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Tolkien Licensing Flowchart

Nov 26, 2022 (edited)
2022/11/26 14:45:19 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Stumbled upon an interesting flow chart of Tolkien adaptation rights that is pretty accurate and easy to understand. Just swap out HoughtonMifflin with WilliamMorrow and you'd be up to date.

Artwork by Tim Bolton
https://twitter.com/timboltonuk

Edited to add Tim's latest version.

10_63e0a95dee14c.jpg 1448X2048 px
Nov 27, 2022
2022/11/27 2:42:18 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I think Weta and some game companies got sublicenses from New Line /WB rather than directly from Middle-earth Enterprises, since they are shaped after the images in the movies. Here Weta describes its licensor as

© 2021 New Line Productions, Inc. All rights reserved. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING and the names of the characters, items, events and places therein are trademarks of The Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Middle-earth Enterprises under license to New Line Productions, Inc. (s21)
© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES and the names of the characters, items, events and places therein are trademarks of The Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Middle-earth Enterprises under license to New Line Productions, Inc.
Nov 27, 2022
2022/11/27 8:18:18 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I myself done a chart, in the same time as Tim Bolton (and through a common friend, I think he obtained mine). I give mine here, because I think they complement each other, even if my chart isn't as cool as Tim's.

965_63831d039c541.png 12561X7542 px
Nov 27, 2022
2022/11/27 9:25:37 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Has it been confirmed anywhere that MEE was involved in licensing the Amazon series?
Nov 27, 2022
2022/11/27 10:36:29 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Warner/New Line was, so indirectly, MEE have to, if I'm not wrong ?
Nov 27, 2022
2022/11/27 11:01:23 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I guess I don't know how this all works but my assumption was that they only need to work with MEE to make a new adaptation from MEE's stuff (e.g. a film, game, merch, etc), and that working directly with Warner/New Line lets them use the existing film imagery in their tv adaptation. That is to say WB/NLC owns the rights to use the PJ films and MEE owns the rights to make new films or merch. Amazon doesn't need to work with MEE to use something from the films in their show.

That said, this is just the way I interpreted it. I could be very wrong here.
Nov 27, 2022 (edited)
2022/11/27 11:32:23 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Always interesting.

In reference to Druss's flowchart, the bit about UA selling the "same rights" to Zaentz in 1976: When the H film(s) were being muted was there not some specific issue with UA still retaining distribution rights (narrowly & specifically; nothing else) or something? It was settled, but it was implied (in media write-ups) that there were still loose-ends from some of those 1970's agreements that still existed at that time. I'm sure it was the H films, but my recollection may be in error...
Nov 27, 2022
2022/11/27 12:36:05 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Khamûl wrote:

Always interesting.

In reference to Druss's flowchart, the bit about UA selling the "same rights" to Zaentz in 1976: When the H film(s) were being muted was there not some specific issue with UA still retaining distribution rights (narrowly & specifically; nothing else) or something? It was settled, but it was implied (in media write-ups) that there were still loose-ends from some of those 1970's agreements that still existed at that time. I'm sure it was the H films, but my recollection may be in error...

According to the 1976 contract between UA and Zaentz:

From and after the effective date hereof, PURCHASER shall be the sole and exclusive owner of the PROPERTY and of the first and of all subsequent motion pictures to be produced based upon the PROPERTY, and all contracts and rights with respect thereto and all physical material in connection therewith, subject to the terms of this agreement and that certain Distribution Agreement ("LEASE AGREEMENT") being entered into concurrently herewith between PURCHASER and SELLER providing for SELLER'S acquisition of certain distribution rights in and to the first motion picture to be produced and based in whole or in part upon the AGREEMENTS and/or the PROPERTY. In accordance with the informal agreements upon which the parties have relied, PURCHASER shall grant similar distribution rights to SELLER upon the same terms and conditions as are set forth in said LEASE AGREEMENT in and to any and all further motion pictures based in whole or in part upon the AGREEMENTS and/or the PROPERTY.
Nov 27, 2022
2022/11/27 14:01:53 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Thanks for filling in the gaps everyone! I was hoping some would add clarification.
Nov 27, 2022
2022/11/27 18:33:54 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
The Tim Bolton flowchart thoughts:

  • The diagram makes no indication at all as to which rights he is talking about for the Amazon license, which should be similar to the Film and Merchandising rights (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings only).
  • The Amazon license is evidently much more complicated (based on news stories, IMDB entry and other sources) - HarperCollins, Warner Brothers and Middle-earth Enterprises were all involved in some fashion in the deal.
  • As mentioned above, the publishing rights are more complicated than shown - for example, missing is Ballantine who have the mass market paperback rights in the USA still, and HC USA is using their William Morrow and Mariner imprints which I think should be mentioned.
  • There are a lot of other licensees under Middle-earth Enterprises. It appears that Tim was focused just on movie and video game licensees, but there are lots more. Off the top of my head, Shire Post Mint and Oscha Slings as examples.

For Druss's flowchart (thanks for sharing!)
  • For 2022, it should say that Embracer Group acquired Middle-earth Enterprises - right now it says that MeE "sells the rights to adapt" implying that MeE still exists separate from those rights and from Embracer - the whole company is now a subsidiary of Embracer.
  • The 2017 text says that the license to Amazon was specifically for the events in the Second Age age as described in the Appendices. While that is exactly what the companies agreed to make, the timeline is pretty clear (to me) that Amazon bought the TV rights carte blanche in 2017, and then was interviewing various pitches in early 2018 when the Rings of Power pitch was first made and decided on. The rights that Amazon have, I believe, are generically for TV shows in general. This is speculation on my part as the terms of that deal are very closely guarded.
  • The 1969 text says that Tolkien sells the rights "admittedly within the limits of Third Age events". I do not think this is at all true, having read the UA contracts. The terms are pretty clear that UA could make films (and games and merchandise) for anything appearing in those books - including the Appendices!
  • 1977 text - small quibble, I would rather say "After" their father's death, rather than "Upon" (which implies he died in 1977).
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