Copyright claim against Tolkien estate backfires on Lord of the Rings fanfiction author | JRR Tolkien

Copyright claim against Tolkien estate backfires on Lord of the Rings fanfiction author | JRR Tolkien

A Lord of the Rings fanfiction writer has lost a copyright lawsuit over the publication of his own sequel to the much-loved series after opening up a counterproductive legal battle against JRR Tolkien’s estate.

The US-based author Demetrious Polychron published what he described as the “pitch-perfect” Lord of the Rings follow-up in 2022, titled The Fellowship of the King. He planned for the book to be the first of a seven-part series inspired by the franchise.

But the following April, Polychron attempted to sue the Tolkien estate and Amazon over the spin-off TV series The Rings of Power, which he claimed infringed the copyright in his book. A California court dismissed the case after the judge ruled that Polychron’s text was, in fact, infringing on Amazon’s prequel, released in September 2022.

The Tolkien estate then filed a separate lawsuit against Polychron for all physical and digital copies of The Fellowship of the King to be destroyed, as well as a permanent injunction to prevent any of the fanfiction series from being further distributed.

The US court also awarded lawyers’ fees totalling $134,000 (£106,000) to the Tolkien estate and Amazon in connection with Polychron’s lawsuit.

Making the order, Judge Wilson referred to Polychron’s original claim for copyright protection as “unreasonable” and “frivolous” given that his work is entirely based on characters in The Lord of the Rings.

The estate’s UK solicitor, Steven Maier of Maier Blackburn, said: “This is an important success for the Tolkien estate, which will not permit unauthorised authors and publishers to monetise JRR Tolkien’s much-loved works in this way.

“This case involved a serious infringement of The Lord of the Rings copyright, undertaken on a commercial basis, and the estate hopes that the award of a permanent injunction and attorneys’ fees will be sufficient to dissuade others who may have similar intentions.”

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