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JRR Tolkien family settle $80m merchandise row

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    Dominic MonaghanImage copyright UIP film publicity
    Image caption Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films won 17 Oscars

    JRR Tolkien’s family have settled an $80m case against Warner Bros over the merchandise rights of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

    The famous author’s daughter, Priscilla Tolkien, and his estate, joined up with publisher HarperCollins to sue Warner.

    The estate sold the rights to the films in 1969 along with some merchandising.

    But they said the studio had overstepped the mark with video games, apps and gambling games. Warner said the matter was “amicably resolved”.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Peter Jackson won best director at the Oscars in 2004 for The Return of the King

    It ends a legal wrangling which first began in 2012, when the family sued the studio for $80m in damages plus legal costs for copyright infringement.

    Warner then counter-sued, claiming the estate had made an “about face” and had previously consented to merchandise rights.

    However, the estate had argued the rights only allowed Warner Bros to create “tangible” goods such as figurines, clothing and stationery.

    They claimed the studio had gone beyond the deal by using Tolkien’s characters in digital form – including in online gambling games and casino slot machines – which the family said caused irreparable harm to the author’s legacy and reputation.

    After settling the case, Warner Bros says: “The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”

    Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films were released between 2001 and 2003. The trilogy won 17 Academy awards, a record for a movie trilogy.

    His Hobbit series was released between 2012 and 2014.

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