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Lord of the Rings The Courts Games

Tolkien Estate Sues Over Lord of the Rings Slot Machines 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the tricksy-hobbitses dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Tolkien Estate has filed an $80 million copyright infringement lawsuit in U.S. District Court over the use of Lord of the Rings slot machines. The complaint hinges on a contract between the estate and Warner Bros. which allows the creation of LotR merchandise but not LotR 'intangibles,' like the experience of playing a slot machine game. According to the estate (PDF), '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.'"
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Tolkien Estate Sues Over Lord of the Rings Slot Machines

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  • by ShaunC (203807) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:16PM (#42048469)

    ...have enough FUCKING money yet?

    • by detritus. (46421) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:17PM (#42048481)

      They still haven't found the precious.

      • > They still haven't found the precious.

        I originally read that as:

        They still haven't found the pernicious.

    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:18PM (#42048495)

      No. No "fucking money." They haven't authorized any lord of the rings cockrings yet, though the slogan "one ring to rule them all" would be delightfully appropos.

      • by kawabago (551139) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:34PM (#42048761)
        when you put it on your dick and balls vanish!
      • by hairyfeet (841228)
        No but sadly there is a Lord Of The Cockrings porno out there, I don't know which is worse the mockbusters (although frankly I found "American Battleship" more believable than Battleship) or the porn take offs. Although, just to be fair, you just have to feel sorry for Chyna getting painted completely lime green for the Avengers porno, I don't even wanna know how long it took to paint her head to toe like that. At least with the LOTR porno they just dressed up like a renfair.
    • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:20PM (#42048539) Journal

      Don't Warner Brothers have enough money yet without making LotR slot machines?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by x4000 (1568105)
      Sure! It's right next to their regular money.

      Oblig: http://xkcd.com/90/ [xkcd.com]
    • by mug funky (910186)

      they might be cunts, but i'm on their side on this one.

      pokie machines are a disgusting scourge on society.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      From what I've read its not about the money, its about harming the brand. they think LOTR slots is like putting out LOTR Malt Liquor and don't want to cheapen the brand with tacky shit like that, while the WB says they can do pretty much what they want.

      While i don't really have a horse in this race i can see their point, you have to draw the line somewhere or the WB will be putting out any damned thing they can with the license just to milk those last bucks..like I said imagine limited edition LOTR "Green

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      No, and it's not about money. The primary entity involved with licensing is not the Tolkien Estate but the Saul Zaentz Company. And Saul Zaentz Co. is one the the defendents here! This is actually pretty intersting. For a long time the Tolkien Estate has really been locked out of many decisions involving the Lord of the Rings IP. Tolkien licensed the film and merchandising rights to United Artists in 1969, and eventually ended up in the Saul Zaentz Company.

    • by ch0knuti (994541)

      I could be wrong here but didn't JRR Tolkien sign away the rights to LoTR and The Hobbit movies when he was still alive? Some American company if I remember correctly. Christopher tolkien was against the movies getting made but they still did them despite what he wanted.
      I guess this is why we will never get to see a movie based on the Silmarillion (the Tolkien estate still has the rights to that) :(

    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      ...have enough FUCKING money yet?

      Why is it okay for everyone BUT the family to make money off it????

      • The family can make slot machines too if they want. The books were written over 55 years ago by a guy who has been dead for 39 years. It should be ok for everyone to do whatever they want with it by now. The actual creator of the work can't profit from it anymore even if you think he still should. If someone thinks these machines or whatever else people come up with are distasteful they they can just not use them.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      As I understand it, $100 is enough money to fuck unless you prefer weird shit.
      So to answer your question; probably "yes".

  • by xevioso (598654) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:20PM (#42048527)

    ...the Tolkein Estate wants to be Lord of the Blings as well.

    • by xevioso (598654)

      Or Kachings. Or Pings. Or whatever. I'll stop now.

    • So far as I understand it, the licensing agreements that JRRT sold did not extend to marketing, so I would imagine that the Estate retains the right of approval for any marketing.

  • How dare they... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BoberFett (127537) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:22PM (#42048571)

    How dare they attempt to flagrantly abuse the creative works created by an author 80 years ago, when the great-grandchildren of said author deserve a life of luxury for all of their blood, sweat and tears!

    • by westlake (615356)

      How dare they attempt to flagrantly abuse the creative works created by an author 80 years ago, when the great-grandchildren of said author deserve a life of luxury for all of their blood, sweat and tears!

      1 The literary estate of an author is often the only thing he has to give to his children --- and that is an incentive to be productive.

      2 The ur-Geek began buying into the LOTR fantasy along about 1957-1965, and "buying," I think, is the right word here.

      3 There has been plenty of borrowing as well. In Infocom's prime the adventure game --- and by extension --- the RPG could draw on any form of genre fiction, pulp fiction, and see some commercial success. It wasn't all elves and orcs, D&D.

      A world

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        1 The literary estate of an author is often the only thing he has to give to his children --- and that is an incentive to be productive.

        Whereas everybody else only has a small amount of real and personal property to bequeath.
        Property purchased with the money derived from one's life's work.
        I'm failing to understand why authors should get some special deal.

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      That fails to defend why it would be OK for WB to make these slot machines.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      If the choice was between making it public domain versus an estate clinging to an old work to squeeze money from it, then maybe some people might agree with you. But this is about an estate who has very little actual control over film and merchandising versus Hollywood giants of Warner Brothers and Saul Zaentz Company. These people are vastly more litigious than the Tolkien Estate (it was the Saul Zaentz Company that sued the Hungry Hobbit Cafe in England).

  • Get some (Score:5, Insightful)

    by niado (1650369) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:23PM (#42048587)
    Though the litigiousness of the Tolkien Estate (via the ancient and gnarled iron grip of J.R.R's son Christopher [wikipedia.org]) usually gives me indigestion, my organs seem unaffected by this case. LOTR-related merchandise is often tacky to a ridiculous level, but it seems WB has gone over the deep end here.
  • A few nights ago my band was playing at one of the local Casino showrooms, and I noticed these new LOTR machines. I did a double take! Most of you probably do not frequent Casinos (nor would I, except for my gigs there), but they have all these movie-themed slot machines; Wizard Of Oz, Dirty Dancing, etc. But LOTR machines just seem really strange for some reason. Funny.... no Ocean's Eleven ones.

    • I don't think your average business dedicated to parting pathetic gambling addicts and thrill junkies from their cash could stand the deep irony of a series of films based on parting the money of your average business dedicated to parting pathetic gambling addicts and thrill junkies from their money.

  • Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmarterThanMe (1679358) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:30PM (#42048705)

    Poker machines are morally disgusting. They're basically a way of imposing a tax on people too stupid or hopeful to know better. Here in Australia, there's people who literally bankrupt themselves pouring money into the bloody things. I'm all for individual responsibility, but those bloody things are designed to addict more than cigarettes or crack cocaine.

    What's more, venues that have poker machines deliberately target the poor [smh.com.au]. I've walked into a couple of poker machine venues, they are literally the embodiment of everything that is wrong with modern day society. Pensioners, disabled people, smoking heavily and desperate for, if nothing else, just a near-win.

    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      Poker machines are morally disgusting. They're basically a way of imposing a tax on people too stupid or hopeful to know better.

      There's a huge difference between a video poker machine and a slot machine.

      A slot machine is completely random and you have no control over the result. Video poker, on the other hand, can actually be a statistical money maker for the player if they know how to play and the machine has a favorable payout table. Don't quit your day job, though, because even playing at $10/hand you'd only make around $10/hour though perfect play. Between free drinks and comp benefits, you can end up spending only $1-2/hour

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Poker machines are morally disgusting. They're basically a way of imposing a tax on people too stupid or hopeful to know better.

      While I agree with most of what you said, imposing is a bit too strong.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      > Poker machines are morally disgusting. They're basically a way of imposing a tax on people too stupid or hopeful to know better.

      You're absolutely right, but we have a choice not to use them. One can't stop people voluntarily destroying themselves, and I'm not sure we even have the moral obligation to try.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      The advent of video poker machines has made it worse. With the mechanical one, if you were "one off" you *really* were "one off" from a win. but with the video ones, they choose the ending when you pull the lever (or hit the button) and they are required to pay out a certain amount. But the adjacent ones are not regulated, so you are almost always "one off" from a win. A psychological lie to make you think the odds are better than they really are. A lie (you weren't really one away) designed to deceive
    • by chrismcb (983081)

      Poker machines are morally disgusting.

      You don't really know what you are talking about do you?
      Video and slot machines typically have a payout of 98-99% Of course you have to play a lot to hit these numbers, but how long? If you play $10,000 you'll theoretically lose $200. But how much entertainment did you get for that $200? More than 20 movies? Or a dozen concerts? How many liquor would that buy? People spend money on a lot of things. And some choose to spend it entertaining themselves playing video poker. Doesn't mean it is morally disgusti

    • by pla (258480)
      They're basically a way of imposing a tax on people too stupid or hopeful to know better.

      Wait... I don't quite see the problem there. A voluntary tax... On the stupid! Goodness... We have so much stupid going around here in the US, we could balance the federal budget with something like that!


      What's more, venues that have poker machines deliberately target the poor.

      I don't know how this works in Australia, but in the US, the poor don't pay income taxes. So if, after getting paid and complaining a
    • Poker machines are morally disgusting

      Fuck you. Your morals disgust me. If people want to play slots, then it is not your place to judge them. Get over yourself.

      I guess you find crack and cigarettes morally disgusting too? Fuck you again. Grow a spine and let others do what they will. If someone is crying that they chose to be addicted, help them if you want, but it is their fucking choice to do whatever the fuck they want with themselves... even if it leads them into areas that morally disgust you.

  • slot machines are totally against the spirit of the books.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      slot machines are totally against the spirit of the books.

      So is any form of film or video, if you listen to the purists in the Tolkien Usenet groups.

      (And yes, Usenet does still exist.)

  • by organgtool (966989) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:47PM (#42048927)

    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

    I can't claim to be the biggest fan of Tolkien novels, but does anyone believe for a second that there are a significant number of fans that are outraged over the release of a LotR slot machine to the point of causing "irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy"? I would say that the greed of the owners of the Tolkien estate is doing more irreparable harm to the Tolkien legacy than the release of a fucking slot machine. After this, I would rather put $10 into a LotR slot machine than towards a ticket to see the upcoming Hobbit movie.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      If nothing else, I figure the only people seeing them will be adults who frequent casinos. IE they can't have a real beef with slot machines and gambling in the first place. The only 'damage' would come from anti-gambling Tolkien fans, which would be a tiny fraction of the fans who just don't care either way, and a good chance of being outnumbered by the Tolkien fans who like gambling.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      > I can't claim to be the biggest fan of Tolkien novels, but does anyone believe for a second that there are a significant number of fans that are outraged over the release of a LotR slot machine to the point of causing "irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy"?

      Good point. I wasn't. I probably wouldn't ever have even known about it had it not been for this article. And I'm really having a hard time... caring.

  • ...A real gamble.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:07PM (#42049177)

    From the summary:

    which allows the creation of LotR merchandise but not LotR 'intangibles,' like the experience of playing a slot machine game.

    I haven't played (or seen) the LotR slot machines, but is the gameplay really themed to LotR? Most themed slot machines I've played are slot machines with themed graphics, but the gameplay is pretty much like every other slot machine out there. Does the gameplay of these slots have anything to do with the books? (aside from something like needing to roll 3 Gandalfs to hit the jackpot with a 3X The One Ring multiplier.

    this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien's devoted fan base,

    I'd consider myself a Tolkien fan, but the only thing I'm outraged about is that his estate is still able to make money from the books 40 years after his death. It should have fallen out of copyright long ago and we should be seeing lots of derivative works building upon the stories.

  • They have to milk it now while they can. Copyright expires 70 years after the authors death, which was 2nd September 1973. All J.R.R Tolkien works are public domain in the UK where they were published on 3rd September 2043. They still have 31 years to milk it.

    It's pretty sad that a book written in 1937, The Hobbit, will be under copyright for 106 years. Their 1842 law was much better, 42 years or 7 years after death, which ever was longer.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Yeah, Christopher and his kids will probably never have to work for a living, but his grandchildren may have to get a job.

      • by chrismcb (983081)
        Christopher worked pretty hard.
        But what is this jealousy over the children getting a free ride? Are parents not allowed to try to leave their children with money?
    • by KiloByte (825081)

      I prefer the length of copyright in Roman, Ur-Nammu's or Hammurabi's law.

      • It doesn't matter what you prefer, Tolkiens books were published in the UK by a UK citizen so fall under UK copyright laws.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There should be a spaceballs like parody with Gandalf selling merchandise.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:30PM (#42049403)
    Damn, now I had to cancel my plans to make a LOTR craps table with "you shall not bet the pass" written on it :(
  • ...the lord of the rings pinball machines? Are purists up in arms about that too?

  • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:39PM (#42050931) Homepage

    "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."

    Yeh, because Peter Jackson's atrocities didn't do this already?

    • by HonIsCool (720634)
      I agree with your opinion on Jackson's films, but the deal with the films were actually struck with Tolkien himself who, as I recall from Letters, saw two paths to making films out of the books: artistic integrity...or money. And he decided to go with the money. This produced the bad cartoon film (which strangely enough I actually recall more fondly than the Jackson's films but I think that might just be my rose-tinted spectacles.)
  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Wednesday November 21, 2012 @01:15AM (#42051525)
    I thought the Hobbit all you can eat buffets were very appropriate.
  • causing irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works

    You know WHAT is causing irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works? The Tolkien Estate sueing the crap out of everyone, even Sauron (tm) in his Dark Tower of Barad-dûr (tm) would be ashamed of them.

  • Okay, yeah, a LotR slot machine may be repulsive.

    But I find the fact that Tolkien has been dead just shy of 40 years but we're still dealing with rights on his work to be even more repulsive.

    I can understand why his estate works so hard to protect the rights. If they didn't have them, they'd have to get real jobs instead of leaching off of an ancestor.

  • How's this any different tha the LotR Pinball machine?

    http://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?gid=4858 [ipdb.org]

(1) Never draw what you can copy. (2) Never copy what you can trace. (3) Never trace what you can cut out and paste down.

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