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Christopher Tolkien passed away recently. From our in-memoriam meta post:

When [JRR] Tolkien died, he gave Christopher complete control over his unpublished writings, to destroy or publish any of them in whole or part.

Did Christopher have anything similar set up for his own death? Do we yet know who will be given the rights to the Tolkien-verse?


This Q&A has been brought up as a possible duplicate. My question is different from the linked one since it does not want to know how a specific country's copyright law impacts the use of Tolkien's IPs, rather I want to know who is going to be in control of the Tolkien estate as a whole, and if Christopher had any plans for this in the event of his death.

I also don't consider this question to be opinion-based or based-on-future-works as others have claimed. This question can be answered with official documentation from the Tolkien estate, and while we may not have the answer today, the "current events" banner should indicate that we're not waiting for the next movie or book, but possibly the next hour or day to get the answer. If the answer was already available, then there would be no wait at all, which was a part of my original question. The fact that the answer actually isn't readily available shouldn't qualify this particular question being closed.

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    I added a post notice to your question - see the little banner at the top - because the event precipitating the question is so recent and things may change quickly as new info comes to light. (We rarely get to use that type of post notice on SFF!) – Rand al'Thor Jan 16 at 18:59
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    the Estate has the rights, technically speaking, correct? – NKCampbell Jan 16 at 19:20
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    If whomever voted to close this this as opinion-based is still watching, how do you figure there's any opinion involved here? The transfer of rights is a legal question, not anybody's opinion - there is a right answer and a wrong answer. – T.J.L. Jan 16 at 20:26
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    @T.J.L. That's the close reason we use for things that depend on information not currently available. – ibid Jan 16 at 20:28
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    @ibid Is there a meta on that? The actual text of the close reason doesn't indicate that's an appropriate use. – T.J.L. Jan 16 at 20:30
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The Tolkien Estate still holds the rights to everything aside from the film rights J.R.R. Tolkien sold in the 1969 United Artists deal and the TV rights sold to Amazon in 2017. This is independent of Christopher Tolkien, who actually stepped down as one of its directors in 2017. Among the remaining Directors/Board Members of the Estate are Christopher Tolkien's wife Baillie Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien's daughter Priscilla Tolkien, his grandson Michael George Tolkien, and the Tolkien Estate attorney, Steven Andrew Maier.

In 2014, Peter Jackson said that the Tolkien Estate still retained rights to everything beside the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

But at a press conference Tuesday, the director swiftly put down any hopes that he would be delving further between the lines of J.R.R. Tolkien's works.

"It's a legal thing. The Tolkien estate owns the writings of Professor Tolkien — The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings were sold by Professor Tolkien the late 60s … the film rights," he said.

"But they are the only two works of his that have been sold. So without the cooperation of the Tolkien estate, there can't be more films."
Peter Jackson: Tolkien Estate Rights Prevent More Middle-Earth Films | The Hollywood Reporter

It it unknown who, if anyone, will succeed Christopher Tolkien as Sole Literary Executor, though popular opinion is that Adam Tolkien (Christopher Tolkien's second son) will take over that role.

Given that in the preface of Beren and Luthien Christopher Tolkien suggested it was the last work he would edit (though he did go on to publish The Fall of Gondolin), it is entirely possible that the control of the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien will be assumed by the Tolkien Estate with Christopher Tolkien's passing.

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    it might be worth a note for folks that are unaware - that PJ's comment is now out of date. The Estate did indeed sell / agree to more rights as re: the new show on Amazon coming in 2020+ and that there will be more Tolkien-verse film/tv outside of LotR/Hobbit proper – NKCampbell Jan 16 at 19:45
  • True. But as of 2014, that was the state of things, and the amazon deal is the only change since. So it provides a convenient way to communicate the current reality. – amflare Jan 16 at 19:46
  • Who runs the estate then? – DCOPTimDowd Jan 16 at 19:52
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    @DCOPTimDowd - A bunch of the Tolkien family along with a lawyer or two. – ibid Jan 16 at 19:55

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