Middle-earth Enterprises, formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises, is a subdivision of the Embracer Freemode division of Embracer Group and formerly a trade name for a division of The Saul Zaentz Company. The subdivision owns the worldwide exclusive rights to certain elements of J. R. R. Tolkien's two most famous literary works: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These elements include the names of characters contained within as well as the names of places, objects and events within them, and certain short phrases and sayings from the works.
Background and history edit
J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, sold the film, stage and merchandising rights of those works to United Artists in 1968. They in turn sold them to The Saul Zaentz Company in 1976, which licenses them through the former Tolkien Enterprises, now named Middle-earth Enterprises. United Artists retained distribution rights.
In 1977, Rankin/Bass licensed the rights to produce an animated version of The Hobbit, which was broadcast on NBC. In 1978, Tolkien Enterprises and the distributor United Artists funded and released an animated version of The Lord of the Rings directed by Ralph Bakshi, which covered approximately the first half of the Lord of the Rings.
In 1999, the company severed their licensing agreement with Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) for role-playing games set in Middle-earth after ICE ceased developing new products for this line. This contributed to ICE filing for bankruptcy in 2001. Tolkien Enterprises then made a new licensing agreement with Decipher Inc. for their The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game, which published content from 2002 to 2006.
Initially, Miramax was backing the production of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films in 1997, but was restricted by then-owner Disney, who demanded that they turn the story into one film instead of two films, thus Jackson brought the project to New Line Cinema, who acquired the rights to develop The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit from Miramax for about $12 million. (Miramax retained a 5% stake in the gross.) Principal photography for Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was conducted concurrently in New Zealand from 11 October 1999 through to 22 December 2000. Produced under license from Tolkien Enterprises and released by New Line in 2001, 2002, and 2003, the films met critical and commercial success. However, in August 2004, Tolkien Enterprises sued New Line for $20 million in unpaid royalties based on the difference between gross and net profits. An out-of-court settlement was reached in August 2005, though details were not released.
Video game rights to Tolkien's literary works were first licensed to Vivendi, which produced The Fellowship of the Ring in 2002 and The Hobbit in 2003. At around the same time licensing agreements for products relating to the films produced by Peter Jackson were obtained by Electronic Arts (EA), leading to the release of a series of games, starting with The Two Towers in 2002. In 2005, EA acquired the rights to produce games based on the literary works as well, producing further titles up to the release of The Lord of the Rings: Conquest in 2009, when the licensing agreement expired. Video game rights then passed to Warner Brothers.
In 2010, the name was changed to Middle-earth Enterprises.
In 2011, Cubicle 7 produced The One Ring Roleplaying Game, a licensed role-playing game set in Middle-earth, in collaboration with Sophisticated Games. While the game featured its own unique rules, Cubicle 7 announced on March 14, 2016, that it would create an adaptation using tabletop gaming rules compatible with Dungeons & Dragons. In 2020, Cubicle 7 lost the rights, which were then relicensed to Free League Publishing, which published the second edition of The One Ring in 2021 and announced their D&D-compatible version coming in late 2022.
Legal disputes edit
In March 2012, it was reported that The Hobbit, a pub in Southampton, England, had been served with papers by Middle-earth Enterprises outlining breach of copyright over its name. The Hobbit pub continues to trade under that name as of October 2020. The Hungry Hobbit café in Birmingham, near where J. R. R. Tolkien grew up, was also threatened with legal action in 2011.
In November 2012, the Tolkien Estate, trustee and publishers sued Middle-earth Enterprises, Warner Bros., and New Line Cinema for infringing Tolkien's copyrights by producing casino and video games using his characters. The original license to Tolkien's works was limited to the right to sell "tangible" products such as "figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing, and the like", but did not cover "electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services". Tolkien's estate claimed that the defendants' actions had caused "irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy". The lawsuit spent five years in discovery and was settled "amicably" out of court in July 2017, before a trial was held.
As of 2023[update], the company's current licensees are as follows.
- New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. – Film rights.
- Kevin Wallace Ltd for a stage production of The Lord of the Rings.
- Video games:
- 2000-2004: Sierra Entertainment - for an adaption of both of the books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
- 2004-2009: Electronic Arts – for games based on both books in addition to the official The Lord of the Rings film trilogy license from New Line Cinema.
- Post 2009: Warner Bros. Games – for games based on both books in addition to the official Peter Jackson's film series.
- WB Games Boston – for an online role-playing game, The Lord of the Rings Online – up to 2014
- 2019: Daedalic Entertainment – for the video game The Lord of the Rings: Gollum (2023)
- 2022: North Beach Games – for the video game The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria (2023)
- 2022: Electronic Arts – for the mobile game The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth.
- 2023: Three additional video games are also in development for 2023 and 2024
- Other games:
- Games Workshop PLC for a range of miniatures games (Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game) and Battle Games in Middle-earth magazine.
- Game Systems International Ltd. (Games Systems Inc.) for Middle-Earth Play-By-Mail released by Game Systems Inc. and the One Ring module of Legends (PBM) released by Harlequin Games.
- Sophisticated Games for a range of board games.
- Trading card (TCG) and roleplaying games: Free League (since 2020), formerly Cubicle 7 (2011-2020), formerly Fantasy Flight Games (2011-2020), formerly Decipher (2001-2007), formerly Iron Crown Enterprises (1982-2000)
- Mithril Miniatures for ranges of 32 mm and 54 mm scale metal miniatures.
- US Games Systems Inc. – a Lord of the Rings based tarot card deck and game.
See also edit
- Shaun Prescott (18 August 2022). "Embracer goes on spending spree: buys Lord of the Rings IP rights, Tripwire Interactive, and more". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on 18 August 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- "Embracer Group enters into agreement to acquire IP rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit literary works by J.R.R Tolkien". Embracer Group. 18 August 2022. Archived from the original on 18 August 2022. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
- "About". Middle-earth Enterprises. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011.
- Dotinga, William (26 November 2012). "Tolkiens Aghast at Warner Bros.' Exploitation". Courthouse News. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- Quinn, Karl (14 December 2013). "Lord of the Rings a chronicle of legal disputes". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- Ea Granted Rights to Develop the Lord of the Rings Games Based on J. R. R. Tolkien'S Epic Literary Fiction, 25 July 2005, EA press release Archived 31 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine gamershell.com
- IncGamers: Tolkien IP License, 23 February 2009 Archived 13 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine incgamers.com
- Lord of the Rings game rights now at Warner Bros Archived 15 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine weblogs.variety.com
-  Archived 15 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine"cubicle7.co.uk D&D comes to Middle-Earth, 14, March 2016, Cubicle 7 press release"
-  Archived 7 September 2022 at the Wayback Machine"Lord of the Rings tabletop RPG The One Ring is getting a second edition"
-  Archived 8 August 2022 at the Wayback Machine"Free League Announces The Lord of the Rings™ Roleplaying For 5E"
- Prescott, Shaun (18 August 2022). "Embracer goes on spending spree: buys Lord of the Rings IP rights, Tripwire Interactive, and more". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on 18 August 2022. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
- "Hobbit pub in Southampton threatened with legal action". BBC News. 13 March 2012. Archived from the original on 16 July 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
- Brooks, Xan (14 March 2012). "Stephen Fry joins The Hobbit pub's fight with Hollywood". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- "Hungry Hobbit café told to change name". BBC News. 21 November 2011. Archived from the original on 4 January 2019. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
- "Tolkien estate sues Hobbit producers over video and gambling games". The Guardian. 20 November 2012. Archived from the original on 6 April 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- "Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle $80 Million 'Hobbit' Lawsuit". The Hollywood Reporter. 3 July 2017. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
- TURBINE AND TOLKIEN ENTERPRISES EXTEND RELATIONSHIP Archived 7 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine turbine.com
- Shanley, Patrick (25 March 2019). "'Lord of the Rings: Gollum' Video Game in the Works From German Studio Daedalic". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 8 April 2023. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- North Beach Games (10 June 2022). "The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria, the Only Survival Crafting Game Set in the Fourth Age of Middle-earth™, Revealed During Epic Games Summer Showcase" (PDF). www.returntomoria.com. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 June 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- "The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria™". Epic Games Store. Archived from the original on 30 March 2023. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- "Electronic Arts Partners with Middle-earth Enterprises on the Development of Upcoming Mobile Game The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth™". news.ea.com. Archived from the original on 8 February 2023. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- Henry Stenhouse (16 February 2023). "Five Lord of the Rings Games to Release by 2024". Insider Gaming. Archived from the original on 11 May 2023. Retrieved 11 May 2023.
- "Fria Ligan | News". Archived from the original on 15 March 2020. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
- "UNEXPECTED TOR2 UPDATE – Cubicle 7". Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2020.