The J.R.R. Tolkien estate has settled a dispute with author Stephen Hillard over his new novel, Mirkwood, which features Tolkien as a character. The 2 parties have agreed that the eBook will be re-released with a new cover with a modified reference to Tolkien and the eBook will also include a disclaimer: “This is a work of fiction which is neither endorsed nor connected with The JRR Tolkien Estate or its publisher.”
The dispute never saw the insides of a court room, but the Tolkien estate did send a threatening letter early this year. The estate believed that using the late author as a character in a novel violated publicity rights. This prompted Stephen Hillard to file suit himself and ask a judge to declare that his novel didn’t violate the publicity rights.
This was a rather strange case. When you hear about publicity rights, it usually involves advertising, not novels. It usually refers to the endorsement value of a celebrity’s name.