Here's your feel-good story of the day: Not long ago reports began to circulate that a British pub called The Hobbit was being forced to give up its name and all references to J.R.R. Tolkien's work due to copyright infringement. The tiny Southampton pub, which had been operating as The Hobbit for 20 years -- featuring artwork and drinks based on the Lord of the Rings franchise -- was shocked by the copyright claims from the Hollywood firm Saul Zaentz Company (SZC), which no doubt cropped up now that The Hobbit is inching closer to its big-screen release this December.
The owner of the pub immediately confessed that she didn't have the money to fight the legal claims, while those who frequent the bar (mainly local students) began a Facebook campaign that has since reached over 50,000 supporters. Then, when it appeared there was no way out, two actors from The Hobbit -- Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry -- stepped up and agreed to pay the licensing fee so the pub can carry on. Producer Paul Zaentz added, "When it's an established business, we like to get the company to acknowledge they are using our trademarks, stop selling infringing articles and then we will grant them a licence for a nominal fee - approximately $100 a year."
Whether or not that $100 fee will go up once the buzz on this story dies down and the films hit theaters, we don't know. The pub's owner is still afraid that things will take a turn for the worse. "Until everything is in black and white, on paper, we're going to be a bit reserved because it could be $100 this year and $20,000 next year. They have said to us they will offer us a license to trade, but we don't know whether it means trading as The Hobbit, whether we still have to get rid of all our artwork, cocktail names, everything. We just don't know what's entailed."
It's an interesting case because, technically, this pub doesn't have a right to earn money off a property they don't own. Then again, it seems the Hobbit-related stuff inside the pub simply adds flavor to its surroundings and isn't looking to do anything shady, especially since they've been operating this way long before the films brought newfound popularity to this franchise. Here's hoping both parties can resolve this without it getting too ugly, and if anything all this news surrounding the pub is probably bringing it some nice business right now.