Hobbit makers ban uni from using ‘hobbit’
Wed, 24 Oct 2012 5:41p.m.
By Julian Lee
Be careful how you use the ‘H’ word’ – it’s the latest taboo in the English language.
A New Zealand scientist has been legally banned from using the word ‘hobbit’ to describe a group of miniature humanoids who lived on an Indonesian island tens of thousands of years ago.
Victoria University’s Brent Alloway has organised a free public lecture on Homo floresiensis, a species closely related to humans which lived on Flores Island, but has been told he is not allowed to call the free public lecture ‘The Other Hobbit’.
The volcanologist wrote to the estate of Hobbit author JRR Tolkein about the event on December 1 as a courtesy, but was told by Wellington lawyers AJ Park representing the estate that he was not allowed to use the word.
Mr Alloway says scientists have been using the term to describe the species ever since its discovery in 2003.
“It more or less coincided with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and archaeologists involved just informally named it the hobbit.
“From there on in it’s been widely used in the scientific community to describe Homo floresiensis.”
A replica of a ‘hobbit’ skeleton will be on display at the lecture, as well as some of the tools the species once used.
Mr Alloway says the findings have great consequences for what we understand about human beings.
“The more we know about ourselves the less we seem to know.
“It’s really interesting that the scientific community has found this new line of humans and it suggests a complexity out there that we’re still trying to unravel in terms of our origins and where we come from.”
In a historical coincidence, it just so happens that the hobbit people described by Tolkein were about three feet 6 inches high – the exact same average height of Homo floresiensis.
Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand Antonius Agus Sriyona says the exhibition is well-timed with the movie’s premiere. He says Indonesians do not refer to the species as hobbits – they use the scientific name.
Mr Alloway is not the only one who has had problems with using the ‘H’ word. Californian film company Asylum has recently been sued by New Line Cinema and the Saul Zaentz Company, who own the rights to the film and the book, for planning to release a ‘mockbuster’ film called The Age of the Hobbit.
Asylum will be releasing the film several days before the premiere of The Hobbit, something it has done with other Hollywood blockbusters in the past.
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31/10/2012 4:17:40 p.m.
Ian H wrote:
The moral of the story is "don't ask". It is unlikely that Tolkein's copyright can be used legally to stop people using a single word, even if J.R. did coin it originally. But if you ask for permission they are not going to tell you that. They are going to say no and demand payment.
So don't ever ask for permission. Just go ahead. It puts the onus on them to complain, and since there are possible consequences for making a false claim they probably won't. If they do complain then don't argue - simply stop. But NEVER ask.
30/10/2012 11:05:12 a.m.
David Mackenzie wrote:
It seems rather graceless of the estate lawyers. The scientists are merely using the name as shorthand for scientific nomentclature. The Tolkien estate looses nothing. On the contrary it gains even more kudos for Tolkien for his term to enter the language as a general word for small hominids. After all scientists are not making money from the use. There is thereofre not loss of revenue to the estate.
28/10/2012 4:00:30 a.m.
Not my call, but Mr. Tolkien's estate is perhaps being both grumpy (I do not allude to the Disney dwarf) and short-sighted.
My daughter named our dachshund puppy Liesl after a character in THE SOUND OF MUSIC -- is that illegal?
25/10/2012 9:59:52 a.m.
Brian Boru wrote:
In a recent interview with Christopher, Bailee and Adam Tolkien: "I could write a book on the idiotic requests I have received," sighs Christopher Tolkien.... "Normally," explains Adam Tolkien, "the executors of the estate want to promote a work as much as they can. But we are just the opposite. We want to put the spotlight on what is not Lord of the Rings." This would have to be one of those moments. If these homo floresiensises lived in holes in the ground call them holbytlan! Or better still find the equivalent to 'hole dweller' in the origins of the etymology of the language of the people who live on this island!
25/10/2012 7:34:38 a.m.
Charles Eggen wrote:
Denny's Restaurants with be having a tie-in with the Hobbit this November thru January. They will be offering "Hobbit Meals" such as "Shire Sausage" & "Hobbit Hole Breakfast." It caught my fancy and so I decided to add their embedded code link offer to my website. However when contacting Denny's about doing that, I was told I could not and that I would need permission from Warner to proceed. This is very strange given that the video ad is all over the Internet, with all major newspapers including it at their websites. It's not as though nzvideos is a porno website.
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