Legal Stuff

Steinbeck’s Heir Wins Lawsuit

8 September 2017

From The New York Times:

A bitter family feud over John Steinbeck’s estate escalated this week, when a Los Angeles jury awarded the novelist’s stepdaughter, Waverly Scott Kaffaga, $13.15 million in damages in an intellectual property dispute. The defendant plans to appeal.

Ms. Kaffaga filed the suit against the author’s son, Thomas Steinbeck, and his wife, Gail Knight Steinbeck, in 2014. She was seeking to recover what she claimed were lost profits from film adaptations of “The Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden,” as well as punitive damages. She argued that she had inherited rights to the author’s estate from her mother, and that the couple had interfered in studio plans to develop films and had hurt the estate financially. She sued the couple and their company, the Palladin Group.

The large sum awarded by the jury is the latest twist in a dispute that has dragged on since the author’s death in 1968, when he left most of his estate to his third wife, Elaine Steinbeck, directing that profits from his work go to her. He left his two sons, Thomas and John Steinbeck IV, from a previous marriage $50,000 each. (John IV died in 1991, and Thomas died in August 2016.)

In the years since, different family factions have taken their grievances to court, and hardly a decade has passed without a major legal scuffle.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Amazon targets authors and marketers for alleged abuse of Kindle Direct Publishing system

7 September 2017

From Geekwire

Amazon has filed arbitration demands against several book authors, publishers and marketers, alleging that they abused the Kindle Direct Publishing system to artificially inflate their profits and sales rankings.

The five arbitration demands, filed Wednesday with the American Arbitration Association, make a variety of allegations, including fraudulent customer reviews, the creation of fake user accounts and other schemes to increase rankings and royalties on the company’s self-publishing platform for e-books.

One of the demands, for example, alleges that a man from the Philippines offered a service to authors to boost the number of pages read in their books using hundreds of fake Amazon customer accounts, in exchange for a 40 percent cut of their profits. Amazon pays authors who participate in the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program using a formula based on pages read.

“While the vast majority of authors and publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing are genuinely working in good faith to publish and promote their books, a small minority engage in fraud to gain an unfair competitive advantage,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “Today’s news reflects yet another step in our ongoing efforts to protect readers and authors from individuals who violate our terms of service and manipulate programs readers and authors rely on.”

Link to the rest at Geekwire and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

PG notes that most arbitration proceedings are not made public (it’s an advantage for some litigants). Amazon made a decision to publicize/leak these to send a message.


What if Barnes & Noble went bankrupt?

29 August 2017

From Nathan Bransford:

I should emphasize from the start of this post that as of this writing there are no signs that Barnes & Noble is close to bankruptcy.

And yet in publishing circles, the prospect of Barnes & Noble going the way of Borders is sort of like a doomsday conversation that is impossible to resist. It’s the rare business lunch that does not at least reference this nightmare scenario.

But what would really happen if Barnes & Noble bit the dust?

I turned to publishing sage Mike Shatzkin, who has been involved in the book business for decades and has advised some of the biggest players in the publishing industry.

. . . .

Nathan: Barnes & Noble has an uncertain future as a print bookseller, as its revenues decline and it transitions toward diversifying its products toward games and toys. It didn’t take long for B&N to go from being the bad guy in You’ve Got Mail to the equivalent of the little shop on the corner everyone is rooting for. What impact is this going to have on publishers?

Mike: These three sentences open up a world of things for publishers to be thinking about.

There are two big shifts taking place in the book business that are not favorable for Barnes & Noble.

1. More and more printed books are being purchased online and fewer and fewer are being purchased in stores. The takeaway: sales of books in stores in total are likely going down.

2. More and more book titles are being delivered to the market with motivations other than pure commercial intent and fewer and fewer are being delivered by publishers trying to make a profit from publishing books. The takeaway: sales of books issued by those not overtly trying to profit will steal markets and mindshare and reduce margins for the publishers trying to run businesses.

. . . .

What would the landscape look like if B&N exited the book business entirely or, god forbid, went bankrupt?

Without Barnes & Noble, the business models of most of the publishers we know are severely challenged.

Although publishers would almost certainly have some warning about either a bankruptcy or an exit from the book business — neither would happen “suddenly” without at least a bit more “gradually” than we’ve yet seen — the absence of B&N would be a painful blow to the core business model of trade publishing. For about 100 years, the core proposition for mainstream publishers doing fiction and non-fiction for consumers has been “we put books on shelves”. That’s the proposition to the authors, as well as the service to consumers.

. . . .

So were it to happen that the chain that supplies probably about ⅔ of the available shelf space for most titles were to disappear, the business model itself would be broken. The incentive for authors to shift to a self-publishing model, where they get a lot more per copy for ebooks and specially ordered POD books, would strengthen. And it would be pretty compelling in any case where the author brand was powerful or the author did most of the marketing of the book.

So publishers would be hurt at the revenue end and the IP supply end of their chain, which is the entry and the exit.

. . . .

Were a bankruptcy to occur, the stock in B&N, even the books that were not yet paid for, would be owned by the company in receivership and the the amounts owed to the publishers would be in a queue for payment along with what is owed to other creditors.

. . . .

B&N’s share of the business keeps declining. They are losing share to Amazon and to independent general bookstores consistently. And bankruptcy for them is certainly not imminent. So the chances are that when the day comes that they go bankrupt, they’ll be 10% or less of most publishers’ business.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

PG says not all bankruptcies are the same. Some are “successful,” at least from the standpoint of many of the stakeholders and some are “unsuccessful” and almost everybody except bankruptcy counsel and business liquidators gets a bad deal.

Managing a business organization through a bankruptcy requires real skill and if inept management lead to the bankruptcy, inept management will likely screw up the bankruptcy if it tries to remain in charge through the often lengthy business bankruptcy proceedings.

Barnes & Noble has hosted a rapidly-revolving door for top managers during the past few years and PG doubts that talented managers will be more attracted to a BN that is in bankruptcy. Any managers who can bail out of BN for other jobs are quite likely to do so.

If BN stores develop a bankruptcy vibe (see half-empty Sears stores), a great many of BN’s best customers will stop shopping there. Who’s going to bring children into a creepy-feeling bookstore when they have an Amazon app on their phone?

A lot of the knick-knack manufacturers whose products fill up the front of a Barnes & Noble store are small companies who haven’t any experience with a bankrupt customer and don’t want to spend a lot of money on their own bankruptcy lawyers. Many are likely to cut off sales completely. Others will demand payment up front and refuse to ship without it. Overnight, Barnes & Noble will transition from their biggest customer to their biggest headache.

As far as major publishers are concerned, PG predicts that the big conglomerates that own those publishers will quickly exert greater control. Bertelsmann doesn’t want losses from Penguin Random House screwing up the quarterly results any more than absolutely necessary. Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck will clamp down hard on Macmillan. Ditto Hachette Livre. The US managers at the Big Five will experience intense micromanagement from different time zones.

One proven cost-reduction method that these conglomerates understand is to reduce personnel costs. A few senior management types may hang on, but employees with high salaries provide the most bang for the firing buck, so decades of experience, relationships, etc., will walk out the door at the Big Five.

To be clear, PG doesn’t wish business failure on any organization and, especially, those individuals who rely on that organization for their livelihood. He doesn’t make these gloomy prognostications with any joy.

Suing critics using copyright doesn’t work

26 August 2017

From Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log:

Hosseinzadeh v. Klein, No. 16-cv-03081 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 23, 2017)

Hosseinzadeh posts original video content on YouTube, playing a character known as “Bold Guy.” Ethan and Hila Klein criticized “Bold Guy vs. Parkour Girl,” in which the Bold Guy flirts with a woman and chases her through various sequences, in a video titled “The Big, The BOLD, The Beautiful.” The accused video is almost fourteen minutes long, and intersperses long segments of commentary with short clips of the Bold Guy video, ultimately using three minutes and fifteen seconds of that five minute, twenty-four second long video. “As critical as it is, the Klein video is roughly equivalent to the kind of commentary and criticism of a creative work that might occur in a film studies class.” From that, you can fill in the rest of the fair analysis: Kleins win.

. . . .

Defamation: nothing in the lawsuit video was defamatory; it was either substantially true or opinion. E.g,, Ethan Klein’s statement “I think that the heart and soul of this is . . . he doesn’t like that we made fun of him, and so he’s suing us” was “a quintessential statement of pure opinion.”

Link to the rest at Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log

PG has posted a couple of items relating to this lawsuit to help visitors to TPV understand the concept of fair use under copyright law.

While it hasn’t happened for a few years, in the early days of TPV, PG occasionally received an email to the effect that he had copied too much of an original post and was violating the author’s copyright.

One email said PG should simply provide a link to the OP. PG’s personal experience floating around the web has been that he virtually never clicks on a link without some reason to do so beyond the existence of the link. The days when PG was excited about a page full of links are long past. He suspects he may not be the only individual that behaves in this manner.

Speaking of those long past days, PG remembers when Yahoo had a daily list of links to new websites it had added to its website and it was possible to visit every new site within 15 minutes or so.

H3H3 Wins Summary Judgment

24 August 2017

From Plagiarism Today:

Yesterday, much of the internet rejoiced as word came down that Ethan and Hila Klein, better known as H3H3, had emerged victorious in their lawsuit against Matt Hosseinzadeh, better known as “The Bold Guy”.

The case has been one of the most intensely-watched lawsuits in recent copyright history. Not only because it deals with issues of fair use, criticism and Youtube, but also because it pitted two of the internet’s most beloved YouTubers against an antagonist seen as trying to stifle their free speech.

. . . .

On February 15, 2016, the Kleins posted a video on YouTube entitled “The Big, the BOLD, The Beautiful” (link points to reupload). The video was a criticism of a video by Hosseinzadeh, which featured him as his character “The Bold Guy” attempting to pick up women.

The Kleins’ video featured short clips of Hosseinzadeh’s video interspersed with their reactions, criticisms and various jokes that mocked the original work.

On April 23, 2016, Hosseinzadeh filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice against the video, requesting its removal on copyright grounds. YouTube complied but the Kleins quickly responded by filing a counter-notice-requesting that YouTube restore their video. Without a lawsuit, the video would have been restored within two weeks.

Three days after that counter-notice Hosseinzadeh filed a lawsuit against the Kleins, which prompted the duo to post a video about the case entitled “We’re Being Sued.”

. . . .

[O]n May 24, 2016. Three days later, Hosseinzadeh filed an amended complaint adding defamation allegations to his lawsuit based on the content of that video.

Shortly after this, there was an outpouring of support for H3H3. This led fellow YouTuber Philip DeFranco to launch a GoFundMe in support of the Kleins, which raised more than $170,000 for their defense. That amount was then dedicated to the Fair Use Protection Account (FUPA), which was set up to protect all YouTubers, not just the Kleins, from attacks on their fair use.

. . . .

Yesterday, the judge ruled on those motions for summary judgment and sided completely with the Kleins, ruling their use to be a fair use, dismissing allegations of misrepresentation with the Kleins’ counter-notice and even dismissing Hosseinzadeh’s defamation claims.

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today

PG says that GoFundMe and similar sites can be of great assistance in raising funds for litigation and other unexpected problems.

Unfortunately, attracting attention to a legitimate GoFundMe campaign can require either a strong public platform or a lot of work publicizing the campaign.

Costco Owes Tiffany More Than $19 Million, Judge Rules

16 August 2017

From The New York Times:

There’s no place like Tiffany, the famous jeweler says on its website — and that includes Costco.

A federal district court judge has ordered Costco to pay Tiffany more than $19 million for selling generic diamond engagement rings that were marketed using Tiffany’s name.

The rings in question had a pronged setting that Costco said is “commonly known as a ‘Tiffany’ setting,” however, some of the display cases simply described the rings as “Tiffany” instead of “Tiffany setting” or “Tiffany style.”

Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled on Monday that Tiffany is entitled to $11.1 million as profits for trademark infringement, plus interest, and $8.25 million in punitive damages, which was awarded by a jury in October.

Judge Swain also said Costco was permanently prohibited from using “Tiffany” as a stand-alone term when selling its products.

. . . .

Tiffany sued after it discovered that salespeople at Costco were responding to customer inquiries by calling certain solitaire diamond rings “Tiffany” rings.

Furthermore, the salespeople “were not perturbed when customers who then realized that the rings were not actually manufactured by Tiffany expressed anger or upset,” Judge Swain wrote.

“Tiffany has never sold nor would it ever sell its fine jewelry through an off-price warehouse retailer like Costco,” the lawsuit said.

. . . .

“This was not a case about counterfeiting in the common understanding of that word — Costco was not selling imitation Tiffany & Co. rings,” Costco said, emphasizing that the rings were not marked with the Tiffany name, and were not sold using Tiffany’s trademark blue boxes.

The judge was not swayed by these arguments, however.

“Costco’s upper management, in their testimony at trial and in their actions in the years prior to the trial, displayed at best a cavalier attitude toward Costco’s use of the Tiffany name,” Judge Swain wrote.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

PG says you and Costco should respect trademarks belonging to other people.

Copyright and the Historical Record

16 August 2017

From Copyhype:

Lawyers rely on history a lot in practice. Common law itself is built on history—we rely on precedent—and when we are interpreting statutory and constitutional provisions, we’ll often turn to history to find insights and help us guide our interpretation.

But, of course, there’s always a danger with using history. Someone who’s trying to make a point may try to find evidence in the historical record to support that point, so there’s a danger of abuse. And perhaps there’s no period more prone to this type of myth and mischief then the Founding period, the period beginning after the end of the Revolutionary War, through the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, and through the first Congress. Because this is when the Constitution was drafted, so a lot of people discussing hot-button topics will try to look at the historical record from the Founding era to find some support for the positions that they are advancing.

And that’s true for copyright law as well, because the constitution does authorize Congress to enact copyright legislation—as well as patent legislation in the same clause, but I’ll be focusing here on copyright (though there is some overlap).

One of the unfortunate trends that a few people have observed is that supporters of a more minimalist copyright, of drawing back the current scope of copyright protection and enforcement, have been trying to advance this narrative that the Founding Fathers would be appalled if they looked at copyright law today, that they intended something completely different from what we see in the statute and in practice.

For example, a few years ago the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote an article in response to some comments, saying, “Don’t be so sure you’ve got the Founders on your side.” They said, “We suspect that if anyone had described today’s copyright system to, say, Thomas Jefferson, he would have been shocked.”

Instead they advance this alternate narrative, which goes something like this: the Founders conceived copyright for a very narrow utilitarian purpose; authors’ interests aren’t at the central part of this equation; and they are only given protections begrudgingly through a narrow government privilege in order to advance this narrow utilitarian purpose.

The problem is when I look at the historical record that we have in front of us, I don’t see a lot of evidence for this view. Instead, I see evidence for something different about what the Founders intended.

Very briefly, I think it’s good to get some context of the timeline we’re looking at here before delving into the details. The Revolutionary War ends, and the Continental Congress is put together. Around the early 1780s, a number of authors started asking the states to pass copyright legislation. Chief among them was Noah Webster, whose dictionary bears his name, and he was lobbying a number of state legislatures to pass copyright legislation, along with others like John Ledyard, who petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly. In 1783, Connecticut was the first of the states to pass its own copyright legislation.

. . . .

That brings us to the drafting of the Constitution. By August 6 during the Constitutional Convention, there was a first draft. It did not mention copyright or patent law in it, but in the middle of August, James Madison proposed that Congress does have the power to pass copyright and patent legislation, and that was added without debate—or without controversy—and sent to the Committee on Style, which came up with the language that we see today in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8.

So why did they include copyright? Why did the Founding Fathers think copyright was important enough both at the state level and eventually to be given to the federal congress in order to enact? I think we could get some idea if we turn to the proponents who were pushing for copyright. When Noah Webster wrote a letter to one of the Connecticut representatives in favor of passing copyright legislation, he said, “America must be as independent in literature as in politics, and as famous for arts as for arms.” In the same fashion, Joel Barlow, when he wrote to the delegates of the Confederate Congress, said, “America has convinced the world of her importance in a political and military line by the wisdom energy and ardor for liberty which distinguish the present era. A literary reputation is necessary in order to complete her national character. And she ought to encourage that variety and independence of genius in which she is not excelled by any nation in Europe.”

So they thought this was important for the country as a whole, to complete its national character, and set it on equal stage among its international brethren.

. . . .

So the idea was that we’ll give property rights to authors, we’ll create a market for these types of expressive and cultural works, and this will induce people to create these types of great works for the benefit of the public.

Property, of course, was central to the Founding Fathers in general. John Adams famously said, “Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.” Property was really important, and they saw copyright as a type of property. By giving authors these exclusive rights, it enabled this marketplace for creative works. This is consistent with other things you hear. When the Continental Congress recommended to the states, the Committee that made that recommendation said they were “persuaded that nothing is more properly a man’s own than the fruit of his study and that the protection and security of literary property would greatly tend to encourage genius, to promote useful discoveries, and to the general extension of arts and commerce.”

Link to the rest at Copyhype

Life, Literature, and Litigation

9 August 2017

From The Millions:

When my debut novel came out, I had two firsts—a work of published fiction—and a lawsuit.

I had never thought about lawsuits before. I incorporated everything and everyone I knew or imagined into my fiction, spinning them into characters. At first, to my surprise, most people didn’t know they were any part of my stories. I was sure my mom would be delighted that I used a story in my novel that she had told me a million times over: how at 19, she had been jilted at the altar by the man she thought she loved, marrying a brute on the rebound. She was later visited by her ex, who brought his wife with him, taking my mom aside to whisper to her that he had made a mistake. “It’s really lovely you wrote that,” she told me, “but that character is not anything like me at all. Plus, that never really happened that way.”

My mother might not have recognized herself in my pages, but another family—one I didn’t know—did. A week after my first novel came out, I received a letter from a lawyer. A family, who lived in Pittsburgh, where I was living at the time, just happened to share the same (very common) names I had given my characters, along with the same dramatic conflict. They were suing me for invasion of privacy. I called my publisher, shocked. “I want to countersue.” I cried. “Even if I did know them, which I don’t—how could they imagine I’d be stupid enough to use their names and their situation?” There was a funny silence and then the publisher said, “We’re changing the names in the paperback. We don’t want to hold up the book because of some lawsuit.” I was upset. These people were claiming that I had stolen their life when I hadn’t! And worse, I had to change the names because of them and only then was the lawsuit dropped.

. . . .

When I was asked to write an essay about food issues for an anthology, I wrote about a long-gone ex who monitored my food intake until I was down to 95 pounds, who clouded my vision so I couldn’t see how controlled I was. Of course I knew enough not to use his name, his physical description, or his job, but even so, two weeks after the anthology was published, I got a call from the publisher’s lawyer. Somehow my ex, who I hadn’t seen in years, had read the essay. Though he insisted he had never done a single thing I had mentioned in the essay, he still recognized himself. And he wanted to sue.

“His wife is very upset,” the lawyer told me. “He said that’s why he called. Did you ever tell him you were writing about him?”

“Never,” I said.

“Okay, good,” the lawyer said, “then I can make him go away.”

So was that the key, I wondered? You had to ask people before you wrote about them, even if you disguised them? When I was asked to write an essay for an anthology about infidelity, I played it safe. I asked permission. I was writing about one long, hot brutal summer when my first husband was cheating on me. His sister, who was also my best friend, was orchestrating his trysts without my knowing, and her shrink was stalking her. She not only okayed the piece, she enthusiastically provided extra details. She was fine when my piece was reprinted in a major magazine, fine when it landed me on the Today Show, but when I got a movie option, she immediately threatened me with a lawsuit. I was gobsmacked. “But you gave permission!” I insisted. “And it’s my point of view of what happened!” I had to hire a lawyer from The Author’s Guild who assured me that because she had known about the story for so long, because it had been out there, she had no recourse. And he wrote a polite letter to her to tell her so.

Link to the rest at The Millions

PG doesn’t do litigation any more, but earlier in his legal career, he spent a lot of time in court and enjoyed most of his experiences there.

As an aside, it is almost always more fun to be a lawyer than a client when you walk into a courtroom.

As yet another aside, from his experience representing other lawyers and one judge in litigation matters, PG can attest that most lawyers make terrible clients.

That said, how do you avoid being sued and having to go to court as some lawyer’s client?

While there’s no bulletproof method that always works, based upon PG’s lengthy legal experience, following are some rules which will reduce your chances of having to go to court:

  1. Don’t be a crazy person.
  2. Don’t be born into a family full of crazy people.
  3. Don’t hang around with crazy people and, in particular, don’t marry a crazy person.
  4. If you are a lawyer, don’t represent crazy people.
  5. If you are a doctor, Hippocrates notwithstanding, don’t have crazy patients. (Psychiatrists are on their own here.)
  6. If you are an author, don’t write about crazy people you have known.

The large majority of the general population doesn’t go to court. Most people live and die without seeing the inside of a courtroom except for Judge Judy on TV.

In PG’s experience, the incidence of crazy people in courtrooms is significantly higher than their distribution among the general population.

This doesn’t mean that non-crazy people aren’t dragged into court on a regular basis.

However, if you spend a day in an active courtroom, you’ll see more people who aren’t quite right than you would if you spent the day in a dentist’s office or grocery store.

The problem with avoiding crazy people (or accepting them as clients for legal work) is that crazy people can be very cunning about concealing their true character.

Being crazy doesn’t always mean they aren’t intelligent. An experienced crazy person understands that drooling on the floor will put people off, so he/she/they/zie/sie/ey/ve/tey/e will try to appear normal and sometimes succeed long enough to make it through a marriage ceremony, meeting with a lawyer or even, on occasion, an appearance before a judge.

That’s about all the wisdom PG can generate today, so he must now devolve to his normal self.

Given that the collective wisdom of visitors to TPV is vast, insights into crazy people and how to avoid them (or any other subject) are always welcome in the comments.




Court vacates apparent fake-defendant libel takedown order in Patel v. Chan

6 July 2017

From The Washington Post:

About a year ago, Matthew Chan — whom I knew from another Internet free speech case— let me know that someone had apparently gotten a bogus court order aimed at removing one of Chan’s Yelp reviews. Chan, a Georgia resident, posted a negative review of Mitul Patel, a Georgia dentist, on Yelp and a few other sites. Several months later, Yelp emailed him, saying that it was considering taking his comment down because it received a court order that was issued against him, and the court concluded that his comment was defamatory.

But wait, said Chan — he had never been sued. And sure enough, the order was against a supposed Mathew Chan of Baltimore. As best we can tell, no such Mathew Chan exists in Baltimore, but in any event no Baltimorean is the author of the post. Yet the order was supposedly based on that Mathew Chan agreeing with Patel that the review was defamatory and should be removed. (Patel told the court that he did not authorize the lawsuit or sign the pleadings, though he did hire a “reputation management company” to do something.)

In any event, this led Paul Alan Levy and me to investigate what seems to be a pattern of such fake-defendant libel takedown orders — at least about two dozen seem to fit that mold, and several of them have been linked to reputation management companies run by one Richart Ruddie (such as Profile Defenders). It also led me to investigate many other shenanigans related to such orders.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

Notice and take down is a process that is supposed to protect online hosts in response to court orders or allegations that content is illegal.

After a website receives a notice that it has published illegal content – content that infringes copyright, is libelous, etc., and the notice includes a demand that the illegal content be removed from the website, if the website operator promptly removes such content, under US and EU law, such removal limits the liability and/or provides safe harbor from claims by the copyright owner, the person libeled, etc., against the website operator.

As indicated in the OP, sometimes parties abuse the notice and take down process to remove content which is not illegal but which those parties want to suppress.

The abuse of notice and take down described in the OP takes things a step further, intentionally misrepresenting facts to the court during litigation and intentionally failing to serve the defendant with notice of the lawsuit. In a perfect world, the court would declare the plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel in contempt and impose substantial penalties upon them.

If any TPV visitors would like to learn more about the consequences of abusing the notice and take-down remedies, check out this discussion of Online Policy Group vs. Diebold.

Tolkien Estate and Warner Bros. Settle Lawsuit Over Licensing

5 July 2017

From The New York Times:

Warner Bros. and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien have settled an $80 million lawsuit over the digital merchandising of products from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.”

“The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future,” Warner Bros. said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The lawsuit, filed in 2012 by Mr. Tolkien’s estate, claimed that Warner Bros. was in breach of contract and also violating copyright infringement for merchandising characters from Mr. Tolkien’s books — and the subsequent successful film adaptations — beyond the scope of what was agreed to when the rights were sold in 1969, causing harm to Tolkien’s legacy.

. . . .

The lawsuit said that the estate had only granted the right for Warner Bros. to sell “tangible personal property,” giving as examples “figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing and the like.” It said it did not grant “electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

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