The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that the estate of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien has filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and the screen rights holder of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Saul Zaentz Co. The lawsuit was filed (see complaint here PDF) on Monday over claims that the named parties violated the agreement regarding online games when it decided to let a company make an online gambling game using the brand.
Lawyers for the estate and publisher Harper Collins allege that Warner Bros. studio is "usurping rights to which they are not entitled" by violating a contract signed way back 1969 that limits them to make "tangible" merchandise based on the books. The game in question that has made the estate of the fantasy author so angry is a Lord of the Rings-themed slots game.
"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," reads the statement from the plaintiffs.
We'll have more on this story as it develops. The estate seems to have no problem with the MMO game developed by Turbine or games that have been developed in the past by various developers – it's the whole idea of a gambling game that seems to have sent them into a frenzy – coupled with negotiations that have gone nowhere…