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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:05 pm 
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Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote:
No, it's poor journalism. "Other Tolkien books" means "other LOTR books other than The Two Towers."


Ah! Thanks for the clarification, V

Seems like shoddy contract-writing to me. Why should Tolkien Estate be owed less for TTT? Apologies if its already been discussed before. Too lazy to go back and read.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 3:04 am 
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solicitr wrote:
Incidentally, Vor, I can't really sort out this different-royalty issue. Apparently it had something to do with a previous license to a Scandinavian TV channel, and that is how somehow Tolkien retained the rights to two books, but A&U to the other two, but it's really murky. Have you got a handle on it


There is a thread on the 1993 Finland TV broadcast of LOTR right in this forum.

Is this what you are referring to?

BrianIs :) AtYou

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 2:14 pm 
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I don't think so, Brian. This was some deal made in 1961 with a Czech (not Scandinavian (my bad )) concern; I suspect the Finland TV production was made under license from Saul Zaentz.

Why on earth that deal would include just TT and not the rest I haven't the faintest idea.

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On reareading the contracts, though, I came across this tidbit: from merchandising the Estate gets a royalty of 1/9 or 11%; and this term is found in both agreements and so covers all four books.


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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 2:02 pm 
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Okay, a bit of an update. New Line has filed two motions. The first is to vacate the jury trial, and replace it with a straight court trial. In the second motion, the request in the alternative that the court bifurcate the trial. I'll explain what that means in a moment.

First, the most significant piece of information is that New Line reveals in these motions that the mediation did take place and was not successful. While it is certainly still possible that they could reach a settlement at some point, this makes it much more likely that the case will in fact go to trial.

So the next question becomes what will be the nature of the trial. The plaintiffs requested a jury trial. However, they are only entitled to have certain claims decided by a jury, claims that are "legal" rather than "equitable". This is a rather complicated distinction. Generally speaking, claims seeking things like injunctions or declarations are considered "equitable" claims whereas claims seeking monetary damages are "legal". By that standard, the plaintiffs' claims for a determination of what percentage they are entitled to based on the strange language in agreements separating TTT from FOTR and ROTK, and a determination that they have a right to terminate New Line's right to make The Hobbit films are equitable, as are their claims for an accounting and for a constructive trust, whereas their breach of contract and fraud claims are legal. New Line argues that even the latter claims should be considered equitable because they are so tied up with the complicated accounting issues. They argue that therefore the whole case should be decided by the judge, not a jury. In the alternative, they argue that if the court disagrees that all of the claims are equitable, there should be a court trial first to resolve the equitable issues and then a jury trial to resolve the remaining issues.

New Line's legal arguments seem fairly solid to me, but the plaintiffs haven't filed their oppositions yet, so I can't really comment on how likely it is that they will prevail on this motion. The motions were originally scheduled to be heard on May 28, but it looks like the parties have stipulated to continue that date to June 2.

One interesting aspect of this involves the claim that we are all most interested in: the one that would give the right to the plaintiffs to terminate New Line's rights to make The Hobbit. If in fact the trial is bifurcated, it will likely lead to a situation where the judge will have to say whether or not the plaintiffs will get that right if the jury decides that there was in fact a breach of contract, since the agreements specify that a right of rescission would only exist if a court of competent jurisdiction determines that there had been a breach of contract.

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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 6:07 pm 
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By that standard, the plaintiffs' claims for a determination of what percentage they are entitled to based on the strange language in agreements separating TTT from FOTR and ROTK ... [is] equitable


Um, construction of contractual language is law, not equity, as is the valuation of monetary claims under contract. In fact all of contract falls on the law side, except for certain extra-contractual equitable remedies.

The law/equity divide is still very important here in Va, since although the courts have been unified the rules of procedure remain distinct.


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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 6:16 pm 
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In California, declaratory relief is considered equitable, even where it involves construction of contractual language. Generally, valuation of monetary claims under contract are legal claims, but New Line cites some pretty persuasive authority that suggests that when the valuation involves the kind of very complicated accounting that is required in this case, it should be considered equitable as well. (Even though the substantive issues are being decided under New York law, this is considered a procedural issue that is still covered by California law).

In any event, I haven't researched the matter sufficiently to be able to express a competent opinion about whether New Line should prevail on either motion. The main thing is that the mediation failed, so the likelihood that there will be a trial as significantly increased. I still don't think it is very likely at all that the court will allow the plaintiffs to stop the Hobbit films, but it is not impossible.

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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 7:20 pm 
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Well, declaratory relief is of course equitable- but it strikes me as rather bizarre that interpreting a contract could be the subject of declaratory relief!


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PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 9:06 pm 
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Most declaratory relief causes of actions that I have seen have been for the purpose of interpreting the terms of a contract. That is very common here.

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PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 1:59 pm 
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Hmmm, CA law is so very different from the common-law states. Here a petition for DJ is usually employed as a pre-emptive defense, or occasionally to sort out the respective rights of co-parties. I understand it's used a lot in patent law to, in effect, "quiet title."


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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 4:12 pm 
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Not surprisingly, the Plaintiffs strongly oppose both motions, saying that everything should be heard by the jury. Their position regarding the cancellation of future rights is that there is no issue to be decided; if they win on the breach of contract they have the right to cancel. I really dislike their lawyer's attitude, as I have stated from the time the first complaint was filed. That having been said, I'm inclined to think that the court is likely to side with them on these motions, although it is hard to say for sure.

One interesting detail is that the plaintiffs now claim that New Line owes them $220 million (as of Sept. 2007) not $150 million.

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PostPosted: Wed May 27, 2009 3:58 pm 
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And so the tennis match continues . . . volley for volley. Thanks for keeping us updated Voronwë.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:51 pm 
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According to news reports, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on both motions, but reserved the right to reconsider the motion to bifurcate. This means that the trial is more likely than ever to proceed on October 19 as scheduled.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:56 pm 
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A news link:

http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/entertainm ... m-All.html


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:42 am 
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A couple of minor updates. First, earlier this month, the Tolkien plaintiffs requested that the court grant their request to have MICHAEL GEORGE REUEL TOLKIEN (Tolkien's grandson, the son of his second son Michael) substituted in as a plaintiff in the case in his role as a trustee of the Tolkien Trust. I don't know why he wasn't a plaintiff to start with, or why they decided to try to add him now, but the court refused to grant the request.

Secondly, the plaintiffs have filed yet another motion to compel New Line to produce documents. I don't know yet what documents they claim that New Line is withholding. The motion is scheduled to be heard on July 16.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 4:07 pm 
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That motion turns out to be a fairly esoteric dispute about producing document regarding the industry standard concerning video sales royalties. But more importantly ...

New Line has now filed a motion for summary adjudication of the plaintiff's cause of action seeking the right to terminate New Line's future rights to make the Hobbit films (or other Tolkien films). In other words, they are asking to have that claim be dismissed entirely.

New Line asserts three different argument to support this motion, all of which appear to me to have some merit (of course I've only read New Line's argument so far since they just filed the motion; I'll have to see what the plaintiffs' responses are). The first argument is that since the plaintiffs explicitly are only seeking termination of New Line's rights, while leaving the rest of the 1969 agreements intact, what they are seeking is a partial revocation of the contracts, and that is not allowed by law. The second argument is that what the plaintiffs are really seeking to do is to terminate New Line's agreement with third parties (Zaentz and Miramax), and that they do not have standing to that. The final argument is the one that I have been saying all along; that the attempt to terminate the rights is not ripe, because the agreements specifically state that the agreements cannot be subject to termination or revocation until a final determination has been made by a court of competent jurisdiction that a sufficiently significant breach has occurred, and a final determination would not occur until any appeals are finally decided.

I am cautiously optimistic that there is a good chance this motion will be granted, removing the potential obstacle to the Hobbit films, regardless of what happens at trial (if there is a trial). Of course, that optimism might be lessened once I read the plaintiff's arguments. The hearing is scheduled to be heard on September 15.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 5:58 pm 
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I wonder why anyone still wants to work for the New Line crooks, including PJ himself. Is he so sure they're not going to underpay him again?


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 6:17 pm 
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It's the movie business. If you're very lucky you get to pick which crooks you want to deal with. ;)


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:48 pm 
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Last edited by axordil on Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:09 pm 
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No, it is a completely misleading, inaccurate, and downright false overview for those who may need to be misled down a false path. I hate journalism like that.

Those who "need to catch up" are better off following my updates. Interesting though, that not a single person commented at all on my last post, even though it detailed the most significant development in the case (in regards to the issue of whether New Line will lose the rights to The Hobbit) since the case was first filed.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:42 pm 
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I always read your posts carefully, but often there's nothing intelligent I can say, now that I've said "I hope it will work out" a few times. I really like having a source of information I can trust.

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