I was in a bookstore today and I saw a coloring book called "Tolkien's World" which was based on characters from The Lord of the Rings and other works by JRR Tolkien. On the back cover, it said:

This book is unofficial and is not authorised by the Tolkien Estate or HarperCollins Publishers.

How can the author and his/her publisher get away with that? Surely the publication of the work is going to infringe on the copyright of the Tolkien Estate and HarperCollins? I would have expected publication of the work to have drawn a lawsuit, but it's clearly been in print for a couple of years.

Disclaimer - I have no background in law.

  • What's the nature of the book? Fiction? Commentary on Tolkien's works?
    – D M
    Jan 13, 2018 at 21:41
  • Its a coloring book. Black and white images that you can color in, but containing specific references to Tolkien characters.
    – Phil John
    Jan 13, 2018 at 21:49
  • Oh, sorry, I missed that you said that. In that case I have no idea.
    – D M
    Jan 13, 2018 at 21:52
  • Well, first off, if the Tolkien estate doesn't notice the book...
    – Stackstuck
    Jan 13, 2018 at 22:23

2 Answers 2


This question was answered more completely over on SciFi.SE. The user over there lays out a number of points explaining that the works are "substantially transformative". The author of these works goes to some effort to build a case for this substantial transformation in his prefaces and notices in the derived work as well.


There was a guy I knew used to sell cocaine. Selling cocaine is illegal, arguably, more illegal than copyright violation. How could he get away with that?

In both cases, the answer is the same: don’t get caught.

  • This is a very poor answer. It stretched credulity that the Tolkien Estate are unaware of the book.
    – Richard
    Jan 18, 2018 at 17:00
  • Dale M, I'm surprised at you. You normally give such in-depth and insightful answers. You know we don't do one liners here! Jan 19, 2018 at 18:54
  • @LateralTerminal we all have off days
    – Dale M
    Jan 20, 2018 at 5:44
  • It should be whether the answer is correct, not its length. It's sad you two would vote this down.
    – Putvi
    Apr 11, 2019 at 17:23

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