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Warner Bros Settles Giant 'Lord Of The Rings' Lawsuit With J.R.R. Tolkien's Family

(Courtesy of Warner Bros.)
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Warner Bros. and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien have settled a $80 million lawsuit that was filed over the use of digital representations of The Hobbit and other properties, reports Variety.

The rights to Tolkien's library of works was originally sold to United Artist in 1969, and ultimately ended up with New Line Cinema (whose parent company is Warner Bros.). In 2012, the Tolkien estate, along with publisher HarperCollins, filed a lawsuit claiming that the old agreement (which was regranted in 2010) only pertained to "tangible" merchandise (teeshirts, novelty cups, and the like, but nothing digital). According to The Hollywood Reporter, what sparked the estate's interest in this was a spam email that referred to the "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game." The game in question might be this doozy:

The estate then looked into what THR refers to as the "digital exploitations" of The Hobbit and The Lord Of the Rings, and found other items such as an online role-playing game.

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Warner Bros. would counter-sue, saying that the legal challenge had cost the studio “millions of dollars in license fees,” and had hampered marketing for the Peter Jackson-directed movies. The barrage of lawsuits dove deep, with Warner Bros. asking a judge to disqualify the law firm representing the Tolkiens; the studio alleged that the firm had obtained privileged information through two lawyers who were associated with the 1969 agreement.

The terms to the agreement have not been divulged. A spokesperson for Warner Bros. said in a message to Variety that, “The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”

And, speaking of online slot machines, the slew of LOTR-related goodies includes this set of tea leaves, student housing at UC Irvine, and even orange soda.