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Hobbit pub accused of rights infringement

March 14, 2012 at 7:56 am by MrCere  - 

The Hobbit pub in Southhampton, EnglandWorld-wide attention is now focused on a little pub in Southampton, England (not to be confused with Southfarthing, Shire) called, The Hobbit. In service for more than 20 years, the location is something of a homage to the works and characters of J.R.R. Tolkien, one of which lends its name to the drinking establishment.

However, the book of the same name is also big business and The Saul Zaents Company, who purchased the rights to the book-name in question and The Lord of The Rings after they were sold by Tolkien, has threatened the pub with legal action. According to the BBC, “It (the pub) features characters from Tolkien’s stories on its signs, has “Frodo” and “Gandalf” cocktails on the menu, and the face of Lord of the Rings film star Elijah Wood on its loyalty card.”

Headquartered in Berkely, California, the rights-holding company says this on its website:

“Middle-earth Enterprises owns exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. We have produced and licensed films, stage productions and merchandise based on these Tolkien works for more than thirty-five years.”

The story is similar to another case where a cafe was told to change its name, that time in Birmingham and these are two of other examples that may include fan websites.

This time however, word of the events have gained more world-wide media attention, partly because of a Facebook page offering support of the pub. Twitter has also played a part, spreading the word quickly and even prompting a tweet from Stephen Fry that said, “sometimes I’m ashamed of the business I’m in. What pointless, self-defeating bullying.” Fry plays the Master of Laketown in one of those licensed films, Peter Jackson’s two-part adaptation of The Hobbit. A search will prompt dozens of news stories from all corners of the web and even regions of the world.

Landlady Stella Mary Roberts talked to the BBC about the pub:

“We were absolutely stunned. It was completely unexpected, we never intended to infringe anyone’s copyright. Are we doing any harm? I don’t think so. We’re bringing people to the books and the stories who haven’t heard of JRR Tolkien. We don’t have the financial resources to fight it – I can’t fight Hollywood.”

The topic was discussed on TORn Tuesday and has also been a topic on our message boards. A Twitter account @savethehobbit has also been created to rally readers and was what prompted Fry’s response. Thanks to all the many, many readers who wrote in with news tips.

Posted in Fans, Hobbit Movie, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit on March 14, 2012 by Hobbit pub accused of rights infringement | Discuss
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32 responses to “Hobbit pub accused of rights infringement”

  1. Marc says:

    There’s a pub/bistro in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia (metro DC) called Bilbo Baggins. I wonder if they’re next?

  2. Mike Lambson says:

    Do these people not think at all? That’s free advertising!!!

  3. chris woodford says:

    this is just absolutly stupid, people are just getting more and more pathetic these days, i have been to this pub many times and it works well. Its not just because it has a afinity with a franchise such as lord of the rings, is because the staff are freindly the standards of service are great and the atmosphere is bang on, besides this it has been called the tap and hobbit for ages now so what just because you have recently discovered it you have to cripple another good thing in the world. Even if you replaced the drinks names, renamed the pub ect it would still be a great place to go, and besides this can you not see the benifits of free advertisng here. Just let it go before you start angering a lot of people who will not stand by your company in the future for being so pathetyic in the present.

  4. Fanelson says:

    Sauron Zaents Company*

  5. SeattleOgre says:

    Good Job – they are now  lol    Talk about under the bus… An articulated three axle at that.

  6. Curtis Bloes says:

    Probably not until now.  🙂

  7. Yayagal250 says:

    Here we see the logical consequences of the draconian IP and copyright laws cropping up all over the world.  Old Japanese bartenders being sued for whistling a song, owners of small pubs being sued for using the name of a book – what’s next?  Are teenagers going to be sued for playing licensed songs during their bar-band rehearsals?  Are kids going to be sued for finger-painting movie characters?   What about mentioning a licensed character or movie in a blog post, or even in conversation?  Will we be sued for that as well?  What kind of Orwellian world are we marching into?

    Fans of Tolkien should join their voices to those resisting these laws.  Fry is absolutely right: it’s unconscionable that this kind of thuggery go on.

  8. Guest says:

    As a long time Tolkien fan having the Hobbit as my local pub is perfect. Now it seems it comes to an end. Where will I go to down a pint of Gollum now?

  9.  They probably will be, now that you’ve drawn attention to them… 🙁

  10. Ash Smith says:

    I’ve been to this pub many times, and it really is a fantastic pub. Agree with Stephen fry’s comments, It’s petty bullying. #savethehobbit

  11. Jcaesar44 says:

    What gets me is that its been open for 20 years. Why are they only noticing now? It obviously hasn’t done any harm.

  12. Ron says:

    Respectfully, Saul Zaentz has been an a**hole as long as Elrond has lived in Rivendell. I guarantee you he cares way less about Middle Earth than the hapless publicans in Southampton!

  13. Sarah M says:

    As a former Southampton student I have many many fond memories of the pub.
    Drinking all of the LOTR themed pint cocktails in one night, a task known as “Doing The Fellowship”, for my 21st birthday.Numerous pub crawls, friends’ birthdays and leaving parties, and sometimes just a regular night of hanging out with good friends.
    It also plays a great part in the community, hosting an annual environmental awareness event which is great fun.
    This pub means so much to a lot of people and for it to be forced to change for such a bizarre and petty lawsuit is baffling.
    For the Shire!

  14. Debba Sniderman says:

    Figures. This is the same butt head company that owned the rights to Creedence Clearwater songs and made a lot of trouble for John Fogarty, including suing him for plaigerizing his own song!

  15. Vince says:

    How very Hollywood….

  16. a disgusted fan says:

    The fat slob doesn’t have enough money?

  17. SonofLiberty7 says:

    This is the difference between big corporate lawyers and entrepreneurs.   An entrepreneur,  or most any producer, director, or actor, would see this and think, “This is great!   Free advertising for our next movie!” and would offer to send out free movie posters or other cool stuff to promote the next movie (ahem, The Hobbit!).   
    However, corporate lawyers don’t see a growth opportunity.   To them, wealth is not something created from effort and cooperation.  It is a pot of money to be exploited.  Therefore, they equate possessing the “rights” to possessing our wallets, never realizing that their own short-sighted greed drives people away from their products, and yes, maybe even their movies.

  18. ArwenLegolas says:

    So what are they going to do to me? I am Lady Arwen Legolas Wilson. Are they going to try and attack British Gentry now and have me change my LEGAL name?

  19. SonofLiberty7 says:

    This is the difference between big corporate lawyers and entrepreneurs.   Most any entrepreneur, and that includes, I hope, most any director, producer, or actor, would see this and think, “Great!  Free advertising for our next movie!”  (ahem, the pub’s name itself is advertising your movie!) and probabaly send them some movie posters or other cool stuff to help promote the movie’s debut!  They see the economic pie as elastic!   Let’s cooperate and make it grow so there’s more for everyone!
    Sadly, the average corporate lawyer sees the pie as static.  They assume that because this pub is making a profit, that that profit must be decreasing their client’s profit ( or they just covet a “cut” of the pub’s profit).  Yes, I understand the reasons for copywright laws, but Warner Bros. does not qualify as some poor, starving artist or author.
    Pity.   Warner Bros. could have cut a deal to have The Hobbit cater or otherwise host a debut party at their pub for that town. 
    This is why so many people hate lawyers, and not all lawyers deserve it.

  20. SonofLiberty7 says:

     There’s a barbecue called Bilbo’s in west Georgia, and I think that was actually the founder’s name.   That would make an interesting case.

  21. mare says:

    Can they do that? Is there not a time limit on how long you have to contest a name.  It’s been 20 years.  Should not Hollywood have moved on this issue back then or within the time alocated to contest a name.  I’m not to familar on the law in this matter but I hope these folk get to keep there name at the very least, and to go one further if I am ever in the area I would love to visit this pub even though I’m not a drinker but I can eat.  

  22. Jake says:

    Shhhh Marc, don’t give them any ideas. I gave my support on the facebook page. Let’s get together and defend the little guys. If we don’t, who will? Save “The Hobbit”…pub..’s..name…’n stuff.

  23. Jeff Laino says:

    What prompted this sudden action by Saul Zaentz Co. against this pub; did they recently make any change either in name or to any real extent in terms of merchandising that involved licensed film or stills from the movies?  The article says they’ve been in service for more than 20 years, which if true, would make it very unlikely that this only now came to Zaentz & Co.’s attention. 

    Or is it simply a “If I can’t have it, no one can” childish move by some hotshot lawyer at Zaentz.

    And to Marc (below), maybe it’d be better not to unnecessarily bring to light such things.  Know what I mean?

  24. Kenneth Cole says:

    They should give the place retroactive rights to use the names.  After all, 20 years ago the most Tolkien fans could hope was that the books would continue to be published.  This place gave the fans a place to gather, and free advertising to the series.  Not very fair to pick on them now, 20 years later.  Using the movie actors’ image, though, was a major error on their part.  They should have thought twice about that!  

  25. Carol Ann says:

    How about all the people with cats called Baggins and dogs called Frodo do they have to change their names,  my name Carol Ann has been used for Characters many times in films, do do think I may have a case. lol just shows you how silly the whole thing is, the studios should be glad its advertising they are not paying for, and not just for now but for many years to come, as its on going interest in J.R.R. Tolkien, sadly not the books he wrote, but the rewrites for the flims.

  26. Paul Anthony says:

    Don’t forget Hobbits in Hythe, UK

  27. eowyn says:

    I don’t understand how an American company can sue an English company for embracing their own cultural heritage. I hope Saul Zaents withdraw their claim!

  28. Timclimie says:

    That old Berkley, cracked he was.

    Drinks named after characters and food on the menu is fine I would think.

  29. Timclimie says:

    What should really happen is that they change all their names and signs to reflect the names and stories in the Russian novel “The Last Ringbearer”.

    http://www.salon.com/2011/02/15/last_ringbearer/singleton/

    My thinking is there will be something in Russian Law that will kick these guys’ asses. I’m no lawyer, and have no real conception of research beyond Wikipedia, but this seems interesting to me: “In Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia, the term “merchandising” is
    commonly used within the trading industry and denotes all marketing and
    sales stimulation activities around PoS (point of sale): design,
    creation, promotion, care and training of the sales staff. A
    merchandiser is someone who is continuously involved in business
    promotion by buying and selling of goods.”

    I find this interesting because I don’t see that this Berkeley group having anything to do with the promotion and sale of alcoholic consumables, let alone making them.

    I say have a Guiness for Рози and a lager for the босс and leave Шарки out of it.Might make the Tolkien Estate pretty angry though.

  30. sam90 says:

    Alas for this little pub that seem nice and doesn’t look like doing harm to anyone. What are they doing wrong except being inspired by Tolkien works and shared this with people? Ah of course it’s all about having right and the money behind all the thing.

  31. Frank Clark says:

    Businesses are taking this copyright BS to the furthest extremes nowdays. If this company had been around when, say, Alan Lee was producing his stunning work, I believe wholeheartedly that the LOTR films as we know them today would have suffered – as he would not have been inspiration for Jackson and therefore helped design so many sets.

    Where do the companies stop? Pet names? Passwords? Will it, someday, be illegal to even *read* copyrighted works because it would be encouraging our imagination to develop some kind of likeness or landscape which will not earn the copyright holder more income?

  32. yorkshirelass says:

    There’s a pub near me that’s called The Green Dragon – and has been since 1765. Are they infringing copywright?

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