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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
New Hilary Tolkien Book Cancelled

News from Bree
spymaster@theonering.net

Nov 8 2010, 4:43pm

Post #1 of 19 (2374 views)
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New Hilary Tolkien Book Cancelled Can't Post

Melilot sends along word: Regarding the launch of the new book on Hilary Tolkien: It's been canceled. Andrew Compton sent along a message to explain things - I thought you might want to know before too many people are getting their hopes up. It's a great pity I think.

Andrew Compton writes:
"I am sorry to have to advise that despite the tremendous work and dedication to this project by Angela Gardner, Neil Holford, the Publishers, designers, artists, and financial backing by ADC Publications Ltd I have no choice but to cancel the publication of the book for legal reasons.

Despite many revisions and changes made at the insistence of The Tolkien Estate it appears that The Tolkien Estate will seek to take court action to prevent the release of this book regardless. Everyone involved in the publication has worked hard to meet the requests of The Tolkien Estate time and time again, however it would be misleading to release a Biography on Hilary Tolkien without proper reference to his close relationship with his brother.

The launch event on Saturday 4th December has therefore been cancelled and a full refund will be made shortly to anyone has placed advanced orders.

Best wishes
Andrew Compton"




Elizabeth
Valinor


Nov 9 2010, 12:21am

Post #2 of 19 (1947 views)
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Anybody here know the back-story on this?// [In reply to] Can't Post

 






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dormouse
Half-elven

Nov 9 2010, 10:24am

Post #3 of 19 (1911 views)
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I don't.... [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems a shame but I'm sure the Tolkien Estate have their reasons. This article might be of interest

http://www.aboutmyarea.co.uk/...es-of-Hilary-Tolkien


mae govannen
Tol Eressea


Nov 10 2010, 11:23am

Post #4 of 19 (1796 views)
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Quite tantalizing...! [In reply to] Can't Post

What could have gone so wrong that it is now not released at all??? Shocked Unsure

'Is everything sad going to come untrue?'
(Sam, 'The Field of Cormallen', in 'The Return of the King'.)


squire
Valinor


Nov 10 2010, 12:29pm

Post #5 of 19 (1883 views)
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There is a hint [In reply to] Can't Post

The release says, perhaps defensively,
"...it would be misleading to release a Biography on Hilary Tolkien without proper reference to his close relationship with his brother."
This suggests to me that the Tolkien Estate believed that there was too much planned emphasis on Hilary as J.R.R.Tolkien's brother -- whether in the writing, the title, or the proposed publicity campaign, is not clear.

Obviously, no one would write or read a full-length biography of Hilary Smith, humble farmer from the midlands. The only reason for the book is to take advantage of the market for books about Professor Tolkien, his works and his life. So inevitably the question becomes, when does this book become a trespass on the rights of the Tolkien Estate, which represents the interests of JRRT's descendants? The Estate obviously asked for changes that the author or publisher felt would damage the project fatally.

Without knowing the details of how the Hilary book was written, what it contains, and how it was meant to be marketed, we can't know whether the Estate was in any way justified in its protests.



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dormouse
Half-elven

Nov 10 2010, 3:12pm

Post #6 of 19 (1798 views)
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That's true... [In reply to] Can't Post

The article I linked to above suggests that the book was made up for the most part of letters exchanged between JRR and Hilary Tolkien and their wives. The Tolkien Estate would own the copyright of JRRT's letters and either the Estate or the surviving children of Edith's so they have the right to give or refuse permission to publish depending on how the letters are used. It seems likely that letters exchanged between the families would relate more to family matters than to Tolkien's work; perhaps the Estate is simply protecting the privacy of his children and grandchildren.

The other thing I though might be significant in the article is that little comment about the author's theories:


Quote
Neil Holford is a reader of all things Tolkien and a long-standing member of the Tolkien Society. . . . Neil worked in the background on Black & White Ogre Country and was chosen to assist Angela with Wheelbarrows at Dawn for his researching skills and his ability to make Angie prove her theories


Maybe she was placing some interpretation on the letters which the Tolkien Estate doesn't agree with.

But I'm only guessing. Whatever it is, it must be something they take very seriously.


mae govannen
Tol Eressea


Nov 11 2010, 6:46am

Post #7 of 19 (1817 views)
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Felt the same about that hint...// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

'Is everything sad going to come untrue?'
(Sam, 'The Field of Cormallen', in 'The Return of the King'.)


Findegil
The Shire

Nov 16 2010, 2:39pm

Post #8 of 19 (2524 views)
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Statement of the Tolkien Estate [In reply to] Can't Post

As authors who have worked with the Tolkien Estate in producing books containing copyrighted material, and are known to contribute to Tolkien fan forums, we have been asked to forward the following official statement:

Statement of the Tolkien Estate - Wheelbarrows at Dawn

The J R R Tolkien Estate has been made aware of a statement by ADC Publications concerning its cancellation of its proposed publication Wheelbarrows at Dawn by Angela Gardner and Neil Holford.

ADC's statement suggests that the publication has been cancelled as a result of the Tolkien Estate's threats to take court action preventing the release of the book.

As this statement is highly misleading, the Tolkien Estate considers it important that the true facts be clarified for those concerned.

The book in question was presented by ADC as a biography of J R R Tolkien's brother Hilary. However, the publication included numerous personal letters from J R R Tolkien to his brother and from other family members that were reproduced virtually verbatim.

The copyright in these private, unpublished letters belongs to the Tolkien Estate. As the guardian of these rights and of the privacy of the Tolkien family, both of which it takes great care to protect, the Estate quite properly declined permission for the letters to be reproduced in this way.

However, the Estate made clear to ADC that it had no issue with the publication of the book providing the material in question - affecting only 20 pages out of a total of some 300 - was removed.

Although ADC's response was to agree to this, what it then did in practice was to paraphrase the letters, something that had been made clear from the outset would not resolve the issue.

Despite the Estate's devoting considerable resource to helping ADC, not least by suggesting specific editorial changes which would meet its concerns, ADC then announced the cancellation of the book.

=====

Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull


squire
Valinor


Nov 16 2010, 7:10pm

Post #9 of 19 (1751 views)
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Thanks for that [In reply to] Can't Post

That certainly helps us understand the focus of the dispute. Beyond that, it becomes "he said, she said".



squire online:
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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Nov 16 2010, 8:35pm

Post #10 of 19 (1727 views)
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Thanks, and welcome to TORN. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm glad to have this additional information.

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dormouse
Half-elven

Nov 16 2010, 11:11pm

Post #11 of 19 (1749 views)
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Thank you [In reply to] Can't Post

That makes sense.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Nov 17 2010, 10:23am

Post #12 of 19 (1860 views)
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Thanks for that information. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm surprised to learn that the copyright of a letter belongs to the sender (or his estate) rather than the recipient.

The statement also mentions that letters from "other family members" (i.e. not JRRT) to Hilary Tolkien are protected by the Tolkien Estate. That makes it sound as if they have very wide-reaching control over the output of the whole family! I do find it suprising that they feel such an acute need for "privacy", so long after the deaths of JRR Tolkien and his brother.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Beren
Bree


Nov 17 2010, 10:40am

Post #13 of 19 (1834 views)
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Surprised?? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm surprised to learn that the copyright of a letter belongs to the sender (or his estate) rather than the recipient.

The statement also mentions that letters from "other family members" (i.e. not JRRT) to Hilary Tolkien are protected by the Tolkien Estate. That makes it sound as if they have very wide-reaching control over the output of the whole family! I do find it suprising that they feel such an acute need for "privacy", so long after the deaths of JRR Tolkien and his brother.


Except from the fact that the other family members might all be still alive! And so might be that these are the persons who run the Tolkien Estate... so when you want to publish any of their letters, you should at least ask them if this is possible.

And indeed, the copyright lies always with the writer, not who received it or who owns it.

'It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand.' - tolkienlibrary.com

(This post was edited by Beren on Nov 17 2010, 10:41am)


dormouse
Half-elven

Nov 17 2010, 12:53pm

Post #14 of 19 (1889 views)
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Yes - that's absolutely true [In reply to] Can't Post

... and applies to all letters. Physical possession belongs to the recipient - unless the letter is returned or sold, but copyright belongs to the writer or his/her heirs and successors and the copyright in unpublished letters is perpetual (though of course in practice when the letter is hundreds of years old it may no longer be possible to work out who the heirs and successors are).

In this case, though, it isn't remote and the 'other family members' involved are Edith Tolkien (according to pre-publication publicity about the book) and presumably the children (hers and JRRTs), some of whom are still living. They are the Tolkien Estate, aren't they? I can imagine that with such a distinctive name as their is they would feel the need for privacy more acutely than those of us whose names don't attract a lot of press attention. After all, their family life is something quite separate from JRRT's writing so it seems understandable to me that they don't want details of it published.


(This post was edited by dormouse on Nov 17 2010, 12:54pm)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Nov 17 2010, 4:19pm

Post #15 of 19 (1731 views)
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That makes sense. [In reply to] Can't Post

If the 'other family members' are the close family who are in fact within the 'Tolkien Estate', then it makes perfect sense.

And you're right, just because they happen to have Tolkien's name doesn't mean their private lives should be in the public domain. I suppose the publishers of the book about Hilary knew that many people would be interested primarily because of the link to JRRT. If they had been willing to take out the stuff that relates to him and his family too directly, it appears there would have been no problem with publication. I suppose the question is, was that stuff essential to tell Hilary's story? Or was it there mostly to draw in people who are interested in his brother? Since we'll never see it, I guess we'll never know...

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



visualweasel
Rohan


Nov 17 2010, 4:20pm

Post #16 of 19 (1902 views)
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"The copyright in unpublished letters is perpetual" [In reply to] Can't Post

Is it? Why should this be? Are you making this assertion with specific legal knowledge, or is it just a guess? Shouldn't the normal laws of copyright apply? Regarding Wheelbarrows at Dawn, I'm at a loss to understand why ADC would cancel the book over less than 10% of its content.

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
“On Fairy-stories” discussion 2008 – “Origins” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


squire
Valinor


Nov 17 2010, 6:07pm

Post #17 of 19 (1878 views)
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It's arguable... [In reply to] Can't Post

...that Hilary Tolkien himself did not lead a very interesting life, even from the point of view of most Tolkien fans. If so, then the 10% of the content that was objectionable may have been the only reason for writing the book in the first place.

A quick internet search turned up the suggestion that "after the 1976 Copyright Law, all such materials—created before 1978 and never published afterwards—come into the public domain after “life of the author + 70 years or December 31, 2002” (whichever come up later)." J. R. R. Tolkien's generation of family died in the 1960s-1980s; his children's generation is mostly alive or very recently passed away. So under this law, any letters written to Hilary Tolkien by family members of his own generation or younger would be protected from reproduction without permission until no earlier than the 2030s.

The distinction that is commonly made in this area is between published and unpublished material. Published material has less protection, because it has already entered the public realm and so the public has some claim on it to balance the author's. But unpublished material was always meant to be private, and so it is protected for a much longer period.

This is American law, of course, not English. I don't know if the same distinction applies there, although it seems reasonable to suppose it would.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


dormouse
Half-elven

Nov 17 2010, 6:50pm

Post #18 of 19 (1717 views)
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No, it's not a guess [In reply to] Can't Post

...it's the situation as I know it to be from my experience of writing historical biographies. This is the law of copyright in the UK - the law makes a clear distinction between published and unpublished material. Unpublished material remains in copyright, so if you want to quote from an unpublished letter or diary you need to have permission no matter how old it is. In practice, if it's extremely old, the permission will normally come from the institution where the letter is kept, though when the family still hold letters they still have the copyright - on something like the Verney papers, say, which go right back to the seventeenth century (though most of those have been published already).

In this case, with some of the letter writers still alive and a book covering events which are well within living memory there is no way they could publish without permission. They'd have no case at all in law and they know it.


visualweasel
Rohan


Nov 17 2010, 6:50pm

Post #19 of 19 (1749 views)
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This is my guess as well [In reply to] Can't Post

To wit, that ADC may feel that 90% of the value of their book lay in the 10% they are not allowed to use; that it has therefore become a losing prosition, from a financial standpoint, to go forward with the book. I'm not sure I would agree with this calculus, but it seems to be the best explanation for the facts we have. There could, of course, be facts we do not have which might alter the story.

Not that any of this is really any our business. Wink

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
“On Fairy-stories” discussion 2008 – “Origins” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

 
 

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