Payton & Associates, LLC
Commercial Litigation Attorneys
Miami, Florida

Royalty disputes at center of Lord of the Rings lawsuit

When someone creates a work of art or other form of unique creative property, there are a number of ways that compensation or wealth can result. While Florida creators sometimes earn high incomes from the initial production or distribution of their products, the real money often comes in the form of royalties, which can be paid out over one's lifetime. A recently filed lawsuit demonstrates that royalty income continues to be an issue even after the death of the creator, and can lead to serious royalty disputes.

The suit was filed by Tolkien Estate Ltd., which is the estate of the author who created the popular Lord of the Rings franchise. Chiefs at the estate claim that executives at Warner Bros. have engaged in copyright infringement and breach of contract. The defendants are accused of creating online slot machines and additional digital merchandise that is based on characters from Lord of the Rings.

The estate argues that at the time of Tolkien's death, Warner Bros. were granted permission to profit from a very specific range of products. These items were limited to tangible goods such as clothing and printed works. By moving forward with the slot machines and other products without the express permission of the estate, Warner Bros. has caused damage to the author's 'legacy and reputation.'

Regardless of whether the product is a painting, a song, a movie or a video game, the protections offered by royalty laws still apply. Profits made by use of creative works in Florida and elsewhere must be properly paid to those who are entitled to receive such funds. In this royalty disputes case, a determination that Warner Bros. violated the copyright and/or breached their contract with Tolkien's estate could lead to significant compensatory and punitive awards to the plaintiff.

Source:, "Executors of Lord of the Rings author's estate file copyright lawsuit," Nov. 20, 2012

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