‘Lord of the Rings’: Amazon and Tolkien Estate Win Copyright Lawsuit Over TV Show, Copycat Book

The Lord of the Rings: The
Matt Grace / Courtesy of Prime Video

Amazon and the Tolkien estate have emerged victorious in a multi-pronged legal battle over “The Lord of the Rings” franchise.

In April author Demetrious Polychron published a book called “The Fellowship of the King” which he claimed was a sequel to “The Lord of the Rings.” He planned for the book to be the first in a seven-part series.

The author then filed suit against both Amazon and the Tolkien estate, claiming the streaming series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” had borrowed from his sequel and infringed his copyright.

It can now be reported for the first time that a California judge summarily dismissed Polychron’s lawsuit with prejudice in August.

The Tolkien estate then countersued the author for infringing on their copyright. A U.S. district judge found in the estate’s favor this fall, granting them a permanent injunction to prevent Polychron from “copying distributing, selling, performing, displaying or otherwise exploiting” his book or its sequel, titled “The Two Trees.” The author was also ordered to destroy all physical and electronic copies of the works.

Closing the chapter on this saga, a California judge has now handed down a costs order, instructing Polychron to pay $134,637 in attorney’s fees to both Amazon and Tolkien. In making the order, Judge Steven V. Wilson noted the “fantasticality” of the Polychron’s claim for copyright protection given his book is entirely based on characters in “The Lord of the Rings,” calling it “unreasonable” and “frivolous from the beginning.”

Lance Koonce and Gili Karev of New York firm Klaris Law represented the Tolkien estate in the litigation while Steven Maier of Maier Blackburn handled matters for the estate in the U.K.

“This is an important success for the Tolkien Estate, which will not permit unauthorized authors and publishers to monetize JRR Tolkien’s much-loved works in this way,” said Maier. “This case involved a serious infringement of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ copyright, undertaken on a commercial basis, and the Estate hopes that the award of a permanent injunction and attorneys’ fees will be sufficient to dissuade others who may have similar intentions.”

The copyright around “The Lord of the Rings” franchise is particularly fraught with most of the rights for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit” residing with Swedish gaming group Embracer, who bought them from the Saul Zaentz Co for $395 million last year.

The Tolkien estate retains some carve-out rights in those properties, including television series of eight or more episodes (which is how they made “The Rings of Power” with Amazon) as well as owning other Tolkien works.

From Variety US