Asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Internet Law for Iowa

Q: Can I post a free Lord of the Rings themed game on the internet without infringing copyright?

I invented a game that me and my friends play. It is an Lord of the Rings themed game that mostly merely uses LOTR races (i.e. Ents, Hobbits, etc.). Can I post it on the internet totally free without violating copyright.

1 Lawyer Answer
Will Blackton
Will Blackton
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Raleigh, NC

A: While I am a big fan of Tolkein and gaming, I don't think posting your game online is wise without talking to an attorney first. Whether you potentially infringe on any copyright or trademark interest that Middle-earth Enterprises a/k/a The Saul Zaetz Company (which seems to own the worldwide exclusive rights to many of the elements of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit) will depend on what exactly is included in the game that was borrowed from Tolkein's universe.

If you have a great game that you want to release, you could remove all references to Lord of the Rings and other copyrighted or trademarked material. If you want to release the game as-is, you should consider seeking permission or a license from the rights-holder.

Generating profit is not a requirement of copyright infringement, so posting the game for free does not absolve you of legal liability.

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