From TED Ed: "What do Game of Thrones’ Dothraki, Avatar’s Na’vi, Star Trek’s Klingon and LOTR’s Elvish have in common? They are all fantasy constructed languages, or conlangs. Conlangs have all the delicious complexities of real languages: a high volume of words, grammar rules, and room for messiness and evolution. John McWhorter explains why these invented languages captivate fans long past the rolling credits."
So I wrote to Adam and asked him what Zazzle had told him about the affair. He was good enough to post all of his correspondence with Zazzle over the matter. On February 28, "Mike" from Zazzle wrote to Adam to say:
With regards to details of the infringement, all legal documents are confidential therefore I cannot release this undisclosed information. But we ask that you do acknowledge the fact that we were contacted by The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate, and at their request to prevent and remove any unauthorized and infringing third-party uses of their copyrights, trademarks and intellectual properties.But when Adam pressed them for details (and after a lot of bad publicity), "Mike" wrote back:
This email is in regards to the deletion of your button entitled "While you were reading Tolkien,I was watching Eva". After corresponding with representatives from the Tolkien Estate, it's been brought to our attention that the design was removed inadvertently due to a miscommunication on our part.I've written to several addresses at Zazzle seeking clarification, without an answer. But here's my guess: the Tolkien estate had previously contacted Zazzle and said, forcefully, "You keep carrying things that infringe our copyrights and trademarks. We expect you to take them down and prevent this from happening in the future." So Zazzle instituted a blanket policy of removing anything that even smelled of Tolkien. Then this dumb thing happened, and the lawyers called back and said, "Well, that button didn't infringe on our rights, so you shouldn't have taken it down." And Zazzle put it back up.
I've asked the Tolkien estate lawyer to confirm this repeatedly; he's said things like "I repeat that the Estate made no complaint concerning this badge, which was removed on Zazzle's own initiative. There is no further relevant information to add." When I asked again, "Did the estate ask Zazzle to engage in pro-active policing of its marks and copyrights?" he stopped responding to my emails. I guess you can infer what you want from that.
Anyone from Zazzle reading this: I'd love to get your side of the story.
Which is odd, because Adam Rakunas's post on the subject implied that Zazzle had told him they'd written on behalf of Tolkien's heirs. I've written to both Rakunas and Zazzle for an update.
I'm sorry for misidentifying the Tolkien estate as responsible for this inanity. While they have used copyright threats to censor at least three novels tangentially involving Tokien's characters or personage (that I know of), this button wasn't their fault, it was Zazzle's.
Tolkien estate censors badge that contains the word "Tolkien" (Thanks, Steven!)
New Zealand special effects house Weta has put a collection of its fine models up for auction on eBay, with proceeds going to benefit victims of the Christchurch earthquake. I own two of Weta's rayguns, and they're among my most prized and beautiful possessions. Up for sale are two models based on the Lord of the Rings movies (one signed by Peter Jackson, the other by Richard Taylor) and one of the Doctor Grodbort's rayguns, customized and signed by Greg Broadmore.
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Threadless's dschwen and murraymullet created this Eye of Mordor/US-dollar-bill-pyramid mashup and have put it to the vote on Threadless. I'm for it! I think the Elvish script under the sigil really makes this.
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