Voronwë_the_Faithful, our resident message board legal brain, posted today about some developments in the lawsuit between the Tolkien Estate and New Line. Keep in mind this is simply one person’s opinions but they are an interesting read by somebody who understands the law and can explain it simply. It starts, “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. “