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Monday, February 11, 2008

Don't mess with the Master of Middle Earth!

Let the case of Frodo Baggins, et al. v. New Line Cinema begin!

In case you haven't heard, the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien is suing the movie studio that made the three blockbuster films based on the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Apparently Tolkien’s heirs believe the film company did not deliver their full share of the profits. They are seeking $150 million in compensatory damages and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.

I have no idea how this suit started -- most likely with a writ of hobbitus corpus, I suppose. It doesn’t take the giant flaming eye of Sauron to see that each side thinks the other is being elfish … errr … selfish. I suggest they find a way to settle. Anyone who thinks Mordor is scary has never sat through a six-week long complex civil trial involving intellectual property. It's a system that would tax the patience of an Ent. And for pure terror value, facing down the nine Nazgul is nothing compared with going against the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court if your case should proceed that far. Better to just jump into a crack in Mount Doom and be done with it.

It bears noting that Tolkien didn’t put any lawyers in Middle Earth. (Unless you count Gollum, who also went by the name Smeagol, which sounds suspiciously like "legal." Gollum/Smeagol is certainly smarmy enough to be the stereotypical lawyer -- and I can't be the only one who thinks he looks and acts like a senior partner or two at a Big Law Firm. "Let me see your time sheet, my preciousssss.") Most likely, the book is barren of barristers for a very sound reason -- Tolkien didn’t want to frighten his younger readers. Trolls? Orcs? Dragons? No problem. But a lawyer? A lawyer would ruin everything! How long before the lawyer would insist that all magic potions be FDA approved? Or that dwarves be paid overtime and receive hazard pay for working in the mines of Moria? The Nazgul would in short order be relegated to wearing seat belts. And poor Gandalf would have to stave off a lawsuit any time one of his fireball spells happen to cause collateral damage to some peasant's hut. It would be a nightmare! But I digress …

I think the studio needs to give the author’s heirs a ring and make a fair offer to settle. For how much should they offer to settle, you ask? For a Tolkien amount, of course.


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Yes, all those gold doubloons and silver pieces-of-eight are preciousss. But cf. Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings, Part III (“The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.”).

Mark Cohen, editor said...

But should every person be paid according to their "need and due?" If I might cite to Hamlet, "Use every man after his desert, and who should escape whipping?"

In any case, it doesn't surprise me that Samwise would be involved in such Communist propoganda. I have added this "Fellowship" of his to my list of subversive organizations.