The executors of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien's estate have filed an US$80 million copyright lawsuit against studio bosses at Warner Bros.
Chiefs at the Tolkien Estate Ltd. have accused the executives, who own the rights to the film franchise, of creating online slot machines and other digital merchandise based on characters in the famous book trilogy without their permission.
On Monday they filed legal papers at the US District Court in Los Angeles for copyright infringement and breach of contract, alleging at the time of Tolkien's death in 1973, Warner Bros executives were only granted permission to make profit from tangible goods such as books and clothing items.
The executors are hoping to resolve the royalty dispute as quickly as possible.
A spokesperson tells Deadline.com, "Not only are gambling services outside the rights granted, but this exploitation of Tolkien's well-loved work has offended and distressed Tolkien's devoted fans, harming Tolkien's legacy and reputation.
"The plaintiffs have been compelled to take this action to protect their literary and commercial assets and hope that the dispute will be resolved quickly."
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey premieres in Wellington next week.