I think this "free ride" you are talking about is based on the brand name more than on the original work itself. EA wouldn't keep paying to make new LotR games if we weren't all already familiar with the specific characters and settings of the books (regardless of whether we actually ever read the books).
I enthusiastically acknowledge that branding is much more about the businesses of marketing and promotion than about the original creativity of the work.
Brand names are passed down in all sorts of vocations, however. We may self-righteously hate the deceptive economic mechanics of promotion and marketing, but these endeavors require investments of time and money, too -- not purely a free ride.
To be clear, tho, there is a choice. Tolkien's estate corporation could release control of LotR if it decided to, the same way a plumbing company is free to give up its hard-earned brand name.
In any case, I'm still pretty sure that the public is not forced to buy any books or movies or games that it doesn't want to buy. Am I forced to support Disney just because nobody's giving away free copies of High School Musical?
If the value is in the brand, the work is in maintaining the brand. As long as he keeps sending acceptable employees out to fix your pipes, I don't see why you would care that the son works as the company accountant instead of out in the field like his dad.
What if your favorite brand-name plumber company is so successful that it has to sub-contract with other plumbers, whom you have trained to provide the brand-name style of service that your customers expect?
If one of those contractors provides the quality of service you expected when you called, how does it make any difference whether the actual inheritor of the brand name is back at the office working on the financial books? You still got exactly what you wanted when you decided to call your favorite brand name plumber. You'll probably call them next time your pipes are clogged, too.
I think the kid should still be allowed to inherit the family plumbing business, even if he decides to become an accountant instead of a plumber like his dad.
'Hereditary IP rights forever' does seem like an unfortunate solution in many ways, but if you accept the idea of IP rights at all (many here don't, I know), I am not convinced it is unfair.
Disney corp. has invested millions promoting Mickey Mouse for the last 70 years. Walt died in 1966 -- how long should it be till I am allowed to exploit that promotion and start publishing my own Mickey Mouse cartoons?
I agree that forever seems like too long a time, but I think that wherever you draw the line short of forever will arbitrary, and it is difficult to defend anything arbitrary as ideologically "fair."
The real value of the business that the plumber hands down to his kids is not in physical assets such as buildings and wrenches, but in the clientele that have grown to trust that particular plumbing business through years of solid work and good service. Being a good plumber is only part of it -- to succeed, you also have to become the guy they call when they need a good plumber.
Isn't that part of the value of LotR too? It's not just that it is an entertaining and well-written story, it's that the story's characters and settings are known and loved by millions and millions of people around the world.
The public isn't forced to support anything. If individuals in the public decide that they want to purchase new copies of LoTR, they have to pay something to the Tolkien estate.
I'm not necessarily saying this is the way it should work. I'm just saying it doesn't do me any good to look at it as some evil, sweeping repression of the public at large.
If a plumber wants to charge clients some sort of ongoing subscription fee for his work, to support his family after he's dead, he can write up his contracts that way. The only problem is that there are lots of other plumbers out there, and most people will instead choose one who only charges a one-time fee.
There is only one LoTR. You don't have to buy a copy if you don't want to.