of these other enterprises been subject to legal charges by the Estate?

EDIT: Note, I'm not talking specifically about Grotta's book because I haven't read it. Yet it does seem strange that the Estate's lawyers are attempting to control scholarship. Other authors do not have an Estate authorising what scholarship is acceptable. Scholarship is supposed to be free, not controlled by one entity. Some of the thing the Estate wishes to defend I can understand and approve of, but there are some very strange things as well.
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Old 02-22-2013, 01:56 PM   #18
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Why go after a children's camp, particularly one designed to give city kids whose parents cannot afford summer camp a place to experience the joys of summer camp? Have any of these other enterprises been subject to legal charges by the Estate?
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Originally Posted by Bêthberry View Post
Yet it does seem strange that the Estate's lawyers are attempting to control scholarship. Other authors do not have an Estate authorising what scholarship is acceptable. Scholarship is supposed to be free, not controlled by one entity. Some of the thing the Estate wishes to defend I can understand and approve of, but there are some very strange things as well.
It seems clear from Christopher's own writings, as well as those of his father, that JRRT's work occupies a unique position in his heart. He and his father seem to have had a special bond that was rooted at least partly in the latter's written work.
Since his father's death, CT appears to have had the same goal all along: to preserve artistic integrity of JRRT's writings, and keep a lid on their commercialization.

Clearly his motives do not lie in greed. Instead, I see an ardent desire to frustrate those that he sees as exploiting his father's work in any way. The renewed popularity of Tokien's works undoubtedly sparked dollar signs in the minds of many, and for every news story we hear about the Estate slamming the door on a children's camp, I wonder if there aren't a hundred more that could be written about someone wanting to open a drug rehab facility called "Eressëa", or an shanty county fair haunted house named "Moria".

Just maybe, the Estate thinks it just isn't worth trying to sort out the innocent uses of copyrighted material from the less-than savory. I'm not saying that's always a good approach, but CT is an old man, after all. I could understand if that's his thinking.
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Old 02-22-2013, 02:31 PM   #19
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I do like the way you bring in the Denham Tracts as a way of dismissing their use in the argument, when it is the main evidence that Tolkien didn't invent hobbits.
The Denham Tracts contain the word 'hobbits' in a long list of names of mythical beings. That is all. There is no evidence of any further tradition underlyling this appearance of the word, nor that Tolkien was ever aware of it. Even if Tolkien had read the Denham Tracts - indeed, even if we suppose that, contrary to what he said, he consciously took the word from the Denham Tracts - that still would mean nothing more than that he took the name and invented a creature to go with it.

To claim that any of this means that Tolkien did not invent hobbits - that is, his hobbits - is really somewhat ridiculous.
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Old 02-22-2013, 02:58 PM   #20
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Just maybe, the Estate thinks it just isn't worth trying to sort out the innocent uses of copyrighted material from the less-than savory. I'm not saying that's always a good approach, but CT is an old man, after all. I could understand if that's his thinking.
Despite the fact that scholars earn their living by teaching and writing literary reviews, abstracts, reports, critiques,etc. it's hardly an act of commercialisation.I know a great many who would laugh and scoff at that idea. Very few scholars become wealthy being a scholar.

It hardly speaks to the integrity of the approach if some are singled out while others are not, particularly when those who are singled out are not commercialising Tolkien. And particularly when it is those don't have the financial resources to hire lawyers to defend themselves.

I'm not sure every case and example is decided upon by CT. Some of them smell to me like lawyers attempting to put a chill on any idea of using Tolkien in any way. That may well be an accepted legal practice but I think it hardly speaks well of an Estate that is supposed to want people to respect the author. Just think of the children who would go home excited to read The Hobbit, for instance, thinking they'd just spent some time in Middle-earth.

And age is no excuse for lazy thinking.
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Old 02-22-2013, 03:17 PM   #21
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Despite the fact that scholars earn their living by teaching and writing literary reviews, abstracts, reports, critiques,etc. it's hardly an act of commercialisation.I know a great many who would laugh and scoff at that idea. Very few scholars become wealthy being a scholar.
Distinguishing between the "scholar" and the Paperback Writer may not always be an easy thing, though, particularly in the Age of Hollywood, where any visual or audio work of art is immediately viewed as a commercial product first, anything else playing second banana.

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I'm not sure every case and example is decided upon by CT. Some of them smell to me like lawyers attempting to put a chill on any idea of using Tolkien in any way. That may well be an accepted legal practice but I think it hardly speaks well of an Estate that is supposed to want people to respect the author. Just think of the children who would go home excited to read The Hobbit, for instance, thinking they'd just spent some time in Middle-earth.
I don't think CT is necessarily the source of all the decisions. Lawyers though, are presumably acting on someone's instructions on how to handle different situations. Why would they be so quick to throw out the wheat with the chaff? That's what I'm trying to figure out.
Try as I might, I just don't see any sinister motive between the Estate's possessiveness. Again, I'm not saying I agree with every call they make, but I have to think there's some reasoning behind it.

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Old 02-22-2013, 03:26 PM   #22
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The Denham Tracts contain the word 'hobbits' in a long list of names of mythical beings. That is all. There is no evidence of any further tradition underlyling this appearance of the word, nor that Tolkien was ever aware of it. Even if Tolkien had read the Denham Tracts - indeed, even if we suppose that, contrary to what he said, he consciously took the word from the Denham Tracts - that still would mean nothing more than that he took the name and invented a creature to go with it.

To claim that any of this means that Tolkien did not invent hobbits - that is, his hobbits - is really somewhat ridiculous.
I agree, and even we could say the same for the Elves, his Elves.

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Old 02-22-2013, 03:55 PM   #23
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The Estate didn't "suppress" the Hilary biography; it withheld permission to use JRRT's letters, after which the authors decided not to publish without them.
From what I can remember, the Hilary Tolkien biography was a bit more complicated.

Originally the authors (Angela Gardner and Neil Holford) worked with Hilary's family, and got their permission to use correspondences between Hilary and JRRT. Unaware that they needed the Tolkien Estate's permission to use some of the letters, and not Hilary's family.

The authors further attempted to rework their biography in accordance to the wishes of the Estate, and paraphrase when needed to not breach copyright laws. Only until it became abundantly clear the Estate wanted 20 pages completely removed did the authors decide not to publish the Hilary Tolkien biography.

It may seem like nothing "what's 20 pages amongst several hundred?" But everyone has to know you can't just remove 20 pages of material and expect to get the same story, or for the story to hold the same meaning. What would Tolkien's reaction be if I got lawyers to use copyright laws and had The Old Forest chapter (or any assortment of 20 pages) removed from The Fellowship?

As much as I can understand protecting quality and artistic integrity, you really can't make that case with the Hilary Tolkien biography the Estate went after. Gardner and Holford were proper biographers who went through the work, research, and permissions from Hilary's family. And after finding out they needed the Estate's permission to use certain material, they tried to rework the biography in a manner that would respect the Estate's wishes.

I'm afraid that one was a case where the Estate used copyright law to halt the work of two respected authors. Whether it would have been a worthy biography about Hilary Tolkien, well I suppose we won't know, but personally...you can't make the protecting artistic integrity argument and it was unfortunate to see the Estate would use copyright law in that way.
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Old 02-22-2013, 04:27 PM   #24
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From what I can remember, the Hilary Tolkien biography was a bit more complicated.

I'm afraid that one was a case where the Estate used copyright law to halt the work of two respected authors. Whether it would have been a worthy biography about Hilary Tolkien, well I suppose we won't know, but personally...you can't make the protecting artistic integrity argument and it was unfortunate to see the Estate would use copyright law in that way.
No sympathy from me. It is pretty common knowledge that copyright in letters remains with the writer. Any publisher should know that. I also understand that it wasn't the first breach and iirc Christopher's own letter/s had been used.
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Old 02-22-2013, 07:58 PM   #25
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I think with Tolkien 'influence' always has to be in quotes. He basically lifted images, characters and whple scenes -.often without even bothering to change the names (cf the dwarf names in TH). If another author tried that kind of thing with Tolkien's writings the Estate would have a legal lynch mob out. I don't have a problem with that kind of 'borrowing' personally, I just find it hypocritical of the Estate given that far, far more than most authors Tolkien drew on the works of other minds.
Well, who holds the copyright of a folk tale? I'm not an expert when it comes to the question of who published what and when and how, but it seems to me that borrowing from folklore and myths doesn't infringe on any copyright. It's not like they belong to anyone.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:10 PM   #26
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Just maybe, the Estate thinks it just isn't worth trying to sort out the innocent uses of copyrighted material from the less-than savory.

It goes beyond that; it is in fact an imperative created by the nature of trademrk law. You see, a trademark has to be enforced if you want to keep it- if you don't assert ownership continually then the argument can be made, successfully, that the trademark has passed into the public domain as happened to, for two examples, Nylon and Aspirin. Xerox' lawyers were notorious for hurling C&Ds at any and everyone who used "Xerox" as a synonymn for "photocopy," and pretty much succeeded in suppressing it- and it was for that reason. All that's necessary to make such a case is that the trademark-holder has known or even should have known about unauthorized use, and done nothing about it.








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Old 02-22-2013, 10:38 PM   #27
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Addendum: this goes back a very long time: the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons included Hobbits, Ents and Balrogs; the Estate forced the change in the 2d ed. to Halflings, Treants and "Type VI Demons (Balor)." Elves, Dwarves and Orcs got through, while retaining heavy Tolkien aspects- but orcs, justified as an obscure A-S word for unspecified monsters, became green with pig-snouts rather than Tolkienian Orcs.

Back to Zaentz: up until a couple of years ago, Zaentz' cash-milking operation was called "Tolkien Enterprises"- and far, far too often not only the Intertubes but clueless "professional" media reported Zaentz' near-constant suits against assorted "Hobbit Cafes" etc as originating with the Tolkien Estate. The name was abruptly changed to "Middle-earth Enterprises," without explanation; but I suspect it had to do with the Estate exercising pressure.
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Old 02-23-2013, 06:52 AM   #28
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[I]It goes beyond that; it is in fact an imperative created by the nature of trademrk law. You see, a trademark has to be enforced if you want to keep it- if you don't assert ownership continually then the argument can be made, successfully, that the trademark has passed into the public domain as happened to, for two examples, Nylon and Aspirin. Xerox' lawyers were notorious for hurling C&Ds at any and everyone who used "Xerox" as a synonymn for "photocopy," and pretty much succeeded in suppressing it- and it was for that reason. All that's necessary to make such a case is that the trademark-holder has known or even should have known about unauthorized use, and done nothing about it.
That would explain a great deal, including the question of why the Estate takes a firm stance against non-profits as well as the parasites. It seems logical from a legal standpoint that they could not differentiate.
It isn't an ideal setup, but if that's the way they have to play the game, what can they do about it?

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Addendum: this goes back a very long time: the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons included Hobbits, Ents and Balrogs; the Estate forced the change in the 2d ed. to Halflings, Treants and "Type VI Demons (Balor)." Elves, Dwarves and Orcs got through, while retaining heavy Tolkien aspects- but orcs, justified as an obscure A-S word for unspecified monsters, became green with pig-snouts rather than Tolkienian Orcs.
I can remember that. I was a novice D&Der back in the day, and I recall my father having the first edition game, which did name "hobbits". That indeed did not last long.
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Old 02-23-2013, 07:13 AM   #29
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It is the the Saul Zaentz company that owns and guards the trademarks as WCH has pointed out , and it is worth pointing out since it is tediously and somewhat odiously fashionable to blame CRT personally for all these incidents.

Local to me are two pubs/restaurants with Hobbit names. One has had no trouble since it does not sell merchandise or give TM names to its drinks or dishes. The other which was in the news with the Estate wrongly getting the blame did sell stuff and theme the menu was allowed to continue on payment of the very modest sum of £70 for a license.
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Old 02-23-2013, 10:48 PM   #30
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It goes beyond that; it is in fact an imperative created by the nature of trademrk law. You see, a trademark has to be enforced if you want to keep it- if you don't assert ownership continually then the argument can be made, successfully, that the trademark has passed into the public domain as happened to, for two examples, Nylon and Aspirin. Xerox' lawyers were notorious for hurling C&Ds at any and everyone who used "Xerox" as a synonymn for "photocopy," and pretty much succeeded in suppressing it- and it was for that reason. All that's necessary to make such a case is that the trademark-holder has known or even should have known about unauthorized use, and done nothing about it.
So why do all the other entities continue to use the name Rivendell and presumably have not been approached by the Estate? In fact, given how many do use the name, it would appear that for all intents and purposes the name has passed into the public domain.

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It is the the Saul Zaentz company that owns and guards the trademarks as WCH has pointed out , and it is worth pointing out since it is tediously and somewhat odiously fashionable to blame CRT personally for all these incidents.
Mithalwen, according to the new reports, it was the Estate which contacted the children's camp: Tolkien Estate makes Alta. camp drop name
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Old 02-23-2013, 11:40 PM   #31
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So why do all the other entities continue to use the name Rivendell and presumably have not been approached by the Estate? In fact, given how many do use the name, it would appear that for all intents and purposes the name has passed into the public domain.



Mithalwen, according to the new reports, it was the Estate which contacted the children's camp: Tolkien Estate makes Alta. camp drop name
I am very sorry Beth, but I must issue a C&D against you post-haste. You see, I've recently trademarked the word "the", and you have infringed on my trademark seven times in the past two paragraphs. I will ignore your use of the word "it" as you only used the word twice and I have a patent pending on "it".
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Old 02-24-2013, 04:23 AM   #32
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Mithalwen, according to the new reports, it was the Estate which contacted the children's camp: Tolkien Estate makes Alta. camp drop name
That report is ambiguoud and has already admitted misascribing responsibility, which considering the interviewee has the letter indicates a fairly low stamdard of journalism. Referring to the 3state as an entertainment giant is odd. Not at all confident that Tintin didn't misread his shorthand and transcribe estate for enterprises. Unless for some technical legal reason the Estate is obliged to protect Zaentz's trademarks becauseZaentz does own just about every Tolkien proper name aa the boxes of the geeksploitative plastic tat will show.

However maybe it should also be remembered that while, according to the Carpenter bio, Tolkien was willing to suggest names for people like the cattle farmer, he DID think people should ask..
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Old 02-24-2013, 08:44 AM   #33
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As far as the word 'Hobbit' is concerned, we've just seen a recent case of a movie using the word Hobbit being effectively banned http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/20781777 Given that there was no connection between the movie & Tolkien's work other than the name Hobbit & that Tolkien didn't actually invent the name Hobbit I don't know what the lawyers, or the judge were up to with this one.

Since Tolkien's death the man & his life's work have moved increasingly towards becoming just as much a 'brand' as 'Disney' is. In place of the famous 'Disney' signature we have the JRRT monogram & the Estate & its lawyers are driven by nothing less than a desire to control everything to do with Tolkien.

The children's camp thing (let's not forget that proper names cannot be copyrighted - plus the fact that Rivendell is basically a compound of two standard, if slightly archaic, english words: riven=broken or split, dell=valley. Claiming you hold the copyright on riven+dell is about equivalent to claiming you own the copyright on foot+print & only a lawyer would try that one) was a thoroughly unpleasant act of legal thuggery. And preventing publication of the Hilary biography came across as a very shady misuse of copyright law because they weren't able to twist existing privacy laws to their purposes.

I do wonder whether there would be as much tolerance for the Estate's behaviour if it didn't include member's of Tolkien's immediate family. If it was made up of business people lawyering up at the slightest 'provocation' I wonder if people would still be so eager to see their side of things.

Interestingly, the author of the Mirkwood novel actually stood up to the Estates lawyers & took the case before a judge, who threw the case out & sent the Estates lawyers off with a flea in their ears (as we used to say). I suspect that most of the other cases would go the same way - if those being threatened were to stand up.
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Old 02-24-2013, 08:57 AM   #34
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The children's camp thing (let's not forget that proper names cannot be copyrighted - plus the fact that Rivendell is basically a compound of two standard, if slightly archaic, english words: riven=broken or split, dell=valley. Claiming you hold the copyright on riven+dell is about equivalent to claiming you own the copyright on foot+print & only a lawyer would try that one) was a thoroughly unpleasant act of legal thuggery.
Well, you could also say Grey Havens and The Shire ought to be open use, since they too have meanings outside the realm of Tolkien. But why use names like that, unless the Tolkien connection (and accompanying publicity) is what you're aiming for?
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Old 02-24-2013, 09:11 AM   #35
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Well, you could also say Grey Havens and The Shire ought to be open use, since they too have meanings outside the realm of Tolkien. But why use names like that, unless the Tolkien connection (and accompanying publicity) is what you're aiming for?
So they should - you cannot legally appropriate standard English words & then prevent people using them. The idea that an author could take a word in everyday use & then stop anyone else using that word because the public might make some connection between their use of the word and someone else's is a nightmare scenario. Tolkien actually 'profited' in the same way by his use of Elf, Dwarf, Goblin, Dragon, (not to mention Shire - used purely because of its 'English' connotations & Mirkwood - used because of its Germanic ones). If Tolkien hadn't wanted people to profit from the name Shire he shouldn't have used it, & made up a name of his own for the Hobbits' homeland.

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Old 02-24-2013, 09:24 AM   #36
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As far as the word 'Hobbit' is concerned, we've just seen a recent case of a movie using the word Hobbit being effectively banned http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/20781777 Given that there was no connection between the movie & Tolkien's work other than the name Hobbit & that Tolkien didn't actually invent the name Hobbit I don't know what the lawyers, or the judge were up to with this one.
It should be pointed out that that action was taken by Zaentz and the movie studios, and not by the Tolkien Estate.

And really, to claim that a parodistic movie called 'Age of the Hobbits' has nothing to do with Tolkien's hobbits is ridiculous. Or are we to suppose that it's a parody of the Denham Tracts, and that the title was chosen at random from among other choices such as 'Age of the Hodge-pochers' or 'Age of the Chittifaces'?
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Old 02-24-2013, 09:33 AM   #37
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It should be pointed out that that action was taken by Zaentz and the movie studios, and not by the Tolkien Estate.

And really, to claim that a parodistic movie called 'Age of the Hobbits' has nothing to do with Tolkien's hobbits is ridiculous. Or are we to suppose that it's a parody of the Denham Tracts, and that the title was chosen at random from among other choices such as 'Age of the Hodge-pochers' or 'Age of the Chittifaces'?
It doesn't matter what their motives were. Even if they were cashing in on Tolkien's work Tolkien didn't invent the word Hobbit. Or are you saying every film which appears over the next few years which has has Elf, Dwarf, Goblin, or Dragon in its title should be banned?

And if an author was to write a novel based around the Denham Tracts & had Hobbits as characters (obviously not like Tolkien's Hobbits) should he or she be prevented from publishing it? To what extent should Tolkien's use of myth & folklore prevent anyone else from using it also?
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Old 02-24-2013, 09:55 AM   #38
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Davem, please understand the difference between copyright and trademark law. One can trademark any word (existing or coined), combination of word or visual logo if it is used in commerce to identify *your* goods or services; Terry Pratchett has trademarked the compound of ordinary Disc + World-- and righly so, or parasites would be coming out of the woodwork with their own "Discworld" novels (and/or plastic tat). ZaentzCo has trademarked dang near every place-name and race in Middle-earth, which stinks but he can do it

Interestingly, the author of the Mirkwood novel actually stood up to the Estates lawyers & took the case before a judge, who threw the case out & sent the Estates lawyers off with a flea in their ears


Untrue, untrue, untrue. The parties settled, on terms which amounted to a complete surrender on Perry's part. He then told the press loudly the court had "thrown the suit out"- when in fact all he had was the pro-forma dismissal that goes with *every* settled lawsuit.
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Old 02-24-2013, 10:45 AM   #39
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Untrue, untrue, untrue. The parties settled, on terms which amounted to a complete surrender on Perry's part. He then told the press loudly the court had "thrown the suit out"- when in fact all he had was the pro-forma dismissal that goes with *every* settled lawsuit.
What I recall is that the estate wanted the book banned, and all copies destroyed. The book is still on sale.

Is Rivendell trademarked? I've lost count of the number of houses, b&b's and private, with the name.
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Old 02-24-2013, 11:43 AM   #40
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Zaentz hold and have renewed trademarks for Rivendell in various categories including those for jewellery, card games and computer games. I did find a list once of the many many names they claimed but no longer. Apparently there has to be the potential for customer confusion to defend a trademark, so consumer protection is a factor as well as brand protection. So I guess that is why b and b are safe. I have friends called Claridge who have called their house Claridges for years. Might be a problem if they ever go in for b&b....

So I wonder if the pursuit of the children's camp is linked to the rumours of wanting a middle earth theme park.
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