Tolkien Estate Gets Court Order Against File-Sharing Website

Posted on February 24, 2007

The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has gotten a court order against the file-sharing website, eSnips.com. The estate wants the names of users who posted high-quality copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for free online.

The order, which was issued earlier this month by the federal court in the Southern District of New York, forces eSnips Ltd. to identify the subscribers who have posted the material, the trust's lawyer said in a telephone interview yesterday. High-quality copies of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The History of Middle-earth and The Silmarillion had been posted on the site, according to British law firm Manches, which is representing the trust.

While eSnips agreed to remove the material, it refused to identify the names of the posters without a court order, Manches's Steven Maier said. Such infringements are "damaging not only to the estate's interest, but also to the integrity of the published works," he said. "It is not something we allow."

Hagit Katzenelson, spokeswoman for eSnips, said the company, which is based jointly Sunnyvale, Calif., and Tel Aviv, has asked the Tolkien estate to give users time to object to the court order. If there are no objections, the company will hand over the information, she said.

In accordance with the U.S.'s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, eSnips removed the offending material as soon as the estate told the company about it, Ms. Katzenelson said in an e-mail. "However we care about the privacy of our users," she said. The website promises users it won't reveal their identities unless legally obliged to do so, she said. Mr. Maier now plans to contact all the eSnips users that posted Tolkien texts on the site to ask them "politely and firmly" to stop.

This is really no different from the Napster case. It's illegal to post copyrighted material online -- and all the Tolkien material is still under copyright protection. We're not sure why the concept that stealing an author's work is wrong is so hard to get across. It's no different than stealing a car. You commit the crime, you're going to get busted.


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