Sauron strikes down the enemy

Paul Raven @ 24-02-2011

Like Sauron’s eye, unblinking amidst the roiling smoke above the fulminating* cone of Mount Doom, the Tolkien estate never sleeps. Why, only yesterday we heard about them cockblocking a book in which ol’ J R R appears as a character! But lest you think they only go after infringements that offer some realistic chance of damaging or exploiting Tolkien’s legacy, Futurismic fiction alumnus Adam Rakunas has also fallen foul of them… for making a badge.

Back in the late 2009, I got into a Twitter conversation with Madeline Ashby about geek culture, fandom, and a bunch of stuff like that. Madeline wrote, “While you were reading Tolkien, I was watching Evangelion.” I thought this was an excellent encapsulation of the divide in SF/F/Whatever fandom, and thus took to Zazzle to make little buttons with her quote. I bought a bunch, handed them out at a few conventions, then I had a kid and promptly forgot all about it.

Until today, when Zazzle emailed me to say they were pulling the buttons for intellectual property right infringement.

And guess who complained about their rights being infringed?

Good to see there’s no loss of proportion over at Tolkien Towers, eh? Or, you know, not.

[ image copyright Adam Rakunas; no orcs were exploited in the making of this blog post ]

[ * I’m pretty sure that’s not an appropriate verb for a mountain to be conjugating, but it just looks right, you know? ]

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5 Responses to “Sauron strikes down the enemy”

  1. Nancy Jane Moore says:

    Would someone please explain to me how this button infringes trademark or copyright or whatever? Maybe I’m just stupid — I only went to law school — but I can’t see how referencing the reading of Tolkien on a button is an infringement of anything.

  2. Athena Andreadis says:

    Eh?

  3. Adam Rakunas says:

    Nancy, if you come up with an answer, I would *love* to hear it.

    In the meantime, I have written the EFF about this, to see if it’s the kind of thing they’d want to take up. The buttons were never about the money, they were about the idea, and the way the Tolkien Estate goes about things just reinforces Madeline’s words.

  4. Nancy Jane Moore says:

    Language Log has taken up the fight.

  5. Athena Andreadis says:

    Bill Poser was my classmate at Harvard! *smile*

    But seriously, the Tolkien estate is clearly doing a broad and fuzzy application of copyright to harass people they don’t like (or whose use of Tolkien they don’t like). Frankly, very much like Scientology.