A lawsuit was filed over Lord of the Rings, alleging copyright infringement.
Set well before the adventures of Elijah Wood’s Frodo Baggins, the Lord of the Rings series The Rings of Power gave us a kind of extended origin story for how Sauron became the big bad in Middle Earth. In the real world, many have jokingly likened Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to Sauron, but there is a chance that our own Dark Lord might have finally met his match. As reported by RadarOnline, a writer named Demetrious Polychron has “filed a $250 million lawsuit against Bezos, several Amazon Studio execs, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s estate,” alleging copyright infringement.
The lawsuit centers around Rings of Power, which is part of what makes these allegations so shocking. While adding quite a few unique twists and characters, that show is generally following the story laid out in Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion. Why, then, is a writer suing for copyright infringement over a show that based much of its story on a book first published back in 1977?
As you might expect, this is where things start to get weird. Demetrious Polychron has been a fan of Lord of the Rings for much of his life, and he went on to make his own fantasy book titled The Fellowship of the King (sound a bit familiar?) and planned to flesh out a full seven-book series that he called War of the Rings. So far, it sounds more like the writer is copying Tolkien’s estate rather than the other way around, but the story gets more interesting once Polychron describes attempting to contact the estate.
We say “attempted” because he first sent a letter to Christopher Tolkien explaining how much he loved Lord of the Rings and requesting that Tolkien read Polychron’s book. Tolkien sent no response, and Polychron tried to make contact again two years later via his lawyer. The estate didn’t want to collaborate with Polychron in any way, and he still received no response after leaving a copy of his book at Christoper Tolkien’s home.
After Amazon released The Rings of Power in hopes of it becoming a Hollywood hit, Polychron alleged that much of it basically ripped off his book. He did create new characters for his novel (presumably so it wouldn’t come off as Lord of the Rings fanfiction, though many still think this to be the case), and his lawsuit claims, “These wholly original distinct and separate characters and storylines compose as much as one-half of the 8-episode series.” He even claims that the series uses some of the exact language that he uses in his own book and that some of the imagery in the show matches both his book cover and some of his descriptions in the text.
While we won’t pretend to be legal experts or even play them on TV like Charlie Cox, it doesn’t really sound like this case has legs. Since Polychron already based so much of his own text on existing Lord of the Rings material, it seems difficult to then claim that the estate stole his ideas rather than the other way around. If Polychron can actually prove the similarities and when he first wrote the book, he might have an easy case, but if he’s just looking for a quick out-of-court settlement, Amazon’s army of lawyers is likely to show him that this lawsuit shall not pass.