Polychron, Tolkien, and Amazon (Oh, My!)

Here’s an interesting lawsuit or two article about an interesting copyright dispute. One that involves “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Tolkien Estate Wins Court Order to Destroy Fan’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Sequel.

The subhead to this article goes on to describe it in a summary very much like something generated by ChatGPT.

Ruling that the fan’s unauthorized book violated copyright protections, a judge barred him from distributing it and ordered him to destroy all electronic and physical copies of it.

Let’s take a quick look at this unholy mess the situation.

It was supposed to be what a fan described as a “loving homage” to his hero, the author J.R.R. Tolkien, and to “The Lord of the Rings,” which he called “one of the most defining experiences of his life.”

A judge in California had another view.

The fan, Demetrious Polychron of Santa Monica, Calif., violated copyright protections this year when he wrote and published a sequel to the epic “Rings” series, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of California ruled last week.

And who better to write an homage to LOTR than someone with a name that could pass for a Tolkien character?

The problem is that the judge found “direct evidence of copying” and copying copyrighted shit without permission is bad.

He also ordered Polychron to destroy all electronic and physical copies of the published work, “The Fellowship of the King,” by Sunday. As of Wednesday, Amazon and Barnes & Noble were no longer listing the book for sale online.

The article then goes on to describe the whole “saga” of the lawsuit(s) that started way back in 2017. At that time, Polychron (which sounds way too much like one of those undercarriage sealants car dealerships always try to upsell you in that “would you like fries with that?” way they have) emailed and hand-delivered “a gift-wrapped copy of his book [‘The Fellowship of the King’, unauthorized sequel to LOTR] to Simon Tolkien, a grandson of the author, at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif.” Along with the book, Polychron included a note that amounted to the worst pitch letter ever written.

In his ill-advised note, he refers to his book as (and I quote quoted material here) “the obvious pitch-perfect sequel”. Now, anyone who’s written a query letter or 400 knows that this sort of self-aggrandizing talk has no place in a letter essentially introducing yourself (an unknown author) and your work to a complete stranger. Let alone trying to persuade the copyright holder of a book trilogy to let you write a sequel to said trilogy.

Yet, despite Polychron’s assurance that he intended “to stick as close to canon as I could,” Simon Tolkien simply wasn’t falling for any old line from a rabid LOTR fan. Clearly, at this point, Polychron had no choice but to turn to the magic of self-publishing. Because … well, he just had to, I guess.

Well, unsurprisingly, the Tolkien folk weren’t thrilled about this. They fired off a cease-and-desist letter to Polygon Polychron, and texted him multiple times, tried to reach him by everything from letters to carrier pigeons to smoke signals any means necessary.

But in what you might call an “interesting plot twist,” this happened a month after the offending sequel was published:

In April, Polychron sued the Tolkien estate and Amazon. He claimed that “Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power,” an Amazon Prime Video prequel series that was released last year and is one of the few adaptations authorized by the Tolkien estate, infringed on the copyright of his book. He asked for $250 million in compensation.

Um, wow!

The case was dismissed, with the judge finding the copyright infringement to be vice versa to the cause of action as stated in the complaint.

The Tolkien estate decided to sue PolyChron in June. This is what’s known as a fast-moving string of litigation.

I’ll skip all the allegations made by the Tolkien estate, which you can read about if you click the link to the article.

The judge ruled in one or the other of the lawsuits, as follows:

Judge Wilson wrote that Polychron’s lawsuit was “frivolous,” and ordered him to pay the Tolkien estate and Amazon $134,000 in lawyer’s fees.

I will give Polyglot Polychrom this. He didn’t go Amazon exclusive. His book was available on Barrnes & Noble, too.


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