Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hobbit Heirs Sue Time Warner

According to Bloomberg, the heirs of J.R.R. Tolkien are seeking up to $220 million from Time Warner as part of the profit made from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. As part of signing over the movie rights for 40 years they were supposed to get 7.5% of the movie's profits but it appears the company used some of Hollywood famous "creative" accounting to avoid paying the family any money. As a result a jury trial will start in October to decide the case assuming it’s not settled before then as the studios loath to have their accounting methods be made public.

“Usually it’s not outright thievery by the studios, but death by contract,” said Pierce O’Donnell, the Los Angeles- based lawyer who represented the late columnist Art Buchwald in a successful case against Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures in 1988. “It’s an esoteric world where black doesn’t mean black, and white doesn’t necessarily mean white.”

The Tolkien’s also want the option to terminate further rights to the author’s work, as the original contract lets them do in the event of a breach, according to the complaint. News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers, which holds Tolkien’s publishing rights, is also a plaintiff.

This is just one of many lawsuits the company (and New Line) has been evolved in over contract disputes with the successful franchise. Pretty much anyone associated with the films in anyway form Peter Jackson, to the actors, producers (from failed attempts to bring the movie to the screen) and more have sought a portion of the profits, most settling out of court.

Suffice it to say its highly likely the Tolkiens' have a case and I would be very surprised is this case makes it before a jury, especially with the new Hobbit movies going before the cameras next year which this case could impact if the court decides they can terminate their contract with Time Warner. For now that seems unlikely. More details of the case can be found here.

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