356 – Greedy Hobbits

Oo look, a shop with a word on it which is the same as a word in a film. Big deal...

Well, this is something along the lines of, “grr, aren’t big companies greedy”, or perhaps it’s actually, “grr, leave our quaint Britishness alone”, though perhaps it’s, “grr, I wish news reports would say what we’re all thinking”.

In a nutshell, there’s a pub in Southampton which for over twenty years has called itself The Hobbit. BIt cheesy if you ask me, given the sign above the door has drawings of characters from the Tolkien books, but nothing much other than cheesy. Given it’s been there for twenty years. It appears that the Saul Zaentz Company have begun legal action to stop them calling their pub that anymore, because said company owns the rights to the name and everything Tolkien related. Arseholes. It’s just a little pub in Southampton, perhaps they should get over themselves. Yes, the pub is a bit of a cash in, but what are they cashing in on exactly? Are they really going to sell beer which the Saul Zaentz Company would have sold instead? I don’t think that company (or more importantly, it’s subsidiary Middle-Earth Enterprises) has any hostelry in the south of England, so perhaps they shouldn’t worry. After all, thirsty people are going to go in there and find out a little about Tolkien and perhaps will go and buy a book or a DVD, and Middle Earth Enterprises (it’s easier to spell than Saul Zaentz) might make a few quid. I can’t imagine how their image or their financial status is being affected by some poxy little pub down south.

This has made the news, but interestingly it’s made the news around the time that the new Hobbit film is going to be released. Cynical? Surely it’s not a coincidence and surely this isn’t the first time in the last twenty years that the company has found out about the pub being in existence? They clearly have a team of interns Googling the words they have licensed and emailing the links to their fat overpaid lawyers. It’s desperately cynical. I suspect they have enough of a publicity machine in place to avoid using the demise of a local pub as ammunition in the race to number one in the film charts.

The Saul Zaentz company is an independent film production company, which began life as a small jazz record label. How their attitudes have changed since the 1970s! At some point when nobody cared (1975), they bought the rights to all the Tolkien stuff, with their winnings from a previous film and now that the blossoming of technology has meant that the films could be made, they’re cashing in and rightly so. They used to call the subsidiary company Tolkien Enterprises but changed the name to something a bit more mystical. Don’t worry, we still know it’s a money making machine, however fancy your name is.

I’m not sure what will happen to The Hobbit pub, but certainly three thousand ‘likes’ on a Facebook page won’t do any good either way, bless ‘em.

It’s one thing to stuff up a pub, but this isn’t the first time this miserable company have stopped hysterically laughing whilst counting all their money. There’s a tiny cafe in Birmingham called the Hungry Hobbit. It had been open for six months when the Tolkien legal behemoth descended on them and insisted they change their name. They insisted the cafe ‘phase out’ use of the Hobbit ‘mark’. Mark? It’s just a word isn’t it? In fact, Tolkien didn’t even invent it, as there’s use of the word inĀ Denham Tracts, edited by James Hardy in the 1850’s. Surely both the pub and the sandwich shop need to have that info (which I’ve just spent several seconds finding out about through the wonders of the t’interwebosphere) and tell the bloody Middle-Earth Enterprises where to stick it.

There’s a few things which bother me here. I suppose the pub (though not the sandwich shop, which only a few hundred words ago was a cafe) are a bit wrong in taking pictures of the characters and using them on their sign, but the company is being so heavy handed with it all when they’re making stacks and stacks of cash. Yes, both establishments could licence the names from the company and therefore go out of business because it won’t be viable. How about the big corporation just shut up and let them get on with their little businesses and their free promotion of this stupid massive company and their stupid long films (I know it’s not their films, but they’ll be making plenty of money from them).

Another thing which is annoying is how much of this story I’ve had to find out for myself. There are key bits of this which were missing in the pub story which would have made for a better piece of journalism and something I might want to actually read about. There was no reference to the sandwich shop story from a few months ago, apart from an automatically generated link at the bottom of the page. No detail about the fact that the word hobbit already exists but is probably so related to Tolkien that legally that fact is of no consequence, no reference to the licensing side of a subsidiary company of a film production company which isn’t the film production company that makes the films. It’s all not terribly interesting, but makes for some shoddy journalism.

That, dear readers, is all I have to say. It’s a story of shoddiness. Shoddy pub signs, shoddy legal action, shoddy journalism and shoddy blog posts. We’re all going to hell in a handcart, but even that stupid term doesn’t have a properly explained origin. Shoddy.

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