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View Full Version : Stephen Fry defending The Hobbit Pub from Hollywood company's attack



Alessandra Kelley
03-14-2012, 04:27 PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/mar/14/stephen-fry-hobbit-pub-name

They've been "The Hobbit" for over 20 years, and now Middle-Earth Enterprises of Los Angeles is threatening them with lawyers.

BunnyMaz
03-14-2012, 05:12 PM
Oh for goodness sake. Really, Hollywood? Really?

seun
03-14-2012, 05:39 PM
If Fry wants me to, I'm happy to send a letter.

Dear Lawyers

Fuck off.

Love and kisses,

Luke.

Her Dark Star
03-14-2012, 05:46 PM
It's a great pub, I lived in Southampton for a couple of years and I loved the place. They've been The Hobbit longer than Hollywood has owned the rights I think, shouldn't the original books be out of copyright now anyway?
They'll need to remove the pictures used from the film I think, but the lawyers are ridiculous, they use a few names from the books and a few decorations but they aren't selling action dolls from the film or claiming to be an official sponsor or anything like that. Unfortunately there's no way the owners can fight a legal battle over it, they can't afford the kind of legal team that would get thrown at them. And good ol' Stephen, he is a legend.

robjvargas
03-14-2012, 06:11 PM
Oh for goodness sake. Really, Hollywood? Really?

In the age of MPAA and RIAA suing grannies for hundreds of thousands of dollars, yeah. Really.

Hollywood could have had a good time with this. AND good publicity. Instead, they're (typically, these days) opting to squeeze every last penny out of a brand. And that's all they see. A brand.

Because, hey, it's not like fans will boycott the movie over this.

Alessandra Kelley
03-14-2012, 06:57 PM
shouldn't the original books be out of copyright now anyway?

No, definitely not. Public domain only applies to books written before, I think it's 1926 at the moment. The Hobbit was published in 1937. And the LOTR books are from the 1950s.

heza
03-14-2012, 11:05 PM
Uh-oh. This doesn't look good for something else we've got where I live.


It would be really nice if people could just be cool about stuff. It's also easy to accuse Hollywood of just being dicks.

But isn't there also a facet of entities suing all known infringement because not doing so lessens the legal case against serious, major infringement when the time comes?

I had a boss who sued everyone she encountered, and she said she had to; otherwise, when she brought a serious case, it wouldn't hold up because she'd let so many other lesser incidents get away with it. If you don't enforce your trademarks, you lose them.

I'm not defending really... just a commentary on how our legal system encourages us to not just be nice.

DreamWeaver
03-14-2012, 11:33 PM
I'm just wondering what Hollywood is going to do about all the streets named after characters and places in Tolkien's work. There are entire neighborhoods with Hobbit-themed street-naming schemes :eek:.

Pretty sure my favorite university wine and cheese bar, Bilbo & Gandalf's, went out of business back in the 70s or 80s. Guess we shouldn't hold our breath for a revival and re-opening :D.

veinglory
03-14-2012, 11:45 PM
I suspect heza is right that their selling of merchandise is what got them in grief.

Parametric
03-15-2012, 12:00 AM
I kind of feel that the Lord of the Rings is part of our cultural heritage. (But using images from the Peter Jackson films is cheeky.)

Alessandra Kelley
03-15-2012, 12:15 AM
I kind of feel that the Lord of the Rings is part of our cultural heritage. (But using images from the Peter Jackson films is cheeky.)

Her Dark Star didn't say they were using images from the films, she said they're using names and decorations but not dolls from the film etc.

heza, however, brings up a good point. The artist who created the grinning idiot and "What, me worry?" slogan (in about 1910, but hard to say) which Mad magazine appropriated in the 1950s lost copyright because he hadn't tried to stop anyone using that image and slogan (dozens of postcard companies and advertisers) in the meantime. His estate sued Mad magazine and lost because he hadn't been diligent.

So maybe it is a requirement of copyrights and trademarks that you be a jerk about even minor infringements. :(

DreamWeaver
03-15-2012, 12:15 AM
So the anthropologists won't have to find a new nickname for the fossil called the hobbit, as long as they stay away from merchandising?

Other than usage of material from the films, I think the hobbit horse got out of the barn a long, long time ago, no matter how much Hollywood might want to close that door now.

ETA: Guess the Hobbit Cafe in Houston should start watching over their shoulder. And Cafe Le Hobbit in Québec City. And Hobbits Café-Restaurant in Bondi Beach. And Bilbo Baggins Global Restaurant in Alexandria. And the Hobbit Restaurant in Ocean City. And the Hobbit House in Manila...

veinglory
03-15-2012, 12:23 AM
Kinda looks like they used at least some movie images: http://www.hobbitpub.co.uk/hobbit-cocktails/

heza
03-15-2012, 12:26 AM
I kind of feel that the Lord of the Rings is part of our cultural heritage. (But using images from the Peter Jackson films is cheeky.)

Yeah, it weakens the argument that they're not impinging on the the films if they've got Elijah Wood on the wall (pardon me) loyalty card.

Parametric
03-15-2012, 12:27 AM
Her Dark Star didn't say they were using images from the films, she said they're using names and decorations but not dolls from the film etc.

A BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-17350103) stated that they used images from the films on their loyalty cards.

DreamWeaver
03-15-2012, 12:48 AM
A BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-17350103) stated that they used images from the films on their loyalty cards.That was pretty stupid.

Even though I think there's a good case for the names and place names from the books to have passed into general usage, I certainly would never say the same of anything from the movies.

Parametric
03-15-2012, 12:55 AM
That was pretty stupid.

Even though I think there's a good case for the names and place names from the books to have passed into general usage, I certainly would never say the same of anything from the movies.

Yeah, for me, there's a big distinction. The books have been well loved for decades. The first movie didn't even come out until 2001. Plus I think Hollywood is entitled to protect its multi-million-dollar movie franchises, while they don't own the books.

Alessandra Kelley
03-15-2012, 12:57 AM
A BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-17350103) stated that they used images from the films on their loyalty cards.

Whoops, yeah, that changes things.

heza
03-15-2012, 12:57 AM
ETA: Guess the Hobbit Cafe in Houston should start watching over their shoulder. And Cafe Le Hobbit in Québec City. And Hobbits Café-Restaurant in Bondi Beach. And Bilbo Baggins Global Restaurant in Alexandria. And the Hobbit Restaurant in Ocean City. And the Hobbit House in Manila...

Shhhh! Darn you!

Silver King
03-15-2012, 02:54 AM
A charter captain I know was sued a few years ago because his boat was named Godzilla. Not sure which Hollywood entity went after him, but it was serious business. He couldn't afford to hire an attorney to defend himself and ended up changing the name of the boat to Podzilla. It sounds better anyway, since he often targets tarpon, which are known to travel in pods.

Alessandra Kelley
03-15-2012, 02:57 AM
A charter captain I know was sued a few years ago because his boat was named Godzilla. Not sure which Hollywood entity went after him, but it was serious business. He couldn't afford to hire an attorney to defend himself and ended up changing the name of the boat to Podzilla. It sounds better anyway, since he often targets tarpon, which are known to travel in pods.

I wonder what would have happened if he had used the original transliteration of "Gojira."

bettielee
03-15-2012, 03:12 AM
I wonder what would have happened if he had used the original transliteration of "Gojira."

I believe there was an issue with this for the Sea Shepherd organization. (They have a reality show on Animal Planet called Whale Wars.) They didn't use Godzilla, but Gojira for the name of one of the boats. That still didn't fly, and they renamed it the Bridget Bardot.

Mr Flibble
03-15-2012, 03:34 AM
No, definitely not. Public domain only applies to books written before, I think it's 1926 at the moment. The Hobbit was published in 1937. And the LOTR books are from the 1950s.

In the UK, it's for 70 years after the death of the author, so it'll be a while yet.



But isn't there also a facet of entities suing all known infringement because not doing so lessens the legal case against serious, major infringement when the time comes?



One of my favourite ones was when Budweiser went after a small brewery in...Czechoslovakia? Anyway, turned out a small brewery had been in existence for many many MANY years before the US one (like several centuries) but trade marks etc hadn't been set. The US company lost and had to help market the beer in the US (under another name)

As for this - I saw it a few days ago. If they said 'Look, no film images, kk?' then I think that'd be fair. But otherwise, they just look like dicks. Because are they really losing any royalties/money from this pub doing what it's doing? Nope. They are getting free adverts though....

Aggy B.
03-15-2012, 03:59 AM
As for this - I saw it a few days ago. If they said 'Look, no film images, kk?' then I think that'd be fair. But otherwise, they just look like dicks. Because are they really losing any royalties/money from this pub doing what it's doing? Nope. They are getting free adverts though....

Actually, copyright/trademark doesn't just apply to people "taking" profits from you, it also applies to people making money you wouldn't normally make by attaching to something you own and not sharing the profit with you.

Remember the Juan Valdez guy? It wasn't that the coffee company was inhibiting his ability to make money with his likeness by using it, they just weren't compensating him for the use.

A pub using material owned by someone else (images from the movies) isn't stealing from the movie company's own pub business (since they don't have one, yet) but they are potentially making a profit from because of those materials and not giving the movie company a cut.

Silver King
03-15-2012, 04:17 AM
...As for this - I saw it a few days ago. If they said 'Look, no film images, kk?' then I think that'd be fair. But otherwise, they just look like dicks. Because are they really losing any royalties/money from this pub doing what it's doing? Nope. They are getting free adverts though....
The pub is using material that was illegally obtained to promote their brand, without permission from or compensation to the copyright holder. Surely that can't be deemed as acceptable?

In the example I gave above, the captain didn't realize that naming his boat Godzilla would be a form of copyright infringement. The boat had sailed for many years under that name before he was sued. When he asked for my opinion at the time, the first thing I told him was, "You'd better change the name of that boat."

He did, then wrote a letter of apology that settled the matter.

Medievalist
03-15-2012, 04:21 AM
Hobbit is trademarked, and has been since the late 1950s.

They're using images of the actors and scenes in the LOTR films on signage, loyalty cards, and business cards, and sell pub gear using those images.

Not even a little bit sympathetic.

Silver King
03-15-2012, 04:48 AM
I think there's a sense of David versus Goliath here, where the big movie studio is made out to be trying to quash the little guy. But in reality, what comes out of such litigation often helps owners of copyrighted material, like you and I, to further preserve the rights to our works.

Filigree
03-15-2012, 05:59 AM
I'm really surprised the Tolkien estate didn't already sue them into bankruptcy. This was stupid on the pub's part, and I have no sympathy for them.

Mac H.
03-15-2012, 10:28 AM
I'm wondering if it is strictly relevant that they used images from the Peter Jackson film.

The company suing them (Saul Zaentz) doesn't have the rights to the Peter Jackson film - instead Peter Jackson got the rights to make the film from Saul Zaentz, who kept merchandising rights for the series.

I'm sure there's a cross licensing deal of some kind - but it seems to be much more of a trading off the Hobbit's name .. rather than trading off the film's name.

That also makes it particularly irrelevant that the pub was called that before the Peter Jackson film was started .. because the violation is 100% unrelated to the Peter Jackson film.

Mac

SirOtter
03-15-2012, 10:57 AM
One of my favourite ones was when Budweiser went after a small brewery in...Czechoslovakia? Anyway, turned out a small brewery had been in existence for many many MANY years before the US one (like several centuries) but trade marks etc hadn't been set. The US company lost and had to help market the beer in the US (under another name)


And the American Budweiser has to be marketed in Europe as Bud, not Budweiser. BTW, I drank some of the real Budweiser in Europe and it's soooo much better than the urine laced bilge water we make on this side of the Big Pond.

blacbird
03-15-2012, 11:08 AM
No, definitely not. Public domain only applies to books written before, I think it's 1926 at the moment. The Hobbit was published in 1937. And the LOTR books are from the 1950s.

In the U.S., it's 1923. In the U.K. (and E.U.) it depends on the date of the author's death, but nothing of Tolkien is in public domain, anywhere.

caw

blacbird
03-15-2012, 11:13 AM
The company suing them (Saul Zaentz) doesn't have the rights to the Peter Jackson film - instead Peter Jackson got the rights to make the film from Saul Zaentz, who kept merchandising rights for the series.

Saul Zaentz has a well-earned reputation as a predatory parasite in the entertainment industry. John Fogerty (of Creedence Clearwater Revival) has a famous feud with him, accusing him of stealing rights to CCR songs. Fogerty released a song called "Zanz Cant Danz" about it, including the lyric:

"Zanz cant danz, but he'll steal your money,
Watch it boy, he'll steal you blind."

As I recall, Zaentz sued, unsuccessfully.

This background may reveal something of interest for the subject of this thread.

caw

Mr Flibble
03-17-2012, 05:13 PM
An amicable solution (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9148373/The-Hobbit-pub-could-be-saved-after-Gandalf-stepped-in-to-help.html), thanks in part to Fry and Ian McKellan - a nominal license fee (Zaents says that he always wanted an amicable solution, despite telling the pub to rebrand or face being sued)

Alessandra Kelley
03-17-2012, 05:23 PM
Hobbit is trademarked, and has been since the late 1950s.

They're using images of the actors and scenes in the LOTR films on signage, loyalty cards, and business cards, and sell pub gear using those images.

Not even a little bit sympathetic.


I think there's a sense of David versus Goliath here, where the big movie studio is made out to be trying to quash the little guy. But in reality, what comes out of such litigation often helps owners of copyrighted material, like you and I, to further preserve the rights to our works.


I'm really surprised the Tolkien estate didn't already sue them into bankruptcy. This was stupid on the pub's part, and I have no sympathy for them.

Clearly I hopped on the indignation train based on a slanted news report, for which I apologise. The pub was definitely pushing it.


Saul Zaentz has a well-earned reputation as a predatory parasite in the entertainment industry. John Fogerty (of Creedence Clearwater Revival) has a famous feud with him, accusing him of stealing rights to CCR songs. Fogerty released a song called "Zanz Cant Danz" about it, including the lyric:

"Zanz cant danz, but he'll steal your money,
Watch it boy, he'll steal you blind."

As I recall, Zaentz sued, unsuccessfully.

This background may reveal something of interest for the subject of this thread.

caw

Interesting, but I don't know that Zaentz' character impacts the legalities.


An amicable solution (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9148373/The-Hobbit-pub-could-be-saved-after-Gandalf-stepped-in-to-help.html), thanks in part to Fry and Ian McKellan - a nominal license fee (Zaents says that he always wanted an amicable solution, despite telling the pub to rebrand or face being sued)

Yay. Thanks for the update.

SirOtter
03-17-2012, 08:31 PM
Saul Zaentz has a well-earned reputation as a predatory parasite in the entertainment industry. John Fogerty (of Creedence Clearwater Revival) has a famous feud with him, accusing him of stealing rights to CCR songs. Fogerty released a song called "Zanz Cant Danz" about it, including the lyric:

"Zanz cant danz, but he'll steal your money,
Watch it boy, he'll steal you blind."

As I recall, Zaentz sued, unsuccessfully.



My recollection is that Zaentz won, and Fogerty had to take that song off the album. Or maybe change it somewhat, I don't recall exactly.

Darkshore
03-17-2012, 10:07 PM
I'm glad this seems to be working out, but if the pub used images of the actors and from the films without permission then that's there own fault and they are certainly
in the wrong.

robjvargas
03-17-2012, 10:32 PM
I read that the pub was more than 20 years old, and I took that to mean that there was a "Frodo" this and "Gandalf" that without MOVIE references. On that, the pub had my sympathy.

That turns out not to be the case. This time, Hollywood (so to speak) is in the right.

Mr Flibble
03-18-2012, 12:41 AM
I read that the pub was more than 20 years old, and I took that to mean that there was a "Frodo" this and "Gandalf" that without MOVIE references. On that, the pub had my sympathy.

That turns out not to be the case. This time, Hollywood (so to speak) is in the right.


The original letter didn't just ask them to remove movie references (which would be fair enough), but also any original artwork etc,(if which there is a lot) in fact any mention at all of the Hobbit/Tolkien. Which would screw a lot of themed pubs which use fan stuff to theme.