The estate of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien 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. on Monday over claims of a violated agreement regarding online games and gambling slots based on the fantasy titles.
Both the estate and publisher Harper Collins state Warner Bros. studio is "usurping rights to which they are not entitled" by apparently violating a contract signed in 1969 to only make "tangible" merchandise based on the fantasy books. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this does not extend to downloadable video games such as the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game, as the contract pre-dates their existence.
"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.
Settlement talks have reportedly gone on for some time without resolution. The full lawsuit can be viewed here.