The J.R.R. Tolkien estate and Tolkien’s master publisher HarperCollins have filed an $80 million lawsuit in the U.S. Central District Court of California against Warner Bros., its subsidiary New Line, and Middle-earth Enterprises (a division of The Saul Zaentz Company) over copyright infringement and breach of contract. The suit focuses on digital licensing rights, specifically related to online slot machines.
The estate and its allies argue that their original grant of licensing rights in 1969 included only physical products and not gambling or digital rights. They also allege that Lord of the Rings-branded gambling harms Tolkien’s legacy and angers his fans, according to the complaint, which was filed on November 19. Lord of the Rings slots, licensed to WMS Gaming and Microgaming, are available at a number of land-based and online casinos.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three upcoming films based on the classic Tolkien book, is produced by New Line and MGM under license from Middle-earth Enterprises; Warner Bros. Consumer Products handles licensing. It is set for a December 14 release.