Image for article titled A Guide to the Messy, Divided Rights to The Lord of the Rings

Image: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros., through New Line Cinema, has held the movie rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit since the late ‘90s, after Peter Jackson’s movie plans moved from Miramax to it. As these rights are the ones licensed through Middle-earth Enterprises, these adaptive rights cover what we already mentioned—the use of names, events, locations, and so on. Warner in turn also owns the rights to those movies, and their specific imagery, for projects that can be set in the same world and continuity of the films.

That’s important, as Saul Zaentz was previously legally going to argue that the film rights had reverted to Middle-earth Enterprises again after no further Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies were in production. The announcement of the animated prequel movie War of the Rohirrim, following the life of the King of Rohan Helm Hammerhand, changed that, and it seems that Embracer’s acquisition of Middle-earth Enterprises has led to that argument being put to bed, as the two companies are now working together on more films.

Beyond movies, since 2009—after Electronic Arts’ license for Lord of the Rings games concluded—Warner’s gaming subdivision WBIE has been the licensee for games using either the movies as source material or The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings novels. This includes titles like Lego Lord of the Rings, the duology Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War, and WB Games Boston’s stewardship of the long-running Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG. Only one current video game is known to be in the works through the deal: Heroes of Middle-earth, a mobile RPG developed by Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes’ EA Capital Games.


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