You’ll Never Guess What Happened To The Guy That Tried To Sue The Tolkien Estate For Copyright Infringement

You’ll Never Guess What Happened To The Guy That Tried To Sue The Tolkien Estate For Copyright Infringement

The author of a Lord of the Rings fanfic has met a (hilariously) resounding loss in a legal battle against the Tolkien estate and Amazon, after filing a suit against them, losing, and then being countersued and ordered to pay $134,000 USD in legal fees to both parties.

Demetrious Polychron is the author in question – he’s the author behind a book titled ‘The Fellowship of the King’ which he described as the “pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings. The book was supposed to be the first of seven in a planned series.

In April 2023, Polychron filed a suit against Amazon and the Tolkien estate, which claimed that Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has infringed his copyright. According to RadarOnline, which sighted documents relating to this suit, Polychron alleged that characters and stories he had created “compose as much as one half of the 8-episode series,” and some parts of the show “copied exact language” used in Fellowship of the King

One of the more specific similarities noted in the lawsuit was the use of the name Elanor for a hobbit, with Polychron claiming The Rings of Power copied this from his book. It’s worth noting that one of Samwise Gamgee’s daughters (a hobbit) in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works is also called Elanor.

Image: Demetrious Polychron

As reported by Variety, a Californian judge dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice in August, before the Tolkien estate followed up and countersued for copyright infringement. A U.S. district judge ruled in the estate’s favour and granted them a permanent injunction that would prevent Polychron from “copying, distributing, selling, performing, displaying or otherwise exploiting” his The Lord of the Rings-inspired book or sequel. Polychron was also ordered to destroy all electronic and physical copies of the works. The book was delisted on Amazon earlier this year already.

Just to really wombo combo it and put an end to the ‘find out’ phase of the phrase ‘fuck around and find out,’ a Californian judge has now ordered Polychron to pay $134,637USD in legal fees to Amazon and the Tolkien estate – that’s almost $200K AUD for folks playing at home. Judge Steven V. Wilson described the “fantasticality” Polychron’s request for copyright protection of his works, calling it “unreasonable” and “frivolous from the beginning” due to the fact his book was literally based on The Lord of the Rings to begin with.

“This is an important success for the Tolkien Estate, which will not permit unauthorized authors and publishers to monetize JRR Tolkien’s much-loved works in this way,” Steven Maier, a lawyer representing the Tolkien estate said. “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.”

Polychron claimed in the original lawsuit to have made a number of attempts to collaborate officially with the Tolkien estate on his The Lord of the Rings fanfiction/ fan work. He sent a letter to J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson (who is also the director of the Tolkien estate), Simon Tolkien, asking for him to view the manuscript – but didn’t get a response. In 2019, he then hired an attorney to contact the estate “”with excitement to collaborate with the defendants and the anticipation of publishing his book to the public”. When that attempt led to a refusal of collaboration from the estate, Polychron then personally went to Simon Tolkien’s home to hand deliver a copy – which he also claims he asked to have back, as he would publish his book, “and an additional six book series, independently.”

While this whole saga seems about as ridiculous as it sounds, and realistically the outcome is probably exactly what almost everyone expected it to be (maybe except for Polychron), there are some concerns online over what precedent this could set for fanfiction and inspired, non-commercial works going forward.

For now, though, it looks like the only The Lord of the Rings fan getting their writing dunked on is Polychron.

Lead image credit: Matt Grace / Courtesy of Prime Video

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