Great Moments in Licensing

Turbine has the right to use anything from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Turbine does not have the rights to Tolkien’s other works, even Tolkien’s other works set in Middle-earth.

The nine Ringwraiths appear in The Lord of the Rings. The Witch-king of Angmar is the one you may know by name, he being the leader of the Nazgul (and either you know the fight or there is no point spoiling it). Khamul, his second in command, is named in the Unfinished Tales. He will appear as the Big Bad in The Lord of the Rings Online™: Siege of Mirkwood™. Turbine has the rights to the character and his appearance but not his name. He will appear as “Lieutenant of Dol Guldur.”

: Zubon

Update: title edited at Brian’s suggestion. It is a licensing issue, not directly copyright.

15 thoughts on “Great Moments in Licensing”

  1. Another great moment in consistency brought to you by our modern free money handouts to corp…

    … I mean, our modern copyright “laws”.

  2. “He will appear as the Big Bag in The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Mirkwood™”

    Big Bad I take it?

  3. Odd, was this Nazgul Khamul not mentioned as “Khamul the Easterling” in the Lord of the Rings itself???

    And yeah, great moment in copyright law. An even greater moment for the Saul Zaentz Company / Tolkien Enterprises which already hunted down Middle-Earth based private Ultima Online shards and forced thriving server communities to close down and sign cease and desist letters.

    They are great at pissing off Tolkien fans all around the globe.

  4. And here I thought you were the smart one, Zubon.

    This is ***NOT*** a bug with the copyright laws. This is an example of a silly licensing agreement. There is nothing in the copyright laws that says that the agreement Turbine got to work on LotRO couldn’t have included that character. There’s nothing in the copyright laws that says that the Saul Zaentz Company couldn’t have licensed everything except “Witch-King of Angmar” to Turbine, forcing them to call him the “Ringwraith of Angmar” or something like that.

    Copyright works better if you can divide it up like this. Otherwise, IP owners could only license the works to one licensee. As I remember, EA had video game rights before Turbine, so how would you like LotRO as presented by EA instead?

    BTW, the next expansion is the Siege of Mirkwood, not Shadows.

    1. 1. Fixed typo.
      2. No need to be insulting.
      3. You seem to be attributing to me intent from the commenters. “Great Moments in Licensing” would perhaps have been more apt, you’re right.
      4. No one wants anything be EA.

      1. I didn’t intend to be insulting, it was intended to be a bit of light-hearted snark. I apologize if it was interpreted as more harsh than intended. I did forget the proper smiley face above, unexpected given my over-use of them. ;)

        I barely read any of the other comments before writing my own; I mostly checked to make sure nobody else had pointed out the problem before I did. I think your new title is much better, so you’re now officially smarter than Julian again in my book. ;)

        I will say this about the topic in general, not just about your post, Zubon: it is tiresome when people criticize intellectual property laws without really understanding them. Not to say that they’re perfect (software patents are questionable and Mickey Mouse-protecting copyright extensions need to stop), but the only thing that even gives big companies like EA pause from ripping off M59 are intellectual property laws. Without them, small companies simply could not exist.

        If only someone had written a book about (business and) legal issues in game development!

      1. Mickey Mouse is an interesting one. The earliest Mickey Mouse works are now in the public domain, but Mickey Mouse remains a Disney trademark, so you could not use his name or likeness to advertise them. Or something like that; copyright law is tricky, and Disney can afford to wait you out in court. One story of re-printing old Mickey Mouse.

        1. Well I guess I should’ve been more accurate: Steamboat Willie. But yeah colloquially I hear it sometimes called Mickey Mouse Copyright.

    1. Since there were unauthorized editions of The Lord of the Rings published within Tolkien’s lifetime, for which he was never properly compensated, this is probably one of those cases where ensuring that his heirs kept the rights is proper and encouraging to authors facing similar problems. We can argue the details of the copyright regime, especially the length of copyright, but some protection beyond the life of the author is definitely promoting the good of the author and the public.

  5. The palantir that features in Volume 1 is meant to be Osgiliath stone, but in Unfinished Tales it is described as being really huge, much too large to be carried.

    One of the Turbine devs explained that since the size is only mentioned in UT, they had to represent it as the same size as those features in LotR.

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