Thursday, January 17, 2013

The plagiarism of names

Sarehole Mill Yard

The Hungry Hobbit calls itself a sandwich bar but is really a small cafe serving all-day breakfasts and other meals. It is no more than 300 yards from where J R R. Tolkien lived in his childhood years and perhaps 200 yards from Sarehole Mill. Sarehole is thought to be the village on which Hobbiton is based in Tolkien's novels. You might think there is some justification for this small local enterprise taking its name from a fictional Hobbit straight out of the young imagination of a local boy. This article is dedicated to small businesses and concerns which face up to the Goliaths of this modern world.

Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) is a large enterprise specialising in turning good novels into good films. Its big successes are One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus and The English Patient. It buys up exclusive rights to literary fiction, turns them into films, then brand-names the title, characters, places and other aspects of the novel, before charging any other company that it claims infringes its intellectual property rights. It will only allow other companies to use a name it claims to own under licence. This is what it is trying to do with the Hungry Hobbit on Sarehole roundabout. However brand name laws can vary from country to country and from industry to industry.  In the academic world using fictional names, fictional placenames and texts that belong to another author is considered plagiarism if the source is not acknowledged. What SRZ is doing is akin to buying a degree belonging to another author.

Apparently Saul Zaentz Company bought from United Artists the rights which United Artists purchased from the Tolkien family estate. But it is Warner Brothers that the Tolkien family are pursuing through the courts for extending ownership rights to electronic goods. SZC is a subsidiary of Warner Brothers.

Recently SZC - no laughing now - registered the brand name 'The Shire'. I do not know how long we will have to wait before Birmingham City Council are sued by SZC, unless of course they are already using our money to pay a licence fee to them. If they are not paying a fee I'm really looking forward to this battle. Bring it on.


  1. Thank you for your insight into the david and goliath world of small vs big. We really appreciate your support, efforts and kind words. This is a difficult and emotive topic, but all support is very much appreciated :)

  2. Are you still having problems or are they leaving you alone Rosy? I hope the latter.