Tolkien Estate Sues Warner Bros. Over 'Lord Of The Rings' Slot Machines

Suit claims breach of contract, seeks $80 million in damages

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring
Mary Evans/NEW LINE CINEMA/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring.
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The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien is suing Warner Bros. over Lord Of The Rings-themed slot machines, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The lawsuit seeks $80 million in damages, accusing Warner, its subsidiary New Line and Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz of copyright infringement and breach of contract. Tolkien's estate cites a decades-old rights agreement that allows the studio to exclusively make "tangible" merchandise based on the books. The estate calls the "online slot machine" and other digital properties "highly offensive."

Tolkien's estate originally became aware of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game in September 2010, and later learned that Warner Bros. was planning physical slot machines with LOTR characters, among other products. "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," reads the lawsuit. "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."

Though Tolkien's estate notes "hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, ringtones, online/downloadable games and housing developments" as "categories of rights which plainly have not been granted to [Warner]," it's most concerned with gambling affiliations. "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."

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens December 14th.