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Warner Bros settles lawsuit over Lord of the Rings slots

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Lord of the Rings video slot
rnational media giant Warner Bros has agreed an out-of-court settlement with the estate of fantasy author JRR Tolkien, ending a five year long legal dispute over the use of characters from the Lord of The Rings in its online slots.

The dispute first began in 2012, when the author’s heirs received a spam email highlighting the existence of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring online slot game, developed by gaming company Microgaming under licence from Warner Bros.

The Tolkien estate and publisher HarperCollins then launched an $80m lawsuit against Warner Bros, claiming that the studio never had the rights to licence usage of the films characters for use in gambling related gaming.

Licensing rights were initially granted to Warner Bros distributor United Artists by the author himself back in 1969; however the estate claimed that this only licensed the production of “tangible personal property” based on the books including “figurines, tableware, stationary items, clothing and the like”.

Warner Bros eventually countersued the Tolkien estate, claiming that “Because of the repudiation, Warner has not entered into license agreements for online games and casino slot machines in connection with The Hobbit, a form of customary exploitation it previously had utilized in connection with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which has harmed Warner both in the form of lost license revenue and also in decreased exposure for the Hobbit films”. This led to a five year legal battle between the two which was only resolved out of court.

No financial settlement was disclosed, however Bonnie Eskenazi, an attorney for the Tolkien estate told the New York Times newspaper that: “The parties are pleased that they amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”

This is not the first time the two have clashed over the Rings films, with the Tolkien estate suing Warner Bros New Line Cinema subsidiary for $220m, over claims that the 1969 agreement entitled the estate to 7.5% of the gross receipts from the first three films. This dispute was also ended by an out-of-court settlement between the two entities.

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