Lord of the Rings Slot nets Million for Tolkien Family

Warner Bros Studios agreed to an $80 million settlement with the J.R.R. Tolkien estate after overstepping its copyright bounds with digital content, including a Lord of the Rings Slot.

On September 21, 1937, famed English author, poet, philologist and professor J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit (aka There And Back Again). On July 29, 1954, he published the sequel—the first in an epic trilogy—Lord Of The Rings.

Lord of the rings slot machine LOTR slotThen, in September of 2010, the first Lord of the Rings slot machine, (aka LOTR Slot) was introduced by online gaming software developer Microgaming. A land-based rendition was subsequently introduced by International Game Technology (IGT).

As far apart and innocent as this timeline of events may seem, it led to a class action lawsuit. The end result – the Tolkien Estate received an $80 million settlement from Warner Bros Studios.

Warner Bros went Too Far with LOTR Slot

To explain the situation, we have to turn back time once more to 1969. That was the year the estate sold the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s celebrated themes, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, along with merchandising, to United Artists.

After that, company changed hands on several occasions, and the rights eventually ended up in the hands of Warner Bros.

Since then, the company has successfully marketed the brands. The age-old tale of Mr. Bilbo Baggins and his second cousin (once removed), Frodo Baggins, was revitalized at the turn of the millennium with blockbuster, multi-Academy-award winning film adaptations of Tolkien’s original works.

  • The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings (2001)

  • The Lord of the Ring: The Two Tower (2002)

  • The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

A theatrical trilogy of The Hobbit was later produced by the same director, Peter Jackson, a decade later.

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

But it wasn’t these mightily successful film adaptations that drove the late author’s daughter, Priscilla Tolkien, and the entire Tolkien Estate, to file a lawsuit against Warner Bros. That was the result of digital media merchandise, like the LOTR Slot, that they claimed turned Tolkien’s legacy into a gambling fiasco.

Lord of the Rings Slot Sparks Lawsuit

The Tolkien Estate sued Warner Bros. in 2012 over copyright infringement. In the beginning, the company denied the claims, going so far as to counter-sue the estate for its “about face” reaction to previous, contracted consent.

But the estate argued that Warner Bros. rights extended only to “tangible” goods, such as apparel, action figures, dolls, figurines and other physical items. By taking their merchandise into the “digital” realm, the estate felt Warner Bros. had gone one step too far.

What outraged the estate the most was the production of branded Lord of the Ring slot machines, for both land-based and online casinos. The family argued that these gambling amusements had irreparably tarnished the legacy and reputation of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Eventually, Warner Bros. relented, agreeing to settle the case out of court for a sum of $80 million. In a statement following the settlement, the company said:

“The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”

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