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The 'Middle Earth Roleplaying Project' aims to recreate J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth in the Creation engine of 'Skyrim'. The player will be plunged into Middle Earth near the end of the Third Age, not long before the War of the Ring breaks out.

A news post containing a campaign letter to send to WB about the MERP C&D.

Posted by on

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.

Our Letter:

MM/DD/YYYY

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
Karen McTier
4001 West Olive Avenue
Burbank, California 91505
Ph: 818-954-7980

Director of Licensing
2600 Tenth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
fax. 510.486.2119
me@middleearth.com

London:
Warner House
98 Theobalds Rd, London
WC1X 8WB, UK

Burbeck:
4000 Warner Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91522, United States
+1 818-954-6000

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

Post comment Comments  (0 - 50 of 73)
overwatchprivate
overwatchprivate

It still confuses me why big companies like WB see the need to order a cease and desist on small non profit projects like this. Its not like they lose money in any way, in fact it promotes their products if nothing else. It just seems childish for them to do this.

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RandomZombi3
RandomZombi3

They do it simply because they know their LOTR games are crap, and they don't want anyone getting the idea that they can do it better. Lockdown the market, and no one will have anything to compare their games too. Also, there might be a slight chance that a LOTR RPG game similar to MERP is in the works. Though I doubt it will be even close to the potential MERP has.

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KL8533
KL8533

While I agree with you 100% on the C&D is childish, you are incorrect about them not losing money. The MERP petition has 30,000+ signatures, if 30,000 people were to download and play this awesome mod that is potentially 30,000 people who won't buy a new LOTR game for $60 that WB comes out with, because they got a mod that is superior to their game for free. They are eliminating the competition.
And while I support MERP, WB is not feeling the pain from the 30,000 people who have signed the petition and pledged to not buy any WB products, The Hobbit broke sales records for LOTR franchise and the sequels are expected to do even better. WB is just full of greedy bastards.

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MauritsB
MauritsB

Well, about the money, you are a little bit incorrect too.

1. I dont buy a WB LOTR game because it sucks.

2. I dont buy a WB LOTR game because it sucks, so I download MERP. Now I have got a very nice LOTR game!

Until they will release a good LOTR game, I will never spend money on their games. And because of that they wont lose any money after all:)

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Conchobhar
Conchobhar

hehe, I second this comment!

WB games suck balls!

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Sanguinius
Sanguinius

Even if those 30,000 people don't buy their new game, they still won't lose money. Nope they are still going to be few millions in the +

PS i'll be sending letters to both addresses...

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Guest
Guest

Guys, think about this: None of these anti-WB comments are helping the guys at MERP, and all of us, convince WB that allowing MERP to be created is actually a good thing.

The point of this is: NO, WB doesn't want to lose money because of a massively popular mod for Skyrim and they don't want their IP devalued or defaced by a mod that could potentially be bad. But OUR point here (We The Gamers, who want MERP to be created) is that they would NOT lose money, because this would do nothing but fire people up for a REAL LOTR game, one whose developer has the pressure and knowledge of an existing LOTR mod that people may/may not love in a game engine that they DO love.

Not only would this make people crave a full-fledged and official LOTR game, the amount of respect that WB would gain from allowing a community of people who ABSOLUTELY LOVE the LOTR IP to create their own little homage, would be unparalleled, ESPECIALLY considering that they are fully within their rights to not allow MERP to happen at all.

Furthermore, if MERP is created, the community is going to be ecstatic about it, but ALSO extremely nit-picky, detail-oriented and highly vocal about what they(read:We) consider successful about the MERP team's interpretation of Middle Earth lore.

What does that mean and why should WB or a future LOTR IP game developer care?

***It means that they would have unequaled insight into exactly what their very own fans want to see in a game and could use that knowledge to create a game that We the Gamers DON'T think sucks, that We would actually get excited about, and would thereby result in ************* SALES and PROFIT for WB/developer/everyone ever.

If we want MERP to happen, THAT is the rhetoric and information that needs to be spread. It is a love for LOTR that birthed the idea and effort of MERP. It should be through the love of LOTR that we reach out to WB and ask for their reconsideration, not an imagined hate because they protected their intellectual property.

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danteburning
danteburning

Balls. Thought I was signed in. My bad.

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unkownman
unkownman

People enjoy being spiteful.

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magiguy101
magiguy101

Could Bethesda softworks appreciation for the modding community be used in anyway to our favour?

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Anglachel
Anglachel

I don't think Bethesda is getting into this one. Way too hot for them or any games company. WB is ofcourse a big player with lots of money (and thus power). If this is not going to work MERP will either have to move underground to continue development or just stop altogether (which is understandably the most likely thing to happen). So this really is an all or nothing situation.

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Epoch_MEB Author
Epoch_MEB

Sadly no. Bethesda don't want anything to do with it, and specifically say that the modding tools are not allowed to be used to infringe on legal properties. If we alerted them then chances are they would just tell us to stop too.

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ab20051125
ab20051125

this i agree.
i'm pretty sure Bethesda knows about the MERP and it is not allowed and they are quite tolerant,so as long as none alert them openly they'll just pretend they dont know

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magiguy101
magiguy101

What if we held a seance and Tolkein approved? :p

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Anglachel
Anglachel

I'm sure going to send some letters, both digitally and on paper. I hope this will set something in motion.
I have to ask though, is sending a bomb letter considered as being 'in good taste'? :P

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Epoch_MEB Author
Epoch_MEB

Letter bombing would only count if you put explosives in the letter, which we don't advise.
This is a completely proven way of campaigning, though I guess you could say the whole business of this is 'in bad taste' mostly on WB's behalf.

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Anglachel
Anglachel

Yeah, I figured as much. They probably won't like it, but it will at least show the scale of the crowd backing the team to them in a direct way. If only there was a Bywater post office we could snow under :)

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Epoch_MEB Author
Epoch_MEB

Exactly

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mathinator
mathinator

he could still try to bribe them and send some money ;)

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ElfFriend
ElfFriend

you might as well buy the license if you have that much money...

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InsanityPays
InsanityPays

Don't even joke like that. The NSA will kick down your door, shoot you, and make you pay $$$ to WB

In that order

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Thales_The_Unstable
Thales_The_Unstable

Not to mention you'd probably help them destroy the letters other people sent along with it :p

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Anglachel
Anglachel

Collateral damage :)

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Anderill
Anderill

Is it possible, that if Warner Bros. Refuses, that this mod could be still made, but changing the names of copyrighted stuff, but then put in an easy way for each person to change the names back to the right ones?

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Epoch_MEB Author
Epoch_MEB

See my answer to this on the main page^
Short answer: Not really.

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RandomZombi3
RandomZombi3

That would be like taking Skyrim, and removing everything Elder Scrolls from it. :P Would be weird, no?

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ApornasPlanet
ApornasPlanet

Great initiative!

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-IllusiveMan-
-IllusiveMan-

well if i would be the creator of some Lotr themed mod and gotten so far like you guys i would ignore any CnD since they do not own all ideas or things created under the Lotr name as FREE use. But meh... greedy corps rule the world not people with good intentions and free projects like any modders around here.

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Angerfist219
Angerfist219

If this doesn't work you guys should just develop the mod in secret... then someday a year or two from now MERP will be "accidently" leaked onto the internet from multiple, anonymous sources.

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ab20051125
ab20051125

this might work,but there would be no fan to cheer for the team during the development.

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deathteam15
deathteam15

Printed off and signed, will post tomorrow!! :D

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Guest
Guest

Sent. Good luck with this, guys. I hope it works out!

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Treyvan1961
Treyvan1961

Hi,

How can WB claim copyright for something that Iron Crown Enterprises has held copyright for since long before the films were even started?

MERP was a "pen and paper" RPG in the 1980s and still exists, doesn't that invalidate WB's claims?

Must admit to being both confused and fed up at corporate greed.

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Epoch_MEB Author
Epoch_MEB

A board game is not in direct competition with WB's products, an open-world RPG is however.

Reply Good karma+3 votes
shishman
shishman

I think such behaviour, while unfair and stupid, serves as a warning light
for us all. Let us therefore cut their profits, however little. Perhaps our growing discontent may persuade them that being a **** towards potential customers is not a good marketing strategy.

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Guest
Guest

Does it have to be the Middle Earth project? Have you guys already written tons of quests and content that is uniquely Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth like?

Wouldn't a project "inspired" by Middle Earth be completely legal? The heightmap can't be copyrighted I think..

What's the point of limiting yourself to an already established universe, when you could make a project that is "inspired" by it and whatever else, which allows you to 'borrow' the best elements, ditch the bad ones, and be completely free to invent your own rules?

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ElfFriend
ElfFriend

of course with the amount of small lotr mods we could just build our own merp if only the hightmap and a few key assets were released:)

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Epoch_MEB Author
Epoch_MEB

The map can be copyrighted, since its a recognisable image.
Also 'inspired by' is a legal formality and would need to be decided in court, same with 'fair use' which we are fully. We just can't afford to take it to court to resolve.

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Anglachel
Anglachel

And if you get taken to court?

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Shwepps
Shwepps

Common, who lives in USA or UK, it is your time)

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Rampsquatch
Rampsquatch

Somehow I don't think WB are going to do anything but ignore this. And that is just sad as this mod had so much potential.

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Druidya
Druidya

Just had a revelation! WB owns all things to do with the Lord of the Rings. They own the names, locations, concepts and designs. So merely change the name of them mod and they can't do anything! But we will know the truth whilst slashing down orcs!

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Dwest43
Dwest43

Why don't the creators have some balls and make this anyway. Make it a parody with slight humor and you can copy as much as you'd like. **** WB **** them right in the ***!

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Glorfindel-
Glorfindel-

If they do it, Wb will sue them. So if you are willingly going to pay the enormous fine, let them do it!

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TheNodCommander
TheNodCommander

Great idea!

... Though in the civilized world we write things in order, day, month year :P

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Epoch_MEB Author
Epoch_MEB

Unfortunately in America we do it wrong :P (they) I only posted it, it was written by an American team member.

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Erayser
Erayser

I support you guys ! For me WB just want to preserve their actual and future projects on LOTR License... Just with the pictures you were posting on MOddb, you are proving that you have made a better work as they do in ten years of "professionnal" gaming development...
I'm living in France, do i have to send a letter to Warner Bros France ? I may send them some french letters... They may say: Oh my god, it´s an international problem... :p

Love from France (Sorry for gramatical issues...)

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Epoch_MEB Author
Epoch_MEB

Yeah, that would be a good idea! Prove that its a global community

Reply Good karma+3 votes
JediXaiviar
JediXaiviar

It is difficult for me to send a letter over seas, due to the fact that I am in South Africa... and other difficulties, but I have sent an email and will keep trying to send a letter out if I can.

You have my full support from RSA.

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Glocklan
Glocklan

So what Ive really wanted to know is that have you still been working on this in spite of what has been happening? I mean like I do realise that i would have been a waste of time if you continued to work on it and didn't even get to release it. But if this does blow over well, would we be able to expect some kind've alpha/beta release?

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