Money-making idea

I suspect this has already occurred to the staff of The Reader, but what about turning that monster LOTR thread into a book? I see that it has now moved into the “real world” by making the front page of a Swedish newspaper.

Given the enormous interest, it’d be pretty much a sure-fire money-maker, especially if released in conjunction with ROK. (Heck, I’ve read the thread and I’d buy a copy with all the junk editted out just to avoid spending two or three hours going through 60+ pages.) But it would also be something of a milestone. I don’t believe that an entire book (at least an actually readable book) has every been produced spontaneously be a collection of essentially random, anonymous posters. It sounds a bit grandiose, but it might actually be worth a footnote in the history books.

There may be Copyright problems with the Tolkien Estate (or at least with whomever it was that Peter Jackson bought the rights to Lord of the Rings from).

Not really. First, just to keep the record straight, New Line holds only the film rights.

Second, a book like this would be permissible both as fair use, since it only uses very brief excerpts that are substantially modified, and, at least in the U.S., as parody. Ever heard of Bored of the Rings?

To put it another way, if it’s legal to publish on the SDMB, it’s legal to publish as a book.

Anyway, I’ll leave all these considerations to The Reader. I have to say, though, that I’d be very pleased to see them get a little payback for their support of the SDMB.

A book version of the gigantic thread would be easier to read. You would have a lot of problems clearing copyright, however. Not only would you have to consider the Tolkien estate (owners of the characters) but then you’d have to consider all the owners of the various souces knocked off (e.g., Stephen King, all those song titles, etc.).

“If it’s legal to publish on the SDMB, it’s legal to publish as a book.” . . . . I doubt the submitters are thinking “hmmm, I wonder if this is legal” when they’re hitting the submit button. Plus, it’s one thing to submit to a discussion thread on the internet and quite another to sell a book at B&N. The chance of discovery are significantly lower here, even with any publicity.

I’m not sure fair use is the right way to go, but you could argue that all of this is parody a la 2 Live Crew’s “Oh Pretty Woman”.

Actually, probably not. I’m certainly not giving any legal advice to the Reader. They’ve got their own lawyers for that and aren’t going to be relying on anything we write here. Nonetheless, I don’t believe there are any clearance issues, certainly not with respect to the “owner” of the style being used.

The vast majority of these posts are mimicking an author’s style. I don’t believe that is a copyright issue for fiction. For example, the Dr. Suess version uses the short, rhyming style of Dr. Suess but doesn’t actually copy any of Dr. Suess’ work. Dr. Suess’s estate doesn’t hold a “copyright” that would prevent anyone else from producing rhyming children’s books.

As for the actual Tolkien stuff, it’s an excellent candidate for a fair use exception. The statute outlines several factors, none of which are definitive, for determining when something is “fair use.” On of the key factors is, " the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole." In this case, you aren’t actually copying anything at all from Tolkien, you are making reference to certain charcters, places and situations. The “amount and substantiality” is, therefore, quite small.

This raises another factor, “the purpose and character of the use.” This isn’t simply copying, it is creating a completely new, albeit short, derivative work. Big points in favour of fair use.

I should also point out that the effect on the market for LOTR from such a book would be zip, another factor in favour of fair use.

Anyway, the first thing to consider isn’t potential legal difficulties, it’s the potential market. I can easily see this thing really taking off for a short period. “I never know what to get Robert for Christmas. Oooh! Look at this! He’s such a Tokien geek, he’ll love it!” This has the potential, at least, to be a very big hit as an impulse-buy paperback.

Oh, and yes, I think it also falls quite easily into the parody exception as well.

Isn’t it true that in the United States, at least, the copyright holder must prove that they suffered a financial loss before they can sue? If so, then I don’t think that we’d be in any danger. In fact, I imagine that Tolkien’s estate would view such a book as a good thing, since it might help spread Tolkien’s popularity among new audiences that normally avoid the fantasy genre. I can sort of picture bookstores placing it on a stand next to a shelf of Tolkien’s complete works.

…and then moving it to the Bin-O’-Bargain-Books©…

Cecil says no new books until y’all buy up all the old ones first.

your humble TubaDiva
You DO own all the SD books, doncha?

Interesting policy Cecil has there. Rather than take commercial advantage of something with international popularity and appeal, he prefers to waive it off and stick with what he’s got. If a men’s clothing store had that policy, it would still be stocking red and white patent leather platform shoes and bright yellow elephant bell bottom hip-huggers with peace symbols and Keep-On-Truckin’ patches.

At home I have the Faber Book of Parody, which does exactly the same thing as was done in the LoTR thread, with no nod whatsoever to the authors being parodied. It credits the sources of the parodies, but not the parodied. It’s published in the UK, but I’d imagine the law is similar in the US.

This would be a no-brainer.

Ever heard of the hot water Gary Gygax got into with the Tolkien estate when he tried to put “hobbits” and “ents” into the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons?

Bored of the Rings partially got away with it because, like a movie parody in MAD magazine, they came up with parody names for all the standard characters, e.g. “boggies” instead of hobbits, “Goodgulf” instead of Gandalf, etc… I notice that many of the “What if LOTR had been written by someone else” posts do use the original Tolkien names.

Tracer wrote:

From Truth Seeker:

(Emphasis mine)

Well, have you ever seen Cecil’s wardrobe?


Wow, Libertarian, you mean that disaster guy is actually Cecil? With as much as he gets around, it’s no wonder he knows so much!

On the other hand: I’m aware that Gygax had to do things like spelling that silvery metal as “mithral”. But I have seen recent games which do, in fact, use terms like “mithril” and “balrog” with their correct, Tolkien-originated, spelling. So maybe whatever copyright restriction was at work has since expired? Or the Tolkien estate has granted permission for certain terms to be used?

<< Rather than take commercial advantage of something with international popularity and appeal, he prefers to waive it off and stick with what he’s got. >>

Depends on what his career goals are, I guess. If he’s happy where he is, why do lots of hard work for something else?

I’m much to lazy to ever attempt doing something like this, BUT…if Cecil & the ChiTown Reader sit on this & make their intentions known that they’re not going to do anything with this…a more enterprising person could submit it to publishers on their own. There are already a few books comprised of things “collected off the internet”. Yes, I see that copyright notice at the bottom of the page…but it is a lot of trouble & money to litigate. This could be one of those things where someone could take their chances…the potential profit could mitigate the risk…

Oooh! Good idea! Let’s steal The Reader’s property! It’s not like they’ve ever done anything for us!

Not really, expletive deleted. The more money you made, the more motivation The Reader would have to come after you. You’d be safest if you lost your shirt, though even if you had a huge loss, you’d still probably be liable for hefty statutory damages.

What I find most amazing is not that you would suggest this – there are lots of people in the world with colourful ethical systems – but that you would suggest this on this board in ATMB. It’s like sitting around in someone’s living room and discussing whether or not to break in and steal their TV.

No, because copyright is not just about money, it’s also about control. You can sue if you feel your control has been usurped, although I am uncertain of the structure or method of determining compensatory and punitive damages.