MERP Fans, we call for your support one final time. A last concerted effort to raise awareness and combat the C&D sent by Warner Bros.
We are planning a concentrated letter campaign to show WB just how many people care, so we have written up a legally-informed letter that everyone who cares can print out, write out by hand or email to Warner Brothers and pressure them into at least picking up negotiations with us.
Bear in mind that a hand-written letter is worth a thousand emails. They are not simply ignorable, at least someone has to open the envelope and read the first line, rather than blocking the subject.
Dear Warner Bros,
This letter is in reference to the C&D (Cease and Desist) that was sent to the MERP (Middle Earth Roleplaying Project) modification for Skyrim by Warner Bros (WB) Entertainment.
In case you are unaware what MERP is, MERP is a non-profit, total conversion modification of Bethesda Softworks' single-player PC game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, created by fans of Tolkien's works. It was a project that was set to create Middle Earth, from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, in an open-world Roleplaying aspect. MERP has been around since The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and just recently moved its resources to the Skyrim engine. It was a massive undertaking that was years in the making, worked on by dozens of individuals over the years.
I am writing to say that I am very displeased that WB has chosen to shut down this great project. For such a project that seeks no economic gain of any kind, with years of people's lives poured into it, to be given a C&D seems incredibly unfair. This is a project that in no way seeks competition with Warner Bros Entertainment's game department, nor their rights to make games based off of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I believe it is also fair use, as the amount of copyrighted material in relation to original content that was supposed to appear in the mod would have been minimal. MERP is a project that only seeks to create an immersive RPG game experience for Tolkien fans; the game was created as a transformative work under Fair Use laws in the United States, and as the court ruled in Lenz v. Universal Music Corp, "fair use is a lawful use of copyright."
The MERP team has posted that they have asked WB to discuss this matter and work out a way for the project to go forward with continued development. While they haven't discussed with the public the state of any such discussions, since the project has not continued development, it seems clear that they feel they cannot do so because of the C&D letter, which causes a chilling effect to all fans who want to create transformative works. Even though MERP can and should be able to go forward with the project, the demand by WB makes it impossible for them to do so.
I would like to hope that if WB (along with the Tolkien Estate and Saul Zaentz Company) are not willing to rescind the C&D, they should at least give the MERP parameters that would allow them to feel comfortable to go forward with the project that they are legally entitled to move forward with under Fair Use, and if that is not possible, perhaps they are willing to grant a limited license to the MERP to use the names, characters, etc from Tolkien's mythos. They are a talented group of individuals that take Tolkien's works very seriously and would not make a work in mockery to the author.
I do hope that whoever is reading this will pass this up to Warner Brothers Entertainment's legal department. I refuse to buy any products licensed by WB until either the C&D is lifted or you at least consider making a fair deal with the MERP team.
- [Your name goes here]
By all means change the final paragraph to indicate your standing on the situation. If you feel that you'll only consider non-LotR products, then change it.
And a list of addresses... the more you can send to, the better.
Warner Bros. Consumer Products
4001 West Olive Avenue
Burbank, California 91505
Director of Licensing
2600 Tenth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
98 Theobalds Rd, London
WC1X 8WB, UK
4000 Warner Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91522, United States
Please share any other addresses you come across and we'll update this post.
A final note: PLEASE keep this in good taste, we do not want to offend anyone so do not add anything malicious that would give them a definitive reason to stamp us out for good.
Thank-you for your support through all this, we understand how frustrating it is not knowing what's going on. There are backup plans should this fall through that you'll hear about in good time should the day arise.
-The MERP Team