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Tolkien family sues moviemakers over merchandizing

The Associated Press, Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 4:23pm (PST)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The family of late author J.R.R. Tolkien is suing the producers of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" movie trilogies for alleged exploitative merchandizing.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, comes a week before the premiere of the "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" in Wellington. The opening film in the trilogy hits theaters worldwide next month.

The estate of Tolkien is upset at what it calls "morally questionable" digital marketing including an online slot machine, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. The Tolkien estate is seeking $80 million from Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and rights holder Saul Zaentz Co.

Warner Bros. declined to comment on the claims.

Tolkien's family contends a merchandizing agreement extends only to tangible products such as figurines and clothing and not to electronic rights.

"Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of defendants' rights, but this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien's devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works," the family claims in the lawsuit.

The family says lengthy discussions with the producers over the disagreement proved fruitless and that it fears the scope of online merchandizing will only increase with the release of the 'Hobbit' movies.

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