Do J.R.R. Tolkien's Kids Deserve Money For The Lord Of The Rings Movies?

from the what-did-they-have-to-do-with-it dept

There are some competing opinion pieces in the LA Times, starting off with one siding with J.R.R. Tolkien's kids in their legal fight for royalties from the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies:
Tolkien obviously isn't Peter Jackson, who directed the franchise, or Liv Tyler or Viggo Mortensen, who starred in it, or New Line Cinema, the studio that financed it, or Miramax, which owned the film rights for a second but couldn't get the movie made, or producer Saul Zaentz, who bought the rights in 1976. He's just the guy who dreamed up the cosmology, the whole shebang of hobbits and dwarfs, orcs, ents, wargs, trolls, whatnot.
Then, there's the other side, pointing out that while it might be true that they legally deserve the money, it doesn't make any common sense:
I find it offensive to common sense to argue that the heirs of J.R.R. Tolkien (who are as dismayingly numerous as Kennedys in the court filing) are entitled to a shilling for work in which they had no hand and which was completed in 1949.
Most of the essay focuses on the question of the length of copyright, which we all know has been expanded to ridiculous lengths. However, it does seem like a reasonable question to ask why the kids of Tolkien deserve money for a movie they had nothing to do with based on an idea they had nothing to do with.


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  1.  
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    eleete, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 5:43pm

    Taste of her medicine

    While I agree, maybe some of these overzealous copyright freaks need a taste of their own medicine sometimes. No one likes a troll popping up years after the fact, but thats what copyright is. She is certainly no stranger to the process as techdirt has covered.
    http://www.techdirt.com/search.php?site=&q=rowling

     

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    Michael Long, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 5:44pm

    Estate

    JRR's estate has long since been probated. As such, no member outside of the estate and the ongoing business has any right to future income, unless otherwise granted by the provisions of his will.

    It would be like (car analogy coming) a distant relative of Henry Ford appearing and demanding money from the latest sales (if any) of the F-350.

    The copyright issues are simply red (and sensationalized) herrings in this case.

     

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    Aaron, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 5:45pm

    It isn't entirely true that the kids had nothing to do with it, JRR's son, Christopher, did a lot of revising and editing after his father's death, and he also published and edited quite a few of JRR's other stories if memory serves me right.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 5:51pm

    "Deserves" is not relevant to the law.

     

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    Alan, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 5:51pm

    Exactly how is this any different than the children of a millionaire inheriting their father's estate which they had nothing to do with building? It may seem a little unfair that someone can inherit millions they had nothing to do with, just by being born to the right parents, but the alternative is the government interfering in the property rights of individuals and saying that people do not have the right to do with their property what they please. Copyright may be intellectual property, but it is property nonetheless, and if the heirs of the Tolkein estate own the copyright, then yes, they deserve money just as if it was JRR himself.

    Mike, your reasoning is starting to get seriously slipshod in the process of promoting your point of view through these articles.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike (profile), Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 5:59pm

    Re:

    Exactly how is this any different than the children of a millionaire inheriting their father's estate which they had nothing to do with building?

    That's tangible property that is passed on. This is about a totally different product based on an idea. It's quite different.

    It may seem a little unfair that someone can inherit millions they had nothing to do with, just by being born to the right parents

    This is not about inheriting. This about getting money from a new product.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:00pm

    Do the childeren of Peter Jackson, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, New Line Cinema, Miramax, Saul Zaentz get anything from the work ?

     

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    Jonas, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:03pm

    Depends on what you mean by "had nothing to do with". The eldest of Tolkien's sons, Christopher Tolkien, had considerable input into "The Lord of the Ring", not to mention that he edited the Silmarillion and has published extensively into elaborating/fine tuning the works of his father.

    True. J.R.R. Tolkien is the master mind of it all but to say that his kids had nothing to do with it is stretching things beyond breaking point and is akin to claiming that Philip K. Dick had nothing to do with "Bladerunner".

     

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    Zubin, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:10pm

    They should get money for the work they've done

    Aaron brings up a good point. Christopher Tolkien has devoted his life to his father's work. Without his work, Tolkien's massive collections of unfinished stories and notes may not have seen the light of day for decades, if ever. To say the works of Christopher had no impact on the movies would be naive.

    Mike, this is actually related to one of the most important points you bring up. Christopher Tolkien has created wonderful things for the world based almost solely on another individual's work (His Father's). He was lucky enough to be in a position to do this within the law.

    The real question here is the right way to reward him for helping to swan (albeit it, with feet dragging), a highly successful film franchise. Is copyright law in its current incarnation the best way? probably not. However, until there is a replacement, to deny copyright on such a case would be a game of favorites which is probably worse than bad copyright.

     

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    Ross Nicholson (profile), Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:11pm

    Do J.R.R. Tolkien's Kids Deserve Money For The Lord Of The Rings Movies?

    I re-wrote the story a little for LOR, planned for all at one time live action shooting, and green-lit the funding of the project. I even contributed the 'cape pin' jewelry used to costume the lead actors. I got nothing. It only seems right that J.R.R.'s kids should also have their lives limited, be thrown onto welfare to sicken and die. Most of them are probably just English people anyway.
    My dead brother-in-law was the last Grimm of the fairytale family. He died broke.
    Why should this green earth perpetuate the genes of genius when there's so many more thieves of intellectual property who are obviously more deserving in the eyes of our court system?

     

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    Walt Disney's Ghost, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:16pm

    bastards...

    Why is it those thieving bastards left running my company feel they deserve any money for stuff I funded the creation of over 50 years ago... I mean original copyrights were 14 years.. that should be enough dammit...

     

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    eleete, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:23pm

    Re: Re:

    Agreed, good points

     

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    eleete, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:25pm

    Re: bastards...

    LOL, True enough, the perfect argument

     

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    Peter G, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:31pm

    Lost Tales, Silmarillion don't count.

    Other Tolkien works are not the subject here, they have nothing to do with it, they weren't in the film.

    But let us be clear, they are not springing out of the woodwork after the movie and claiming some vague inheritance rights. They had a signed contract they are trying to get honored. Totally different issue. Copyright exists and as such it can be transferred/bought/sold. In this case it stayed with the relatives.

    Now I absolutely agree copyright lasts way too ridiculously long. Copyright was not meant to enrich people/corporations throughout time. They were meant to encourage production of works. In which case a term of 20 years would be completely sufficient. Any longer and they discourage production of new works, stifle production of derivative works.

     

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    Roy Ubu, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:39pm

    I hate perpetual copyrights

    > Saul Zaentz, who bought the rights in 1976

    I'd say that sums it up. You don't change the deal after the deal was made.

    I happen to have a set of "Lord of the Rings" Mass-Market Paperbacks published by Ace Books, Inc. Apparently, Houghton Mifflin Company had failed to secure the paperback rights for a short period before they were sold to Ballantine. So, Ace was able to publish the trilogy under Public Domain for a very short window. I'm sure someone has a better account of what actually went on here.

     

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    Mike (profile), Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:39pm

    Re:

    "Deserves" is not relevant to the law.

    It's not? If people are getting things they don't deserve because of the law, doesn't that create a decent reason to question the law?

    Or are laws unquestionable in your mind, no matter how ridiculous the results of those laws?

     

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    Zubin, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:41pm

    Re: Lost Tales, Silmarillion don't count.

     

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    Zubin, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:44pm

    Re: Lost Tales, Silmarillion don't count.

    The movies drew heavily on non-lotr middle earth knowledge, so I think they do count to some degree, if you're considering this from an incentive purpose.

    (sorry for accidental empty post above, feel free to delete that one)

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:54pm

    Back in my day, kids has to grow up and work for themselves.

    Do we see the descendants of the Wright Bros. suing anybody?

     

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    Cynic, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:56pm

    IANAL but I seem to recall a case from Business Law in college where someone dropped a big transformer on someone's head and there was a US law suit. The wife got loss of income and consortium, the kids got zip, zero, nada. Apparently going back centuries to British common law kids are not entitled to a father, but wives are entitled to their husbands for income and intimacy.

    So my point is if kids don't have a claim on even having a father, then their claim on something the father did a long time ago seems pretty thin to me.

     

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    Ernie Oporto (profile), Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 7:11pm

    no

    Maybe they should figure out their own way through life and stop leeching off their dead relative. Maybe make some interesting stories that will stand on their own and EARN them their own cash.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 7:33pm

    Since this appears to be a "breach of contract" case, I am trying to figure out why all the ranting about copyright is taking place here.

    Oh, I forgot. This is techdirt's blog site. My mistake.

     

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  23.  
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    Zubin, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 7:35pm

    It seems like this discussion is for naught. Most folks are taking the statement "an idea they had nothing to do with" as a truth.

    Mike, you may want to post a clarification to that statement. Otherwise you're making it sound like all the value is in the idea, and the grunt work of compiling and editing masses of notes and letters is meaningless.

    Asserting none of the children have anything to do with the continued success of LOTR in print and in film is distracting from the real discussions around this issue.

    If "copyright" inheritance is the discussion you wanted to have, unfortunately this is the wrong case to base it on.

     

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  24.  
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    Rose M. Welch, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 7:37pm

    Re: They should get money for the work they've done

    Without his work, Tolkien's massive collections of unfinished stories and notes may not have seen the light of day for decades, if ever. To say the works of Christopher had no impact on the movies would be naive.

    Okay, but every fantasy story that Tolkein ever wrote had an impact on what Tolkein wrote. Do their kids get money, also? Where does it stop? Should Christopher get money for every story that was written by an author that was inspired by the fantasy of Tolkein? Once again, where does it stop?

    The work is over fifty years old. Isn't the copyright expired?

     

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    My two cents, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 7:50pm

    Why didn't the heirs think to ask for money before the films were made or mention copyright or after the first movie? They didn't seem to care then (although maybe they did) , but now there is a fortune to be had, everyone wants a piece.. can't say I blame them for trying.
    Would we pay royalties to Picasso? Einstein? Da Vinci? Shakespeare? and many many many other heirs?
    I respect copyright and people's work and their proper credit, but this is getting ridiculous....

     

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  26.  
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    Andrew Mottaz, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 8:04pm

    Real Issue

    In the article -- the real issue is not whether they deserve the money -- they do - they have a contract that gives them 7.5% of the gross. The issue is that NewLine is saying that the gross is $0, so they don't get anything. New Line already went to court with 2 others who had part of the gross for basically the same thing.

     

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  27.  
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    Andrew Farris, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 8:46pm

    Re: Christopher Tolkien's contributions

    Aaron, you're right that Christopher Tolkien has made significant contribution to his father's legacy; Christopher compiled his father's unpublished notes (several short works) to publish 'The Children of Hurin' and 'The Silmarillion'. However, neither of those works are in any way infringed by the movies. It would be very hard to argue that Christopher has any claim on the movies, and even harder that anyone else in the extended family does.

     

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  28.  
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    Elohssa, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:10pm

    They sold the rights!

    If they sold the movie rights, they already got paid. Or Tolkien did. That contract is probably pretty clear on what Tolkien or his kids get.

    It was probably a pittance, but I'll just bet Tolkien needed the money at the time.

    Same reason we'll never have a Neuromancer movie.

    Same reason (though not the only one) that Johnny Mneumonic sucked so hard.

    The guy who invented the paperclip gave it away to pay off a loan. Should his kids come wandering back?

     

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    Someone who read the article, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 9:21pm

    READ THE ARTICLE!

    Read the article -- Tolkien sold the rights for cash and 7.5% of gross! The company is claiming that 7.5% of gross is almost nothing!

     

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  30.  
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    Ian, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:11pm

    I was going to say that JRR Tolkien, JRR Tolkien's children, and JRR Tolkien's grandchildren do not have a right to any of the money made by the films. They made that money when they sold the film rights.

    However, after reading the story, I think Tolkien's children do deserve 7.5% of the earnings. Chris Tolkien did contribute, and even if he hadn't, the value of the LOTR books is a direct inheritance from his father, which his children are entitled. I don't think JRR Tolkien's grandchildren or great grandchildren deserve anything if the films are remade (for whatever reason), but Christopher Tolkien (and her sister) definitely should get the money.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:27pm

    Re:

    But didn't actually CREATE the Lord of the Rings story though? NEXT!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 10:31pm

    Re: They should get money for the work they've done

    I'm sure he's been rewarded quite handsomely through his own literary efforts. This is, however you dress it up intellectually, a money grab by a greedy man, not some sacred crusade against a big evil. Where was Christopher when the original cartoon movie was made? Oh yeh - it didn't make billions of dollars so there's no financial sense in pursuing that avenue is there? Don't hide greed behind a sense of moral righteousness.

     

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  33.  
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    Tony, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 11:17pm

    contracts

    I haven't looked at the details here, but there are a few people saying that they have a contract giving them 7.5% of the gross.

    Mike - if they have that contract, then COPYRIGHT is irrelevant, wouldn't you agree? What matters is the substance of that particular contract. If New Line agreed to the 7.5%, then they should pay up.

    I'm not arguing the underlying point here - only the matter of the contract.


    And, I agree that, in law, DESERVES has nothing to do with it. You can argue whether is SHOULD or not (and get very little argument from me) - but the simple fact of the law is that what someone deserves is irrelevant to the law. Just as what is RIGHT is irrelevant - all that matters is what is legal.

     

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    Khaled, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 12:29am

    Re: Re:

    The laws are questionable; their application shouldn't be. If the law is ridiculous (and I think it is) you can try to change it, but as long as it is in place, you can't selectively choose when to apply it based on what you believe people deserve or don't deserve.

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 12:32am

    7.5% of Gross?

    If they're claiming a percentage of gross, then they're screwed. Peter Jackson also got screwed by New Line Cinema in this way--it's quite common for movie companies with fantastically successful blockbusters to claim that they made no money at all. It's all a scam to avoid paying royalties.

     

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    Kingster (profile), Jul 4th, 2008 @ 1:14am

    It's the estate...

    Most of you need to RTFA. The estate of JRRT is what sold those rights back in the day, which were then transferred, to New Line which was then transferred to Warner.

    17USC304 says that length of copyright for Tolkien's work published in '54-55 is 28 years (if copyright not renewed) or 95 years after publication for works published 1923-1963 (Copyrights prior to 1923 have expired.)

    The copyrights are still owned by the estate, and they don't disappear after death, they disappear after publication date. Newer works (since '78) do go 95 years after death.

    Point is, the estate has every right to nail Warner to a wall. They still own the copyright, they still had a signed contract, entitling them to 7.5%. They'll get it. And then, they'll disburse it to needy organizations: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/ShowCharity.asp?RegNo=273615

    Look starting on page 11:
    http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/ScannedAccounts%5CEnds15%5C0000273615_ ac_20070405_e_c.pdf

    And if, you look further down, you can see that the trustees take a very nominal stipend from it. Not the millions the estate takes in. Ya'll need to do some damn research.

     

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  37.  
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    Art Vandalya, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 1:32am

    Do they deserve it

    Does Bill Gates kids deserve it? Does Sam Walton kids deserve it? I think we all recognize that I can go on and on. If Someone made something and willed it to their kids what is wrong with that? If it was some techinique to create plastic no one would be complaining. Tell how this is different?

     

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  38.  
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    Evil Mike, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 1:35am

    Re:

    "Do the childeren of Peter Jackson, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, New Line Cinema, Miramax, Saul Zaentz get anything from the work ?"

    An eventual inheritance?

     

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  39.  
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    SteveD, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 3:20am

    The wrong question

    "However, it does seem like a reasonable question to ask why the kids of Tolkien deserve money for a movie they had nothing to do with based on an idea they had nothing to do with."

    Its also a reasonable question to ask why a studio is trying to avoid paying anyone for a series of movies that they made billions of dollars from, including people like Jackson and Zaentz who had pivitol roles in its creation.

    This isn't an issue of copyright, its an issue of yet another publisher fiddling the books so it gets to keep more of the pie.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 5:17am

    New Line is just holding on to the cash with tight fists

    After reading the article, it became obvious. New Line is not paying what they are legally required to pay. Why? Because the amount of cash is so high, the numbercrunchers know that a protracted legal battle is cheaper. In the end they will settle & it will most likely cost them less than if they had payed up what the owed in the first place.

    Doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, it’s what was already agreed on legally.

     

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  41.  
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    bobbknight, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 5:39am

    Anytime

    I think that anytime a dollar gets taken out of the greedy bastards hands in Hollywood it's a good thing.

     

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  42.  
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    Clay, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    As long as it doesn't end up in the government's hands...

    Who SHOULD that money go to? Who should decide? I guess government knows best for all those that worship the wealth envy religion. Unless specified otherwise in his will, no one BUT his heirs deserve a single cent. If he was still with us, he would be collecting that money and it would end up in their hands anyways. The wealth envy of this nation is frightening.

     

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    M Braedley (profile), Jul 4th, 2008 @ 7:51am

    If Tolkien were still alive...

    ...would he have received any royalties? That's the first question to be asked. If the answer is no, then his estate is not entitled to anything. Plain and simple. If instead the answer is yes, as the story leads me to believe, then the issue becomes a little muddy. If it is documented in Tolkien's will that any future earnings from past works would go to his estate, than the family may have a case.

     

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    jawatech, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 8:13am

    Re: They should get money for the work they've done

    Tolkien sold all the rights away, therefore his children have no rights to any of it. That is the law. End of discussion.

     

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  45.  
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    Willton, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 8:22am

    Re: Re:

    It's not? If people are getting things they don't deserve because of the law, doesn't that create a decent reason to question the law?

    Or are laws unquestionable in your mind, no matter how ridiculous the results of those laws?


    Hmm, someone apparently has trouble picking up on sarcasm.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 8:47am

    jawatech said: "Tolkien sold all the rights away, therefore his children have no rights to any of it"

    RTFA

    He sold the rights yes, accourding to the article:

    "Tolkien licensed motion picture rights to United Artists back in 1969 for a low six-figure sum and 7.5% of the "gross receipts." Gross receipts are the money the distributor actually gets from the theaters and ancillary markets."

    The money became too big to just give what was owed. Same with Jackson. This kina money causes sudden legal manuvers.

     

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    Emmanuel, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 9:23am

    Re: JRR's kids

    There's a lot of talk about the heirs having "nothing to do with it". Seriously, what's "it"? I assume that means JRR's creation, in the form of LOTR. Who can say, then, what inspired him, what challenged him? For all we know, the character Aragorn might have been his vision of the character of one of his kids.
    Besides that, it has to be said that the movies (and consequently, those involved with them) are not separate products, but an interpretation or retelling of the original story. In fact, you could look at the movie as the child of the book.

     

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    Iggy, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 9:44am

    It doesn't matter AT ALL what Tolkien's kids had to do with anything. All that matters is what Tolkien directed to be done with his estate. Period. Just like the rest of us.

     

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  49.  
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    Carlos, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 9:56am

    Re: Do they deserve it

    Just read the article! They have the right to 7.5% of gross! It's not about copyright

     

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  50.  
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    ed, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 10:11am

    Sure are a lot of poor Techdirt readers it seems to me.. jealous much eh? Why so much hate? Cause you live with your parents? Because your parents weren't Tolkien and didn't create something meaningful to thousands of people? Because you are poor and will always be poor? Because you will never get out of your dinky 9-5 or late shift work but these people are 'better' off than you with no 'effort?'

    Almost every response post on this article is obvious bitterness from the responders personal life.

    Who SHOULD be making the money off Tolken's work? JUST the MOVIE industry? JUST the book publishers? No one in the family should see any money; yet companies that truly did had nothing to do with the creation and are just making money off someone else's idea; should?

    I'd rather give some of the money to the family that the wonderful idea came from than give more money that the can use to hunt more people down kthx.

     

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    Wiggins, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 10:45am

    The point point in the very end of the article...

    The point that I noticed in the end of the article, was the clause in the suit that is asking TO CANCEL ANY FUTURE MOVIE RIGHTS. His estate is probably more interested in making sure nobody else makes bastardized hollywood versions of their father's amazing stories.

    But ya'll can sit around and bicker about why they want millions of dollars for charities if you want.

     

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  52.  
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    Advocate of the Devil, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Re:

    I think you have taken what he said: ""Deserves" is not relevant to the law" out of context. He was expressing neither agreement nor discontentment with the law... just stating that in its current state, it is what it is.

    However, if they were given (by any legal means) rights to the copyrights, then I believe they have the right to expect that to be honored.

    As far as the law governing this, if we as a people don't like it...we should work to change it and not be upset at those exercising their rights under such a law.

     

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  53.  
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    George Johnston, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 3:54pm

    Why do it?

    "However, it does seem like a reasonable question to ask why the kids of Tolkien deserve money for a movie they had nothing to do with based on an idea they had nothing to do with."

    I guess "Gandalf would have wanted it that way." wouldn't hold up in court?

     

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  54.  
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    Marshall, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 4:21pm

    Tolkien's Heirs

    Tolkien's heirs deserve just as much a piece of the proverbial pie as Tolkien himself would be entitled to. It doesn't matter in the least bit when he wrote the book. The fact that he wrote it and that they used his ideas grants him and his progeny the rights to some compensation for their use of his intellectual property. What other point is there in life for becoming successful rather than to ensure the survival of your progeny, and to try and deny a man that very insurance is ridiculous.

     

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  55.  
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    Bob, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 9:09am

    100% Estate tax?

    If it is offensive for the heirs of Tolkien to get royalties why stop there? Why not impose a 100% estate tax? I have the feeling many would disagree but if we are to be consistent that is what I believe we should do.

    Writing was Tolkien's life work. I can't think of any reason why his heirs should not get the fruit of that work any more than heirs of an industrialist or entrepreneur should not reap the benefits. If someone starts out and builds a company should that company become owned by the government (the public) when they die? What role did the kids have in that person's building of the company.

    As for the length of the copyright, I totally disagree with the notion that the length of the copyright is a ridiculous length. I believe for literary works it is 100% appropriate. It was his genius to be able to write and tell a story that still resonates with us some 50+ years later. What harm comes from maintaining a copyright for a lengthy time? I don't know the specific detail of the Tolkien and New Cinema case, but is the concern that movie studios profits will be somewhat reduced because they will have to give the legitimate owners of the copyright royalties?

     

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  56.  
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    Trott Felipe, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Tolkien Heirs vs. New Line Laid Off Employees

    Give the money to all of the New Line employees who were all just laid off. They're relatively meager salaries need more of a boost than the Tolkien heirs. The Tolkien family can write their own damn books if they want MORE money. Get a job ya bums.

    Trott Felipe

     

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  57.  
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    tim, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 5:05pm

    copyright terms

    Let's put it this way. If media companies didn't lobby for such lengthy copyright terms then this wouldn't be an issue. So boo-hoo for them. Tolkien CREATED the mythology from which this river of gold flows. If the copyright still exists then whoever has a stake in that copyright deserves returns from it. I don't really care if it's Tolkien's dog or his grandkids. It's not about freeloading. It's about the axe cutting both ways. What benefits big corporations doesn't become invalid because it now benefits individual people.

     

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  58.  
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    Hans, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 5:51pm

    Simple

    You have to evaluate the two following questions:

    1. Were they involved in the creation, direction and/or production of the original Lord of the Rings?

    If Yes, then collect money.

    2. Are they just trying to make money off of their dead father's work, without having any personal professional connection to the works created, so you can afford that other BMW and a few new homes or whatever you spend your money on?

    If Yes, then go away, get a life and stop bothering people.

     

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  59.  
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    Hans, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 5:54pm

    Re: copyright terms

    No. You are wrong. You argue that just because money exists, then people who are related deserve a cut of the profits. That makes no sense what so ever.

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 7:11pm

    i love lamp






    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

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  61.  
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    Krubuntu, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 7:44pm

    TSR

    I'm still mad at his son for threatening to sue Gary Gygax and TSR for using the word "Hobbit" in the original D&D games. It seemed as soon has JR died and his son inherited the rights to the books, he jumped on TSR so when they released AD&D, "Hobbit" was changed to "Halfling." All of 'em need to get a job and created their own fortunes instead of suing for a living.

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 3:41am

    Re:

    Copyright is only property because we say it is, just like everything else. We get to make a choice about these things, and about what rights the laws do and do not grant, when we draft our legal code.

    The argument that anyone has a right to anything "because it is property," is the most slipshod argument of all. The legal right exists, but the actual moral and philosophical right is what is being argued; it makes no sense whatsoever to point to rights that we ourselves defined, and then say claim that because we granted them the recipient has some kind of fundamental right.

     

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  63.  
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    Old Guy, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 6:24am

    Missing the point

    Look folks, this is not a case of whether or not any of JRR's kids DESERVE their 7.5%. IF, as part of the sale of rights New Line is contractually obligated to pay the 7.5%, then New Line gets to pay. Last time I looked, the trilogy reportedly grossed somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 BILLION dollars. Now, according to New Line, the movies grossed $0. Merriam-Webster defines gross as overall before deductions. Who here saw the movie for free? I remember paying to see it in the theater and own the DVDs. I spent somewhere in the vicinity of $100. I know I am not alone. New Line is cooking their books and is trying not to live up to a CONTRACT. If the rights were sold without any provisions for a cut for the estate, the the kids are out of luck. So Sad, To bad, You lose.
    This is just another example of the entertainment industry wanting to have it both ways. It's not alright to sue them for not paying what they promised for copyrighted materials, but it's ok for them to sue the hell out of anyone who they deem owes them.

     

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  64.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re:

    I have to agree with Alan here. I believe your strong point of view is blinding your common sense. If the heirs of JRR's estate own the rights to JRR's intellectual property, do they not have the right to be compensated when that property is used?

    What about a musician who performs a remake of another musician's work? Doesn't the authoring musician have the right to request compensation in exchange for the use of their work?

     

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  65.  
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    Glenn Barres, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 12:04pm

    Re: I agree with Alan

    I agree wholeheartedly with what Alan said.

     

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  66.  
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    Mike (profile), Jul 6th, 2008 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    As far as the law governing this, if we as a people don't like it...we should work to change it and not be upset at those exercising their rights under such a law.

    I always find this statement amusing: don't complain about the law if it's the law. Instead you have to change it.

    Did it ever occur to you that complaining about those who profit unfairly from the law *is* a means to getting the law changed?

     

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  67.  
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    Zobeid Zuma, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 2:34pm

    Wrong Question

    No, they don't deserve it. . . But that's not the issue. Copyright law doesn't have anything to do with who "deserves" to be paid, that's not what it's for. Its purpose is to provide an economic incentive to produce. Nothing more, nothing less. The theory is that other authors can look at Tolkien's heirs and say to themselves: "Hmm, if I write something truly great, my grandkids will be provided for. I'd better get cracking!"

    I do, by the way, think that the life span of a copyright has become ridiculous. Fifteen years from the time of first publication should be plenty. But, that's another topic, it's a different issue.

     

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  68.  
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    Pope Ratzo, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 5:11pm

    This is an easy one:

    No, JRR Tolkien's kids don't deserve money for Lord of the Rings. All they've got coming is any money their Dad left them.

    Trying to enforce a copyright after the author is dead is obscene. The idea of "intellectual property" is supposed to encourage creativity. How do you encourage creativity of a dead person? If Tolkien's kids want money, let them write their own books. Maybe it's time to stop trying to squeeze a dollar out of your daddy's corpse.

     

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  69.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I always find this statement amusing: don't complain about the law if it's the law. Instead you have to change it."

    I see you are easily amused by placing words in a person's mouth, and then using it as a strawman to make a point.

    By the way, is your reference to "profit unfairly" a general, "what if" comment, or is it meant to relate specifically to the above article?

     

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  70.  
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    Give me the money, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 9:00pm

    because I want it ok?

    I think they should all give me the money because my great, grandfather taught J.R at Oxford University, where through my G.Grandfathers expert lecturing he received a First Class Honors degree in English Language & Literature. Without this there would be no Lord of any ring! I feel like tearing new line a new ring! and all the other axis of evil US corporates.... They are the true dark lords of this story

     

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  71.  
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    Willton, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 9:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I always find this statement amusing: don't complain about the law if it's the law. Instead you have to change it."

    I see you are easily amused by placing words in a person's mouth, and then using it as a strawman to make a point.


    It shouldn't surprise you: this is how he responds to all criticisms of him.

     

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  72.  
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    Byron, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 9:30pm

    Re: Estate

    Yes, exactly, and to the extent that Ford's distant relatives inherited Henry's stock in Ford Motor Co., they would get their fair share of the F-350 sales.

    If you inherit a house, you get to live in it. If you inherit stock, you get dividends. If you inherit a laundromat, you get the quarters. If you inherit a copyright, you get royalties. It doesn't seem too complicated until the IRS comes to help you work out the taxes.

     

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  73.  
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    Byron, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 9:49pm

    Villagers with Pitchforks

    It is a bit funny how people who hold no copyrights worth anything are quite eager to take away the copyrights of those who do.

    When your copyrights become worthless, it is easy join the throng and claim that intellectual property should be open sourced wholesale.

    This happens to be one of the distinctions between that has prospered the US. By putting a value on intellectual property (transferrable at the will of its owner) and protecting that value for its owner, we encourage people with ideas to bring them into the light. Otherwise, imagine the wasted time and effort people would spend trying to maintain the secrecy until they could effect their coup.

    Let me save you the keystrokes and bandwidth and say it for you..."Byron you're an idiot. You wrong on so many levels that I need a mega dose of ritalin to slow me down so I can grab onto one of them and start in on you."

    There...feel better? I do ;-)

     

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  74.  
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    Scott, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 11:50pm

    Re: Revising and Editing

    LoTR was published well before JRR Tolkein's death. I'm not 100% sure but it may have been published before Christopher's birth. I am sure that it was published before his majority.

     

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  75.  
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    Scott, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 11:57pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    These movies are derivative. Based on and inspired by the original.

    Problem is that copyrights were never meant to last as long as they do now, and they certainly were never meant to be passed through inheritance. The reasonable basis for copyrights was to allow artists to support themselves off their work, LONG ENOUGH TO MAKE MORE.

    Now copyrights are automatic, permanent, and passable through inheritance. Automatic is probably a good idea, since creative people can be neglectful of minutiae outside their work. Permanent, I disagree with, but can live with. Passable through inheritance is a problem for me.

    Eventually, all written works should pass to the public domain.

     

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  76.  
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    Scott, Jul 6th, 2008 @ 11:59pm

    Lousy Analogy

    Philip K. Dick wrote the story that Bladerunner was based on. Are you saying that Christopher Tolkein et al. were the actual authors of Lord of the Rings?

     

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  77.  
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    Scott, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 12:01am

    Re: They should get money for the work they've done

    Christopher, and the rest of the Tolkein estate, had nothing to do with the films. They refused to help.

     

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  78.  
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    Scott, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 12:02am

    Re: Re: They should get money for the work they've done

    That's the problem. They don't expire any more.

     

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  79.  
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    Scott, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 12:05am

    Re: Re: Lost Tales, Silmarillion don't count.

    I disagree. The movies draw directly from the LoTR. Mention of lore that exits in the Silmarillion etc. is limited to those mentions that exist in LoTR.

     

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  80.  
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    Scott, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 12:14am

    Re: contracts

    You're right, the fact that they hold the copyright is irrelevant. And they do deserve 7.5% of the gross. And the gross will be very close to 0. Especially since the movie studios make sure that all grosses are 0 for successful film and maybe a loss. Their profits come from DVD sales, merchandising, etc.

     

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  81.  
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    Mike (profile), Jul 7th, 2008 @ 1:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I see you are easily amused by placing words in a person's mouth, and then using it as a strawman to make a point.

    What was incorrect about my statement?

    You clearly stated that rather than complaining we should change the law. I pointed out why that was silly.

     

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  82.  
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    Willton, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 6:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    What was incorrect about my statement?

    You clearly stated that rather than complaining we should change the law. I pointed out why that was silly.


    No, he didn't. He specifically said that we should "not be upset at those exercising their rights under such a law." He said nothing about whether we should be upset at the law in the first place. In more colloquial terms, he basically said "don't hate the player; hate the game." You, however, misconstrued what he said and then constructed a strawman out of it. That's dishonest arguing.

     

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  83.  
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    SomeGuy, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    What, exactly, are we supposed to complain about if we're not allowed to be upset when we feel people "exerciszing their rights" demonstrate what's wrong about the law?

     

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  84.  
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    Mike (profile), Jul 7th, 2008 @ 9:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, he didn't. He specifically said that we should "not be upset at those exercising their rights under such a law." He said nothing about whether we should be upset at the law in the first place. In more colloquial terms, he basically said "don't hate the player; hate the game." You, however, misconstrued what he said and then constructed a strawman out of it. That's dishonest arguing.

    The only dishonest thing is you claiming that this is a strawman.

    I'm not "hating" Tolkien's heirs. I'm pointing out what appears to be a bad outcome thanks to the law.

    You may have misinterpreted that as "hating" but I don't see how that is. If you're going to point out the bad results of a law in order to get people to think about why it should be changed, it's inevitable that you're going to point out how people are using the law in ways that make little common sense.

     

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  85.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I have a very difficult time understanding how attempting to enforce a payment provision in a contract is "using the law in ways that make little common sense." Bear in mind that this is not a copyright infringement case. It is a case dealing with enforcing the terms of a contract.

    Two parties, each likely represented by able counsel, negotiated the terms of a business deal where neither party had a gun held to their head. They each likely compromised on key points, and then embodied their deal in a written document (contract). Under such circumstances I fail to see any unfairness.

     

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    Willton, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You may have misinterpreted that as "hating" but I don't see how that is. If you're going to point out the bad results of a law in order to get people to think about why it should be changed, it's inevitable that you're going to point out how people are using the law in ways that make little common sense.

    Facts: New Line and Tolkien's heirs formed an agreement that required New Line to pay Tolkien's heirs a percentage of the gross profits from the LotR film series. New Line has decided not to pay Tolkien's heirs said percentage, or has done so presumably by saying that New Line has made no gross profits from said film series. Tolkien's heirs sue for breach of contract, claiming that New Line has not met their end of the agreement.

    Tell me again how this does not make sense?

     

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  87.  
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    Willton, Jul 7th, 2008 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    What, exactly, are we supposed to complain about if we're not allowed to be upset when we feel people "exerciszing their rights" demonstrate what's wrong about the law?

    You complain about the law. You don't complain about the people.

     

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  88.  
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    Bobby J., Jul 7th, 2008 @ 1:38pm

    What the...

    I thought the producer bought the rights. The law is the law. If he got a shitty deal on paper in 1976, blame himself and the lawyer who wrote up the deal. If legally they are entitled to money based on length of copyright, then give it to them. Bad deal, bad business. From a common sense POV, I agree that they didn't have anything to do with creating it, but the laws of copyright are there. Honor them now. Change them if they need changing.

     

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  89.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2008 @ 4:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I am complaining about the law. Specifically, I'm complaining that the law is giving money to people that have nothing to do with the content in question. I don't think Tolkien's kids are particularly malicious in enforcing what the law says is their due, but I think it's problematic that the law says they're owed anything, and as such I think they should get nothing.

     

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  90.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2008 @ 4:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Tell me again how this does not make sense?

    Why were Tolkien's kids involved in the first place?

     

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  91.  
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    Willton, Jul 8th, 2008 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Why were Tolkien's kids involved in the first place?

    Because they, as heirs to Tolkien's estate, have a claim of right to any interests of the Tolkien estate, one of which being this agreement with New Line. It's just like how you would have claims to the monetary and property interests of your parents estate, whether it be land, furniture, jewelry, stock interests, or contractual interests. This happens to be a contractual interest.

     

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    Imani, Jul 8th, 2008 @ 11:04am

    Absolute nonsense

    "Re: Revising and Editing by Scott on Jul 6th, 2008 @ 11:50pm

    LoTR was published well before JRR Tolkein's death. I'm not 100% sure but it may have been published before Christopher's birth. I am sure that it was published before his majority."

    Absolute nonsense. The guy *read drafts of the books* to his children. Christopher Tolkien DREW THE ORIGINAL MAPS. They exchanged letters on it while he was in the airforce. He was well past majority when they were published in the 50s. Good lord, you're on the internet, use it.

     

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  93.  
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    Phibbus, Aug 23rd, 2008 @ 10:14am

    Who's really getting rich for nothing

    Many have mis-stated here that the Tolkien Estate is entitled to 7.5% of the gross, which is not the case. The 1969 agreement with with United Artists entitles the estate to 7.5% of the net, the calculation of which is the major focus of dispute. If we accept New Line/Warner's arguments, there has been no profit from the films which is subject to the terms of that contract.

    The only rights-holder entitled to gross proceeds is the Saul Zaentz Company, who purchased the 1969 contract from UA in 1976 for a discount price. Zaentz & Co. can negotiate whatever licensing terms they like with the benefit of hindsight and has been making many hundred of millions off the propery ever since. So who's really getting rich for doing nothing?

     

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  94.  
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    Paul I, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re: Revising and Editing

    Christopher Tolkien is 83. He was born 21st November 1924. His sister Priscilla was born 18th June 1929. The first volume of the Lord of the Rings was published in 1954 - after their majority.

    The film rights contract was made in 1969, by JRR Tolkien, who was still alive. It vested rights to royalties with JRR and the trust he set up at the time. JRR willed his share to his children. The trust is still going. There's no question of inheritance there: one of the original holders of rights is still around, & not getting paid. The trust is the chief litigant, not the descendants.

    According to the accounts filed with the Charities Commission (available online - took me 2 minutes with Google), of a total income of £945,457 in 2006-7, £902,357 was given to a long list of charities, & &22,131 was spent on managing the donations.

    The accounts list as a "Contingent asset" a share of the revenues of the LOTR films. They reckon that amounts to at least $30 million up to 30th September 2005, which is as far as the trustees have been permitted to audit the film accounts.

     

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  95.  
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    tom, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 9:24am

    iwdfedhuahadhaskdfasieudhksdhfiuweyhfhefhfd;djfdfhuiefrhdefhaweuiofhjkhsjkdhasdjfhdhfdxuidfhweo;iufs d,lenfiosdfvnoiejfqowe4ituldkfmq0eojfadrutkhqipurgoe8pt7ro;eitueoprutroiuteritueiortuerafvjfgaerityg cvrgeriterterutyerytirutietuytierytwuierytierytuiwertyiowerytiweurytierutyisydsdysidaidwuiuisdiasudy asidasuif

     

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  96.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 9:27am

    hfsdhfsdispwyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

     

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  97.  
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    (Not given), Feb 10th, 2010 @ 5:00pm

    My opinion mixed with some facts

    Fact: Christopher Tolkien did much in the making of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" BUT not the movies here is a quote from him,

    "Last time, you said Bilbo's front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a golden tassel on his hood, but you've just said that Bilbo's front door was green and that Thorin's hood was silver"
    -- Christopher Tolkien, foreword to The Hobbit

    It says in the place I got this from that he did much more than just that, he corrected much of his fathers work, he devoted his life to his fathers work.

    My Opinion: I think he is entitled to his to some of the earnings, I did not read his other childrens Biography's as I did not have the time.

    Fact: He was paid for each corrections he made.

    My Opinion: I believe he deserves some money from what the BOOK made but not the MOVIE because the movie was only BASED on the book but not actually created by J.R.R. Tolkien.

     

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  98.  
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    (Not given), Feb 10th, 2010 @ 5:03pm

    Above comment

    If you click on the name of the comment above you will see my source.

     

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  99.  
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    John Muth, May 19th, 2010 @ 7:10pm

    Well, many writer's children had considerable input into the stories of their parents/grandparents the adult mind loses it's grasp to imagination after you hit mature age. So his children could help describe creatures in this LOTR bang that is happening and you could see if you could see the description in the movie or book. But if you really want to get into this don't because they are probably already succsessful citizens and we don't need to bitch and whine about extra money do we?

     

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  100.  
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    Dale Bulthuis, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 6:11pm

    Re: rights and money and such

    Noone but family or whoever JRR had mind to should allow production or reproduction of his stories and since he problably died without much sayso his blood relatives should have say so and make copyright what they put copyright on. when writing on Tomas Edison a person doesn't claim they the researcher discovered electricity it is a known fact Tom Edison did that so JRR has those rights and so do his desendants not sure if the edisons still recieve money related to the first invention more likely to what came after same with the ford company and the rockefeller family

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  101.  
    identicon
    Aaron, Dec 7th, 2013 @ 2:24am

    Tolkien's Family

    If our Society was well ajusted and enlightened
    All Art Would belong to those who love it.
    It's not that Tolkien's Work has any Real Value, its just that It is Loved
    very strongly and part of that is from it's message: take pleasure in simple values and good freinds, not family, power and money...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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