Season two of The Rings of Power is well underway, but it seems the drama isn’t just confined to the screen. Fanfiction writer Demetrious Polychron filed a $250 million lawsuit against The Tolkien Estate and Amazon executives, including Jeff Bezos, for copyright infringement.
Amazon’s The Rings of Power is based on the appendices of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, right? That’s not the case for author Demetrious Polychron. According to PC Gamer, Polychron says Amazon and The Tolkien Estate stole ideas from his 2017 Lord of the Rings fanfiction, The Fellowship Of The King.
Crazy, right? Let’s break down this story from the very beginning.
A timeline of events
Demetrious Polychron registered his book, The Fellowship Of The King: The War Of The Rings, with the US Copyright Office. The Fellowship Of The King begins in The Shire and follows the hobbit, Elanor Gardner. Elanor Gardner is the canonical daughter of Samwise Gamgee and Rosie Cotton.
Polychron then sent a letter to Simon Tolkien, the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien and director of The Tolkien Estate, describing the book and requesting a review of it. Via the legal complaint, Polychron hoped they could collaborate to publish it, but he got no response.
Still excited to collaborate, Polychron hired an attorney to contact The Tolkien Estate again. The complaint says The Tolkien Estate’s attorney “rebuffed any attempt at collaboration the very next day.” Undeterred, Polychron says he personally delivered a copy of the manuscript for his book to Simon Tolkien “at his home.” Polychron said he included the copyright symbol “©” on the manuscript.
After receiving no response again, Polychron sent another letter asking for the manuscript back and informing The Tolkien Estate that he’d be publishing The Fellowship Of The King independently, along with an additional six-book series.
In September 2022, Polychron published The Fellowship Of The King (on Amazon, if you can believe it). This coincides with the premiere and airing of Amazon’s The Rings of Power.
Does Demetrious Polychron have a case?
The short answer is not likely.
Copyright infringement cases can be messy and confusing. But, based on the information already available with this case, it seems unlikely Demetrious Polychron will come out on top.
Polychron’s book undoubtedly pulls from the Lord of the Rings franchise, making the story “based on” Tolkien’s work, not “inspired by.” This means it’s going to be a tough case to prove that his ideas were allegedly “stolen” from him by Amazon.
Additionally, Polychron’s book follows Elanor Gardner, a canonical character in Tolkien’s works. Polychron argues Amazon stole this character from his book. If you’ll remember, The Rings of Power features the character Elanor, a harfoot. PC Gamer sums it up best, writing:
The harfoot Elanor in The Rings of Power is a new character who, if I had to guess, was probably named Elanor because that’s the kind of name a proto-hobbit would have, as established by J.R.R Tolkien, the guy who created hobbits and first named one of them Elanor, and whose work Amazon has a license to adapt.— PC Gamer
Ultimately, Polychron’s inclusion of characters from Tolkien’s works indicates The Fellowship Of The King is not a wholly original creation. This could land him in deep legal trouble– trying to claim one of Tolkien’s characters as your own while making a profit is ballsy, to say the least.
As of now, Demetrious Polychron’s The Fellowship Of The King is no longer available for purchase. If you’re curious, you can find details about the book on Goodreads, along with reviews from readers who are none too happy about Polychron’s attempt to profit off of licensed work.
Season two of The Rings of Power is currently in production and is expected to hit screens in 2024. As always, stay tuned for more production news, casting announcements, and all things The Rings of Power right here at Bookstr.