How fans saved J.R.R. Tolkien.
J.R.R. Tolkien is a famous English writer, the author of “The Lord of the Rings” and other “high fantasy” works. It is hard to imagine, but he also faced copyright infringement.
The fact is that in the 1960s the situation with copyright protection in America was not brilliant. At this point, the U.S. had yet to join the International Copyright Convention, and most laws on the books existed to protect domestic creations from foreign ones. In 1965, Ace Books discovered a copyright loophole and published the first ever paperback edition of “The Lord of the Rings”. Ace Books was widely known and Ace’s editions were a commercial success, which angered Tolkien and his publishers.
It is interesting, that Tolkien himself played an important role in the campaign that began. Tolkien “wasted” many hours, answering countless letters from fans, instead of preparing books for publication. But thanks to this habit he managed to make dozens of penpals, primarily in America, and they were all happy to stand up for his interests. So, Tolkien began to inform in all letters to his American fans that the publication of Ace is pirated. American readers not only began to refuse to buy Ace’s books, but also began to demand from booksellers to remove the pirated publication from the shelves. By the end of the year, Ace’s sales volume began to decline sharply. By February 1966, Tolkien had reached an agreement to receive some royalties from Ace’s publication run, and a promise that they would not make additional prints after the available stock is sold out. So, the peace treaty was signed.
It’s interesting to see that Tolkien used the fanbase to fight back. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you don’t have millions of fans. So use the opportunities that you have now and protect your copyright!