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UK Pub 'The Hobbit' Offered License In Attempt To Stem PR Disaster

from the negotiation-by-threat dept

Well, that was fast. We recently wrote about a UK pub called The Hobbit that was threatened with legal action by the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC), which owns certain trademarks associated with the franchise. Perhaps because of the immediate backlash (which included public condemnation by Stephen Fry and Ian McKellan, both of whom are starring in the upcoming film adaptation of The Hobbit), producer Paul Zaentz told the BBC that he is prepared to offer the pub an inexpensive license:

"When it's an established business, we like to get the company to acknowledge they are using our trademarks, stop selling infringing articles and then we will grant them a licence for a nominal fee - approximately $100 a year."

"We asked to them to contact us and amicably resolve this and are open to any suggestions they have. I'd be glad to raise a pint with them the next time I'm over."

Frankly, it sounds like Zaentz is just trying to smooth over the PR nightmare he was facing. It's hard to amicably resolve a dispute with someone who is already threatening you with legal action. Friendly negotiations come before threats, not after. Why didn't Zaentz just offer them the license in the first place? His description of the process is basically "meet all of our demands, then we'll talk."

All the coverage of this story mentions trademarks and copyrights in passing, without ever being clear about what rights were supposedly violated. Either way, it's entirely possible that SZC does have a valid legal claim here, on at least some of the things the pub was doing—but if they want to pursue those claims, then they have to face the backlash from people who think they are being petty. They can't just make it all okay by offering to have a beer together, while their lawyers still lurk in the wings.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Someantimalwareguy (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 11:39am

    Iron fist in a velvet glove...

    ...or would that be a velvet fist in an iron glove?

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    TDR, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:24pm

    One Copyright to rule them all
    One Copyright to find them
    One Copyright to bring them all
    And in Hollywood bind them

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:27pm

    Didn't you know?

    When the internet voices its displeasure at something, that's not free speech. That's "shouting down" democracy.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Iron fist in a velvet glove...

    Golden bones, iron fist, velvet glove, Armani suit.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:39pm

    Remind me again, why do you need a license for a word?

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    Well, technically they were using images from the films.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Smeagol, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:46pm

    My precious....

    My precious copyright....

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Smeagol, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:47pm

    My precious....

    My precious copyright....

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:49pm

    Looks like there are bigger fish to fry there (couldnt work in chips..).

    Notice the front of the building says LIVE MUSIC...

    Seems like they're going to have a lot more licenses to pay in the future now!

     

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

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:58pm

    Perhaps it was the alignment of the stars, or perhaps they paid attention to an underpaid copyright spewing fresh out of school dork with no actually life skills from Toronto babbling on about it.

    Perhaps maybe the entire story was overblown, and this was in fact what was already happening.

    Marcus: The man that can change the world! Take an extra kiss on Mike's butt as your reward.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Didn't you know?

    I didn't realize "the internet" was a cognizant being. Good to know.

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    sehlat (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:02pm

    Nuke from orbit first, offer a license later after you get caught.

    It's the only way to be sure.

     

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

  13.  
    icon
    DandonTRJ (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:09pm

    Re:

    I'm sure whatever PRO is active in that territory has already shaken them down for a license; those folks' ears prick up the instant any public venue is established.

     

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

  14.  
    icon
    BeachBumCowboy (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:09pm

    License counter offer.

    "The Hobbit" pub should come back with a counter offer of licensing the name and characters for $100 a year in free beer for the folks of SZC. They would probably be much happier and they might start to lead a more hobbit-like life.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

    Re:

    You should try and act more jealous. It looks really good on you.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re:

    What? You mean people could see them? Images? Out in the open like that?

    That is terrible!

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    DandonTRJ (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Some copyright owners still haven't woken up to the fact that the general public now views the issue of copyright enforcement as an issue of equity. They don't care that you have a valid copyright claim if you're using it to extract millions of dollars from an elderly grandmother or six-year-old boy. Similarly, when you've got a pub that's been operating for two decades with no evidence of consumer confusion and a sizable client base endeared to it, just because they may have crossed some minor IP lines does not mean you won't be excoriated in the court of public opinion if you go about enforcing your rights the wrong way. And that'll cost you far more in the long-run than whatever license fees you forfeit by not playing hardball. Maybe this will encourage artists' estates to do a little bit more homework on their targets before they go rent-seeking.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:18pm

    Re:

    lol, you are such a Marcus and Techdirt addict. You just can't get enough of this site.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:18pm

    Re:

    Ah yes, it was "already happening." Your trolling gets sadder and sadder every day.

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Didn't you know?

    It's an hydra, when you cut one of its heads 2 more pop up =D

     

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

  21.  
    icon
    Leigh Beadon (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    One wonders: if I am as pathetic as you claim, what does that say about you?

    Food for thought, weirdo.

     

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

  22.  
    icon
    Suja (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re: Didn't you know?

    it's the collective consciousness, even Hollywood is the internet, they know it, they hate it, that's why they want to destroy it

     

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

  23.  
    icon
    Suja (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re:

    Jealous? Even their snowflake is green. Hee hee.

     

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

  24.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:25pm

    Re:

    Chris Dodd would say it's Google's fault. But then again you aren't a multi-million wage-CEO of an anti-piracy outfit so you blame a smaller guy instead. The people being responsible? BS.

    Good thing Marcus was very far from being the first to talk about the case and the outrage had already built when he picked up. Hey, that's precisely what happened with Google, they caught up in the middle =O

    Fail troll is fail.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:29pm

    I'm sure it was the Frodo pinch with Freddo chocolate the pub sent SZC lawyers. Yeah, nothing can make one happier than beer and chocolate.

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Cowardly Anon, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:35pm

    ...we like to get the company to acknowledge they are using our trademarks, stop selling infringing articles...

    This is what I hate most about copyright and trademarks. SZC did not created the the content in question here. They just managed to get the rights to something popular. What did this company do to create the content? Nothing.

    As for the trademark claim, would a moron in a hurry really think this pub was set up by SZC or is apart of the LotR movie empire? I think not.

    This pub has been open and operating long before SZC had the rights. They built up their own brand outside long before the movies were out. Did they play on the movies some? Yes. Dos that hurt SZC? No.

    Frankly, I think the nominal fee should be $0 and an apology letter.

    Also, I'd like to travel there and have a drink now b/c it looks like a cool pub :)

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    There out to be some kind o flaw!

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Until tomorrow. Then it'll be red.

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I meant, some kind of law. Oops.

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Didn't you know?

    it's the collective consciousness

    Run! It's the Borg vs. the Daleks all over again!

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    New Mexico Mark, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:45pm

    Re:

    I'm bemused at the preponderance of Hollywood movies that portray big business as organizations filled with soulless bastards who would stop at nothing for a little more money.

    But when you think about it, the folks in Hollywood are experts when it comes to projection.

     

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

  32.  
    icon
    BuckRogers1965 (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:45pm

    Trademark does not transfer across industries.

    The trademark for the Hobbit that the people that own the rights to the book does not transfer over to an entirely different industry. You are free to create a Ford vibrator or an Apple iPlug that are sex toys without violating trademark law, because Ford and Apple are not in the industry of making sex toys. The same way a pub can freely name themselves after literary creations without being in violation of trademark because pubs are not publishing houses and publishing houses don't serve patrons beer and greasy good foods.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think your first version was actually *more* appropriate :)

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:49pm

    Re:

    Take an extra kiss on Mike's butt as your reward.

    "No homo, right?"
    "ALL OF THE HOMO!"

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Jac, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 2:18pm

    They should pay the license, cordially invite them for a beer and then charge them $100 for the beer.

     

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

  36.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 2:47pm

    Re:

    This. The *AAs & their ilk have done incredible damage to copyright. Their overreaching, ludicrous claims, and blatant attempts to "steal" (to use their word) from the general public (by extending copyright terms indefinitely and attempting to eliminate fair use) have caused people to generally disregard copyright as an issue with any real validity and has discredited those entities generally.

    If they had limited themselves to something reasonable, like holding to the intention of copyright and only harming those who violate that, they -- and copyright in general -- would have a lot more sympathy and support. Instead, they decided engage in what amounts to war against culture.

    They shat in their own pool, and really only have themselves to blame.

     

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

  37.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 2:50pm

    Re:

    In fairness, the pub was using actual images from the films themselves. Those were certainly created by the movie company.

     

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

  38.  
    icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 2:50pm

    Quite frankly this pub should be left alone. There's absolutely no doubt that no one is going to confuse the pub and the movie so what's the issue here?

    If they're really hot on licensing the pub I'd say $0 per year in perpetuity is quite enough.

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Didn't you know?

    "When the internet voices its displeasure at something, that's not free speech. That's "shouting down" democracy."

    When individuals are able to voice their displeasure at something, that's "free speech", boy.

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 2:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Didn't you know?

    'Run! It's the Borg vs. the Daleks all over again!"

    I thought that was the CyberMen vs the Daleks.

    "You will be upgraded...or deleted!"

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    loki, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 2:54pm

    Well for this and other reasons, I already know about 6-7 people who are going to boycott the movie, and about a dozen more who are on the fence about it.

    Now given that this movie stand a good chance to make a billion+ dollars worldwide, a few hundred or even a few thousand isn't going to make a big dent in the box office, but it's still going to be more than they make from some of these piddling licenses.

    Of course they'll never admit their own behavior is driving people from wanting to attend their movies. Hell, they've flat out said they believe they are the only ones who can make and deliver content people want to see. No, any drop in attendance has to be because people are stealing their content.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 2:59pm

    Re:

    "This pub has been open and operating long before SZC had the rights. They built up their own brand outside long before the movies were out. Did they play on the movies some? Yes. Dos that hurt SZC? No."

    The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings animated films, which SZC did, came out in the late 1970s-early 1980s, predating the bar, which is only 20 years old (1990).

     

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

  43.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Over Fucking Blown

    Yeah, right. Bring in the legal heavies, threaten the lawsuit, get ready to destroy the business and the lives of those running it, then suddenly back off and claim that it was all “overblown” or a “simple mistake”, ha-ha, no harm done, all’s well that ends well, right?

    Wanker.

     

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

  44.  
    icon
    Melissa Ruhl (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 3:13pm

    Good job Internetites, once again

    I think this is awesome. Once again, democratic pressure from Internet outrage made a tangible difference.

    This reminds me of my alma mater, the University of Oregon, which was indebted to Disney for its mascot, a relationship that has before inflamed into controversy when the UO admin freaked out that some fans used the mascot in a video. Disney and the admin became such a source of ridicule and the viral video couldn't be stopped that in 2010 Disney and the UO made a more reasonable agreement.

    TechDirt on the issue: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091120/1627157035.shtml
    The original video:
    http://youtu.be/_hrjpe1VCNg
    UO and Disney making a new agreement:
    http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/index.ssf/2010/03/disney_uo_mascot_part_ways.html

     

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

  45.  
    icon
    Baldaur Regis (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 3:21pm

    Re: Nuke from orbit first, offer a license later after you get caught.

    From the BBC article:
    The Hobbit pub had been accused of copyright infringement by lawyers representing the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) in California. (emphasis added)

    Given typical corporate structuring, it's possible that producer Paul Zaentz wasn't even aware these actions were being taken by the company's lawyers until it hit the news.

    Lawyers are nuclear weapons these days. SZC could have continued the typical MPAA butt-hurt stance and demanded the bar be closed, owners sued into oblivion, etc., but chose a more rational reaction- even if it was because of protest.

    Although the question remains, if all "infringing articles" are removed, what's left that needs licensing?

     

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

  46.  
    icon
    Steerpike (profile), Mar 16th, 2012 @ 4:58pm

    Re: Trademark does not transfer across industries.

    That's not necessarily true. It is generally true of trademarks, but not true of 'famous' marks. I suspect the owners of "the Hobbit" for movies etc. will try to argue it is famous. Probably a bit of a stretch, but who knows.

    The Apple iPlug example is not a good one, because Apple would likely be successful in the argument for a famous mark.

     

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

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 6:42pm

    Re: Re:

    It's fun as it gets to point out just how full of shit you are. You and Glyn both seem intent on pushing your self-serving agendas. You just happen to have learned how to write in Mikey-style so you sound both pompous and full of shit at the same time.

    When are you going to get the Superman cape with the big M on the front?

     

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

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:44pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    He can't have that. Kim Dotcom has already got it. Let's hope he comes in for a hard landing on you.

     

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

  49.  
    identicon
    Dr Evil, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 9:56pm

    the price

    Well, now the rights holders have given the pub owner a budget. $100K a year to fight the claim.

    they could have chosen to license for free, and avoided the entire mess while giving them firm footing on the high road...

     

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

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 10:04pm

    Re: the price

    > they could have chosen to license for free, and avoided the entire mess while giving them firm footing on the high road...

    There is a thing in law that a payment as small as One Dollar would be significant enough to seal the deal. If they were really smart there would be a big party at the Hobbit on opening night hosted by the studio.

     

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

  51.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Mar 17th, 2012 @ 1:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh gods, the mental image...

     

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

  52.  
    identicon
    art guerrilla, Mar 17th, 2012 @ 5:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    u ment (sic) 'ought', as well...
    hee hee hee
    ho ho ho
    ha ha ha
    ak ak ak
    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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

  53.  
    identicon
    k-h, Mar 17th, 2012 @ 5:37am

    Is it now worth it?

    If it's only worth $100 per year, it can hardly be worth enough to take to them to court over.

    I'd've thought it'd be laughed out of court if they tried to take the pub to court.

     

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

  54.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 17th, 2012 @ 8:53am

    Re: Didn't you know?

    Damn, is them Peoples ruining democracy for everyone.

     

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

  55.  
    identicon
    Boo Boo, Mar 17th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

    viral

    Tell them shove their offer up their fat ass and watch their precious brand get shat all over as this PR train wreck has gone global,viral.
    Next time think about it , you arrogant SOBs, you don't rule the world actually.

     

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

  56.  
    icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Mar 17th, 2012 @ 3:36pm

    There needs to be a phrase, along the lines of The Streisand Effect, to describe IP bullies who see the error of their ways, even if through bad publicity, and come back from the dark side to be one of the good guys again. Some kind of positive connotation that rewards them with good will for changing their minds. Like a merit badge.

    Dare I coin The Hobbit Effect? Nah, there must be something better. What should it be? Hey Mike, why not start a contest?

     

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

  57.  
    identicon
    k-h, Mar 17th, 2012 @ 11:47pm

    Re:

    >come back from the dark side to be one of the good guys again.

    What? They haven't come back from the dark side:

    >"When it's an established business, we like to get the company to acknowledge they are using our trademarks, stop selling infringing articles and then we will grant them a licence for a nominal fee - approximately $100 a year."

    They've just realised they've been sprung in an embarassing position and are trying to pretend they are not as bad as everyone thinks. I thought the pub was selling drinks - how are drinks "infringing articles"? What are these trademarks? The name hobbit?

     

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

  58.  
    identicon
    Pete Austin, Mar 18th, 2012 @ 9:50am

    What would Bilbo do?

    I don't think hobbits would think much of legal blackmail. Also Tolkien's books were a largely patchwork of ideas from existing myth.

     

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

  59.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2012 @ 2:14pm

    petty or not, this is the exact reason the law is there, whether you agree with it or not, this one is legit

     

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

  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 11:08pm

    "stop selling infringing articles" ?!?

     

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


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