Tolkien Estate Strikes Again: Forces Summer Camp To Change Name

from the because-of-all-that-confusion dept

Christopher Tolkien and the estate of JRR Tolkien has a long history of overly aggressive attempts to stop anyone from using any sort of Tolkien-related content. The latest target: evil summer camps. Apparently the Tolkien estate has forced a Calgary summer camp to change its name, because it was called Rivendell, after the elven outpost in The Lord of the Rings. The camp received a cease-and-desist:

“While our clients do not believe that you intended to infringe their intellectual property rights, you will understand that they have an obligation to protect these valuable rights and carefully to preserve the integrity of the Tolkien works.”

Unfortunately, the article does not show the full letter, nor does it explain if the letter highlighted exactly which intellectual property rights the estate is complaining about. Does the estate have a trademark on “rivendell” in Canada? Does the estate use the term in commerce anywhere in order to get a trademark? Does that trademark cover summer camps? All of that seems doubtful.

Either way, the camp just backed down and changed its name, noting that the whole LotR thing was getting pretty tired, anyway. Nicely done, Christopher, you’ve just made sure that a whole bunch of kids will no longer have a positive summer camping experience associated with the name Rivendell…

Filed Under: ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Tolkien Estate Strikes Again: Forces Summer Camp To Change Name”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Simon Dufour (profile) says:

Kind of stupid

I don’t understand how it can be wrong to name the camp Rivendell. People won’t think it’s the “real” Rivendell or anything like that. I simply don’t understand why it’s supposed to be wrong. Isn’t all this things inspired from the work? They’re not copies, it’s just like fan fiction, just like people getting/making cosplay custume. If I was the person with this copyright, I would have sent materials to the summer camp so that they are better equiped to promote my money-making stuff. I would have written about it and show it as a good initiative. That way, the day you decide to release something official, people get aware of it and buy it more often.. and you’ll get people regularly asking for rights to make promotionnal items, etc.

Sad.. and bad marketting.

David Liu (profile) says:

Re: Kind of stupid

It isn’t wrong to name it. They’re unrelated products in unrelated service areas.

But the Tolkiens are the one with the money, while this is just some summer camp. The summer camp folks know that they’re perfectly in their legal right to name it Rivendell (as noted in the article itself), but they don’t want to waste money fighting some frivolous lawsuit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Kind of stupid

Hey, you never know. Maybe it’s a camp as exclusive as Camp Mohawk:

Interviewer: These children are going to the most glamorous of all summer camps: Camp Mohawk. There’s a two year waiting list and every child has to be voted in. On top of that it costs $1,000 a week to to go to Camp Mohawk. The question is, is it worth a $1,000 a week?
Tripper: [walks over] It sure is. It’s the best darn camp there is.
Interviewer: Well, are you connected with Camp Mohawk?
Tripper: Well, I think so, I’m the program director; Jerry Aldini.
Interviewer: Well, how do you justify a $1,000 a week.
Tripper: Well, we have some special programs. Uh, we’re doing Shakespeare in the Round again this year, of course. Uh, our political round table, Henry Kissinger will appear. Yasser Arafat is gonna come out, spend a weekend with the kids. Just rap with them.
Interviewer: That’s amazing!
Tripper: And the kids wanted animals. So this year, each camper will stalk and kill his own bear in our private wildlife preserve.
Interviewer: Are you sure the children can, uh, can hack that?
Tripper: We’ll see. But, the real excitement, of course, is gonna come at the end of the summer, uh, during Sexual Awareness Week. We import 200 hookers from around the world, and each camper, armed with only a thermos of coffee and $2,000 cash, tries to visit as many countries as he can and the winner, of course, is named King of Sexual Awareness Week and is allowed to rape and pillage the neighboring towns until camp ends.
Interviewer: That’s incredible.
Tripper: What’d you expect for $1,000 a week. Hey, you have a good summer too, huh?

aldestrawk says:

A video news report:

Excerpt from the Calgary Herald:

Maier, acting on behalf of the Tolkien Estate, wrote Rupert a polite – one might say slightly precious – letter demanding the association dispense with the Tolkien references.

In an e-mail response to the Herald Tuesday, Maier countered the proliferation of Internet sites that accuse the Tolkien Estate of being a tad on the litigious side. “It is incorrect to say that the Tolkien Estate is litigious, as it is very rarely involved in court proceedings,” he wrote. “The Tolkien Estate only pursues legal action in the very rare cases of parties who, for whatever reason, are determined to deny the Estate’s entitlement to protect its property.”

Joe Melkor says:

Re: Truly disgusting

Not to mention that Tolkien’s mythology itself raided Scandanavian, German, and Anglo-Saxon legends for material. Middle Earth is just a creative extenstion of those older cultures.

I guess the Tolkien Estate should be happy that the centuries have separated them from the tough viking SOBs who could come arount to assert the rights over their “property”, huh?

Donnicton says:

Because Chris’s daddy was just spinning in his grave over the idea that an obscure childrens’ summer camp was named similarly to a moderately prominent feature of Middle Earth.

Why can’t I have an estate that I did nothing to inherit outside of being born and riding daddy’s coattails to give me an inflated sense of legal entitlement.

HarryMonmouth says:

Copyright lasts too long

The length of time copyright lasts for is too long. It is all very well seeing that your children and grandchildren are looked after, who could object to that? However, when your children and grandchildren gain a legal right to spend their life stifling the integration of your work into the popular psyche on the off chance of making a quick couple of extra bucks then I think most writers would prefer their progeny to do something worthwhile with their lives instead.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

I did a quick check of the Canadian Trade-Mark database. It appears that The Saul Zaentz Company of Berkely, California is the registered trade-mark owner for ‘Rivendell’ in Canada.
The activities covered comprise a massive list, so massive that it’s spread out over no less than seven trade-mark registrations, all for the same term. I didn’t see “children’s outdoor camp” in the list anywhere, but I may have missed it.
It does bring a couple of questions to mind though. First, does the Tolkien estate have any standing to enforce a trade-mark if they’re not the trade-mark holder? If so, why?
The other question is is this company involved in all these various fields? If not, why are they allowed to prevent others from using the term in ways that do not lead to confusion with thefields the company actually operates in?

Frost (profile) says:

Copyright - protect it or lose it

Disclaimer: I think the concept of copyright and trademarks is BS. I also believe the concept of money, profit and capitalism is bullshit and is currently keeping 1 billion people in starvation and killing a child every 5 seconds and that shit has got to go. That said:

The way trademarks it set up, isn’t it so that you have an obligation to actively enforce it once you get it? In other words, if they don’t actively keep after people trying to “dilute” it, they will eventually be unable to argue that they have any exclusive right at all since it is clearly being used everywhere already (or words to that effect.)

Joe Melkor says:

Re: Copyright - protect it or lose it

Not exactly. A trademark only has to be defended in situations where it’s being infringed upon. Since trademarks should be connected to specific goods, not every use of the word “Rivendell” has to be chased down by the Tolkien Estate or whomever owns the mark.

Don’t tell that to Monster Cable though!

steve davidson (user link) says:


The Saul Zaentz Company is DBA Middle Earth Enterprises, formerly Tolkein Enterprises and “Middle-earth Enterprises owns exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. We have produced and licensed films, stage productions and merchandise based on these Tolkien works for more than thirty years.”

They’ve got two granted US trademarks and a host of others in application.

Pretty clear how “they can do this”. A small bit of checking (3 minutes?) would have revealed this.

In order to maintain a trademark, one must protect it. Whether or not such rights ought to be granted is an entirely different discussion

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The Name Is Not the Scarcity.

Here’s the website of the camp. For school hours, the rate seems to be only about $200 (Cdn)/wk. That’s on a non-profit basis, operated in a building which would appear to be the local church, and you know how it is with these things, there’s apt to be a waiting list. Getting your kids into a decent school is a rather more involved business than buying an expensive car. The same principle probably applies to summer camps, and I shouldn’t wonder if kids enrolled in the local schools, children of local residents, etc., have first priority on places. If you join the community association, you can save twenty dollars a week or so on the fees, but membership is probably a matter of establishing a prior claim on the community association if there aren’t enough places to go around.

They can change the name of the camp twice a week, if they have to, but that will not affect anything important.

Mithalwen says:

Another POV

The royalties from film incidentals and many actual book royalties goes to the Tolkien Trust which gives money to many charities world wide (including a donation this year of hundreds of thousands to a Canadian hospital. Full details and accounts are available on the UL charities commission website. UK charities are legally obliged to make best uses of their resources which in this case could be interpreted as protecting copyright and the reputation of the Tolkien “brand” to use a horrible term. So by “not buying” the Blu ray or whatever it is no skin off Christopher’s nose but you are depriving an educational or humanitarian charity of a bit of income. Why the freeloaders who try to get cachet off the Tolkien works are more deserving I don’t know.

Fine if you don’t believe in property – up to you …I assume you have the courage of your convictions not to lock your doors and publish your bank account details online.

yourrealname (profile) says:

I feel that copyright restrictions are incompatible with a mythology in its fullest sense and function. But that doesn’t stop Tolkien’s work from reaching people in just that way. This creates a terrible trap for folks, I fear.

Although in a strange twisted way, if mythological traditions once upon a time were maintained by priests or organized classes of society in some way (and at times protected very fiercely) then this kind of thing feels a little bit like … the mythology of the God of money? Whatever that might be. I don’t know because it’s all very strange.

Added to the confusion is the fact that copyright law is not consistent across international borders – so in particular, one poster noted fanfics being ok …. mmmaybe …. but mmaybe not. I don’t feel clear on this myself. At one time their ubiquitous existence and the laws of my own region made me think they were fine but … what if I moved or what if the laws (or their interpretation) changed? This is all in spite of the power the work has as a mythology – but these copyright laws force it to be treated otherwise. Or perhaps they force it to be treated as a mythology as mythology was once treated (in a more guarded, controlled and sanctified? sense complete with a priesthood that keeps it – I haven’t decided yet on this, clearly).

In the end it all simplifies when it comes to the realm of respect and reasonable people where a simple written request to desist suffices with no need for further action or prosecution. I found this to be very refreshing, actually. No one was apparently going for blood here and people acted like reasonable adults. Nice – let’s hope that continues.

Maybe they were going for money or maybe Christopher really feels some burden to act as some kind of priestly keeper of the true ways of Tolkien.

The one thing that does stand out about this Rivendell compared to any other is its religious orientation. That might be how it got “picked”. I can’t think of what else it could be, but then I don’t know the situation.

As for creativity. We all have our influences and inspirations – including Tolkien. Imagine if he had felt the need to scrupulously strip all artifacts or influences from prior mythologies from his own works and totally generate everything from scratch as if in some kind of vacuum.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...