Warner Bros/MGM win restraining order against Asylum’s Hobbit knockoff

Senior Editor
12.11.12 13 Comments

By now you should all be familiar with The Asylum, a company that makes direct-to-DVD mockbusters like The Day the Earth Stopped and Snakes on a Train, starring people like Billy Zane and Richard Grieco, timed to coincide with their blockbuster counterparts. Their business model was working just fine until the distributors The Hobbit (perhaps you’ve heard of it), decided to sue Asylum over its entirely separate movie, Age of the Hobbits. Even worse, Warner Bros just won a temporary restraining order against it. Aw, c’mon, baby, can’t you see Age of Hobbits only acts this way because he loves you?

Warner Bros, New Line Cinema, MGM and producer Saul Zaentz today were granted the temporary restraining order they sought against Global Asylum’s mockbuster Age Of The Hobbits (read the order here). “There is substantial likelihood that consumers will be confused by Age Of Hobbits and mistakenly purchase the film intending to purchase The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, said federal judge Philip Gutierrez today. “Indeed, Plaintiffs have presented evidence that Asylum’s other films have caused confusion among consumers, who mistakenly purchase Asylum films intending to purchase a different film”.

Here is Warner Bros’ statement:
“This victory underscores the importance of protecting the unique work of our industry’s creative community from companies like Asylum, whose cynical business model is designed to profit from the work of others.  Their intent to create confusion in the marketplace on the eve of release of ‘The Hobbit,’ one of the most anticipated films of the year, has met with defeat.”

Oh yeah, because The Hobbit‘s bottom line is really going to suffer at the hands of all the confused aunties trolling Blockbuster going-out-of-business sales for their sick nephews. It’s too bad “OBJECTION! The prosecution is being a total dick right now,” isn’t a valid legal defense.

Hopefully the restraining order is the last victory for these corporate jerks, because The Asylum’s defense seems perfectly valid:

“Age of the Hobbits is about the real-life human subspecies, Homo Floresiensis, discovered in 2003 in Indonesia, which have been uniformly referred to as ‘Hobbits’ in the scientific community. As such, the use of the term ‘Hobbits’ is protected under the legal doctrines of nominal and traditional fair use. Indeed, a simple Google search of Hobbits and archaeology reveals dozens of articles containing the term “Hobbit(s)” in the title.”
The Asylum rep says the studio already has taken one step to avoid confusion.
“Age of the Hobbits is not about the creatures in Tolkien’s novels,” the rep says in a statement. “Indeed, the artwork contains a disclaimer immediately below the title to that effect.” [THR via GammaSquad]

And here’s the official synopsis of Age of Hobbits:

In an age long ago, the last village of clever, peace-loving Hobbits is attacked and enslaved by the Java Men, komodo-worshiping, dragon-riding cannibals. Now the young Hobbit Goben, along with his father and sister, must seek help from the “giants” (human hunters) to find the Javas’ lair and rescue the last surviving Hobbits, Goben’s mother among them. In their quest to destroy the Javas, the heroic partnership of humans and Hobbits will transform both species forever.

I’m being completely honest when I say that sounds far more interesting than The Hobbit: Some Dwarves Walk One Third of the Way to a Mountain. This restraining order is upsetting for a number of reasons. For one, The Asylum’s fair use argument seems legitimate, and for another, there’s no chance that MGM and Warner are suffering significant damage by this. And finally, can’t we think of the actors?! So many C and D-list actors and actresses would be on the streets if it weren’t for The Asylum giving them a safe place to ply their craft. It should actually be considered a non-profit. It’s basically a no-kill nature preserve for unemployed actors. Age of Hobbits alone employs Bai Ling, Christopher Judge, and countless others. Sarah McClachlan should sing a sad song while Bai Ling just sits there, quietly crying from lack of cocaine.

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