Use of JRR Tolkien Elvish Script and Images

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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MrsTwosheds
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Use of JRR Tolkien Elvish Script and Images

Post by MrsTwosheds » Thu Oct 27, 2016 9:12 am

Hi Andy et al

Thanks to you guys, our exhibition passed successfully without even once raising a copyright issue! Thank you so much for your help with that.

Am returning to normal 'needlewoman' mode now and thought (as an old hippy) that I might start with a Lord of The Rings motif (which may or may not make it to public display, depending upon how well it turns out!).

However, I am very confused indeed about the enormous amount of graphic works in existence online - for a work which is, presumably, still within copyright, there are phenomenal amounts of Elvish Script and Tree of Gondor illustrations, tattoos, bags, sweaters, wall decals, T shirts, etc. Why is that?
Is it OK for me to do it, too? The script puzzles me very much, as there is no room for artistic interpretation here, so each depiction (by whatever medium) is exactly the same.

I know that you will know the answer to this. Is there something I've missed?

Very many thanks for your help.

Sally

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Thu Oct 27, 2016 8:05 pm

Hi Sally,

Glad to hear your exhibition passed off without incident!

I'm afraid that Tolkien and his books passed me by and so I am not au fait with the details of his works, such as Elvish script. However the following extract from the Wikipedia entry for The Lord of the Rings tells me virtually every thing I need to know about the intellectual property aspects:
In 1969, Tolkien sold the merchandising rights to The Lord of The Rings (and The Hobbit) to United Artists under an agreement stipulating a lump sum payment of £10,000[93] plus a 7.5% royalty after costs, payable to Allen & Unwin and the author. In 1976, three years after the author's death, United Artists sold the rights to Saul Zaentz Company, who now trade as Tolkien Enterprises. Since then all "authorized" merchandise has been signed-off by Tolkien Enterprises, although the intellectual property rights of the specific likenesses of characters and other imagery from various adaptations is generally held by the adaptors. Outside any commercial exploitation from adaptations, from the late 1960s onwards there has been an increasing variety of original licensed merchandise, from posters and calendars created by illustrators such as Pauline Baynes and the Brothers Hildebrandt, to figurines and miniatures to computer, video, tabletop and role-playing games. Recent examples include the Spiel des Jahres award winning (for best use of literature in a game) board game The Lord of the Rings by Reiner Knizia and the Golden Joystick award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game, The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar by Turbine, Inc.
The fact that there is a company set up for the specific purpose of exploiting the Tolkien books etc means that anyone who attempts to exploit even some remote detail without permission can expect a lawyer's letter by the first post. This certainly happened to a pub in Hampshire.

On the specific subject of Elvish, there is no question that Tolkien created both the languages and the scripts, and since these are not conventional languages (in the sense they are in everyday use like English or French) there is no reason to assume that copyright does not exist for the languages and the lettering as literary and artistic works respectively. I am not clear about whether the few Elvish scripts which have been turned into typefaces (fonts) have been done with permission. If they have then using one of the typefaces does not amount to infringement of the artistic work which is to be found in the underlying designs. Typefaces occupy a strange world in which the designs are protected by copyright, but using the fonts themselves (either the old metal type or today's software-generated fonts) to print or render text does not infringe that copyright. It would infringe if a new typeface was created from a pre-existing face.

I'm not sure if I have really helped to clarify things in relation to your Lord of the Rings motif, as I am not clear what that is. If it is a specific graphic found in one the LotR books, I would suggest you don't use it commercially without getting permission.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

MrsTwosheds
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Post by MrsTwosheds » Thu Oct 27, 2016 8:43 pm

Hi Andy

Thank you, yes - all good on the exhibition front (hoorah)!

Ooh.....this is probably one to be avoided, I think. I may do something else in a similar vein and avoid Lord of The Rings altogether, as I can live without a solicitor's letter. I think that there are Elvish Script Generators online, but these are of limited use without anything to attach the script to, I guess.

Back to the drawing board with this one then. Thank you, as always, for your speedy and excellent answers to my queries (and for saving me from a life behind bars!).

Best regards

Sally

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Re: Use of JRR Tolkien Elvish Script and Images

Post by MrsTwosheds » Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:43 am

Hi again guys

Have been pondering over this (for the whole of last year!) and am still wondering about the extent of copyright on the whole Lord of The Rings issue. I appreciate that the company set up to exploit Tolkien’s work will do so if they can, but I was wondering how much power they have with regards to images which were already in existence prior to Tolkien’s use of them.

The image that I would like to use is similar to his Tree of Gondor illustration. It is based on the ‘blasted tree’, which has been in use as an heraldic device for some centuries and appears on all sorts of coats of arms, etc. His tree has seven stars around the tops of the branches, but other than that is not an ‘original’ concept. Would I be in hot water for drawing my own blasted tree (in every sense!) and sticking a crown or a trio of suns above it?

Thank you for your invaluable help in advance.

Best regards

Sally

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Re: Use of JRR Tolkien Elvish Script and Images

Post by AndyJ » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:56 am

Hi Sally,

Not being familiar with the Tree of Gondor (or indeed the works of JRR Tolkien more generally), I googled the image. I am assuming that you are talking about something like the tree featured in various Etsy postings here. If you are reasonably sure that the basic tree image was already in existence before Tolkien's illustrator adapted it, then I think it would be reasonably safe to make your own version. Although it is not a totally reliable indicator, the fact that as the original design is widely used on Etsy and the postings there appear to be fairly old, suggests that no-one has been concerned enough to demand that they are taken down on the grounds of copyright infringement.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

MrsTwosheds
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Re: Use of JRR Tolkien Elvish Script and Images

Post by MrsTwosheds » Sun Apr 15, 2018 1:46 pm

Hi Andy

Thank you - yes, that’s the image (or similar) that I’d like to use. I can’t currently find an actual instance of the use of such a device, but I’ve found a heraldry website which references the heraldic ‘blasted and eradicated tree’ (leafless and with exposed roots) and a drawn image to illustrate it, which corresponds to the picture I have in my head. It mentions its existence as far back as 1581, so I guess I’m OK! It’s comforting to know that no-one appears to have been arrested yet!

Thank you, as always, for your kind assistance and very speedy response.

Best regards

Sally

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