Tolkien Estate Sues New Line, The Hobbit Not Yet Threatened

For discussion of the upcoming films based on The Hobbit and related material, as well as previous films based on Tolkien's work
Post Reply
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
1000%
Posts: 38396
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Ya think? :P
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
User avatar
Alatar
of Vinyamar
Posts: 9494
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:39 pm
Location: Ireland
Contact:

Post by Alatar »

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote: Almost exactly a year ago, not long after it was announced that Jackson was out of the Hobbit, I wrote:
I've already gone on record as saying that Peter Jackson WILL make the Hobbit, with Howard Shore providing the soundtrack. I suspect that it will be made in around 2009 or 2010, and released in 2010 or 2011.
http://www.thehalloffire.net/forum/view ... 5893#65893

V, this reminds me of one of my favourite scenes in Blackadder, where George is defending Edmund in his court martial case:
Edmund: George, I'm in trouble here... I'm not sure your particular brand of mindless optimism is going to contribute much to the proceedings.

George: Well, that's a shame, sir, because I was planning on playing the mindless optimism card very strongly.
;) :poke: :poke:
Image
The Vinyamars on Stage! This time at Bag End
User avatar
yovargas
I miss Prim ...
Posts: 15011
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2005 12:13 am
Location: Florida

Post by yovargas »

solicitr wrote:That goddess or demigoddess (without necessarily imputing gender) at some times identified by the Latin name Aurora (without prejudice to other names which may be or at previous times have been applied in Greek nor to cognate gods/goddesses existing or formerly existing in the cultural mythologies of other cultures including, but not limited to, Persian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian, Thracian, and/or Celtic); characterised by 'fingers' (without hereby alleging that said god/goddess necessarily maintains at all or any times an anthropomorphic form) of a roseate color falling within the range of of electromagnetic wavelengths defined by the American Physical Institute as "red", without thereby alleging that the said god/goddess is possessed at any or all times of visibly identifiable color in the extremities (assuming without alleging that such extremities do or do not exist).
There's something wonderfully ironic about how lawyerese's goal seems to be to make any simple statement so painfully, undeniably, exactly clear that it obfuscates any and all clarity the statement may have had. :P
I wanna love somebody but I don't know how
I wanna throw my body in the river and drown
-The Decemberists


Image
User avatar
solicitr
Posts: 3728
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:37 pm
Location: Engineering a monarchist coup d'etat

Post by solicitr »

User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
1000%
Posts: 38396
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I was just about to post that!
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
User avatar
BrianIsSmilingAtYou
Posts: 1233
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Philadelphia

Post by BrianIsSmilingAtYou »

solicitr wrote:The Complaint is now online at

http://news.findlaw.com/nytimes/docs/en ... 08cmp.html
HoME XIII: The War of the Films - The Legal Proceedings of Middle-earth

BrianIs :) AtYou
Image

All of my nieces and nephews at my godson/nephew Nicholas's Medical School graduation. Now a neurosurgical resident at University of Arizona, Tucson.
User avatar
eborr
Posts: 1028
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2005 9:36 am

Post by eborr »

perhaps they can play the court case as one of the DVD-Extra's - or even the blooper reel from the court case - that should be exciting.
Aravar
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 2:15 pm

Post by Aravar »

That pleading's a bit of an eye opener and no mistake. Quite different stylistically from the way we do it in England.
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
1000%
Posts: 38396
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

It's pretty different from how I do things here in California, too. Aravar. I can't help but wonder why, if the facts are so strongly in their favor, they rely so heavily on rhetoric, rather than letting the facts speak for themselves. The contracts really should be attached as exhibits, or at the very least, the operative clauses should be quoted verbatim at length.
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
Aravar
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 2:15 pm

Post by Aravar »

Voronwë_the_Faithful wrote: The contracts really should be attached as exhibits, or at the very least, the operative clauses should be quoted verbatim at length.
I found that very surprising, especially as it is asserted that there are specific contractual clauses providing for termination, rather than a right to terminate because of breach.

The rhetoric doesn't seem to add anything to the substance of the claim.

It is interesting to see the remedies that are being sought. Some are familiar, but others such as the claim for punitive damages and a remedial constructive trust are alien.
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
1000%
Posts: 38396
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Aravar wrote:The rhetoric doesn't seem to add anything to the substance of the claim.
I agree.
It is interesting to see the remedies that are being sought. Some are familiar, but others such as the claim for punitive damages and a remedial constructive trust are alien.
Those are based on the fraud cause of action, which strikes me as pretty meritless. It seems to me to be a straight breach of contract claim.
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
User avatar
solicitr
Posts: 3728
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:37 pm
Location: Engineering a monarchist coup d'etat

Post by solicitr »

Here in Virginia also in a contract action the contract should be attached and incorporated in the pleading. This Complaint does rather read like it was drafted for the press, not the court.

On the other hand, Bonnie Eskenazi has a prtty impressive track record, including Katzenberg's profit-participation suit against Disney, and successfully reverting the rights to the Alvin & the Chipmiunks characters (ironically she's also successfully defended some creative-accounting cases). Now if the suit goes down in flames I'll be happy to criticize; but as things stand I'm prepared to accept that she knows more about showbiz law than I do.
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
1000%
Posts: 38396
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Oh, I'm sure that she knows more about the entertainment law biz than I do. Doesn't mean I have to like it.
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
User avatar
solicitr
Posts: 3728
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:37 pm
Location: Engineering a monarchist coup d'etat

Post by solicitr »

Those are based on the fraud cause of action, which strikes me as pretty meritless. It seems to me to be a straight breach of contract claim.
Let's wait for some more details- if New Lin'es accounting and reprtage involved significant wilful misrepresentations of fact, if the bookkeeping was designed to conceal moneys lawfully owed, then a case of common-law fraud has been made out.
User avatar
Primula Baggins
Living in hope
Posts: 40005
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:43 am
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
Contact:

Post by Primula Baggins »

"The bookkeeping was designed to conceal moneys lawfully owed" is a pretty concise summary of any studio's business plan, from what I hear.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
1000%
Posts: 38396
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Come on, soli. You and I both know how hard it is to assert a fraud cause of action in a breach of contract case. This is spin for the media, pure and simple.

Just as you suggested.
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
Holbytla
Posts: 5870
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2005 5:31 pm

Post by Holbytla »

And here I was all of these years assuming Tolkien had sold the movie rights. Wait he did but with stipulations?

You would think that if a studio or any business like New Line had such a sordid record, that the state AG would step in at some point.
Image
User avatar
solicitr
Posts: 3728
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:37 pm
Location: Engineering a monarchist coup d'etat

Post by solicitr »

In California?

Studios have way too much influence in Sacramento for CA ever to pass legislation reforming the whole sorry business of Hollywood Accounting, much less the AG's office getting involved. Moreover the prospect of prosecutorial involvement would *not* be welcome to the plaintiffs, as then the principal defendants could take the Fifth and dummy up.
Holbytla
Posts: 5870
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2005 5:31 pm

Post by Holbytla »

Ok I'll ask a few specific questions.

Tolkien sold the movie rights to LOTR long ago to UA. Obviously when New Line acquired the rights, they were bound to the original contract. Where, if anywhere, are the details of the original contract listed?

What are the statute of limitations of a breach of contract suit? Seems this is kind of long in the tooth no? Certainly the Tolkien Estate made a discovery of not getting their money and the clock must have started ticking a while ago.

Can it be construed the the Estate is using this late filing date to their advantage, and is putting New Line in an unfair disadvantage? The timing of this is failrly suspect.

The movie rights to the Hobbit are different than those from LOTR. Where, if anywhere, are the details of the this contract listed?

As stated, perhaps the Tolkien Estate does not file lawsuits on whims, but they are certainly all business when going after non-licensed coffee mugs. =:)
Image
User avatar
solicitr
Posts: 3728
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:37 pm
Location: Engineering a monarchist coup d'etat

Post by solicitr »

Vor: Difficult, yes. The problem in this case is not proving wilful misrepresentation, but rather proving plaintiffs were injured by relying on those misrepresentations, since it's pretty clear the TE haven't believed NLC's numbers from Day One. But that's common-law fraud.

However- jeez, this is NY law- somewhere in the back of my head I dimly recall the existence of a NY statutory tort called something like 'fiduciary fraud', which is pretty much strict liability any time a fiduciary knowingly and wilfully provides a false accounting.

EDIT: Aha! This might be relevant. NY 2006,
The plaintiffs -- the surviving Beatles Richard "Ringo Starr" Starkey and Sir James Paul McCartney; Yoko Ono Lennon; George Harrison's estate; Apple Corps and Apple Records; and McCartney's company MPL Communications -- claimed that Capitol/EMI under-reported sales, concealed "lucrative" music-video deals and conducted "secret" transactions with record clubs, among other misdeeds. As in Apple I, a primary accusation was that the record company designated millions of dollars of merchandise as discardable "scrap," then resold the items without forwarding royalties.
The Court permitted all three counts- breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud- to go forward.

2D EDIT: Can't find anything on 'fiduciary fraud' (although it might explain that puzzling 'constructive trust' count)- but it does appear that NY counts specious overbilling as fraud- and that presumably would extend to debiting fictitious 'costs' against the plaintiffas' participation. "Aggressive earnings management" of the Enron sort is generally accepted a a species of fraud.
Last edited by solicitr on Tue Feb 19, 2008 7:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Post Reply