‘Unauthorized Use of Hobbit:’ Hollywood targets little guys
Stella Roberts, 41, the landlady of the pub, says her small business simply does not have the funds to stand up to the big guys like Zaentz.“We just haven’t got the resources to fight it. How can I take on a multi-million pound power?” – she told the Daily Echo.“We never planned to steal anybody else’s ideas – we’re all such huge fans of Tolkien that it’s more like a homage,” Roberts added.Pub regular Ann-Marie O’Halloran said, “I think it’s very symptomatic of the little guy verses the big guys – people who have the money have all the rights and that’s the way the system works. It’s like hobbits versus orcs.”The outlet was urged to change its name and theme by the end of May, otherwise legal action would be taken for copyright infringement. A online campaign as been launched to save the unique look and theme of the Tolkien fans' beloved pub, already gaining over 3,000 supporters. Heather Cartwright, who launched the campaign, says part of the fun of The Hobbit is its theme: “I can’t think of any other pub where I’ve walked past a Ringwraith, or had the pleasure of being able to say: ‘I’ll have a Gandalf, please.’”Back in November 2011, lawyers from the Saul Zaentz Company accused a café in Birmingham called the Hungry Hobbit of copyright infringement. In a letter titled “Unauthorized Use of Hobbit,” they ordered the café's owners to stop using the word ‘hobbit,’ saying it would be detrimental to the brand and would suggest that SZC endorsed the outlet, Torrenfreak.com writes. The café had been using its name for six years by that time. And a small Scottish company producing something called “hobbit houses” also received a warning from Zaentz lawyers, and was forced to comply with the demand.
Of course, the principle question arising is what the SZC has to do with the fantasy folk name introduced by Tolkien back in 1937, when The Hobbit was first published. The author himself said he invented the word when he started writing the book. He claimed that what could have inspired him were the Snergs created by Edward Wyke Smith along with Sinclair Lewis’s Babbit. Tolkien recalled that The Hobbit began from a scrap on a piece of paper: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” – a phrase he suddenly wrote when grading a set of student essays.However, even Tolkien’s authorship is debated: according to some sources, as early as in 1895, folklorist Michael Aislabie Denham mentioned hobbits in his works. And now, whether the hobbit is 75 or 125 years old, Mr. Zaentz is claiming authorship – and the proceeds – from ‘Gandalf’ cocktails or sandwiches served under the Hungry Hobbit's sign.