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To Hobbit or not To Hobbit?

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  • Adam Smith
    I just ran across an interesting bit of news. It appears that the Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar suit against New Line Cinema regarding unpaid
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 11, 2008
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      I just ran across an interesting bit of news. It appears that the
      Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar suit against New Line
      Cinema regarding unpaid royalties from the first movie trilogy.

      Apparently the suit also seeks the ability to block any further movies
      from New Line, including the already-slated Hobbit twin-pack. I just
      put up a more detailed post on my Tolkien-news blog at

      <http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-news.html>
    • Sarah Beach
      Interesting. Re the LotR films, as I understood it, the rights for them were off either the semi-pirate Ace editions (and hence, not formally due the Estate)
      Message 2 of 13 , Feb 11, 2008
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        Interesting.

        Re the LotR films, as I understood it, the rights for them were off
        either the semi-pirate Ace editions (and hence, not formally due the
        Estate) or off the film rights JRRT had sold very early on (which had
        bounced through several hands - notably John Borman).

        Tracking that would be a sticky business. It'll be interested to see
        what the Estate achieves.

        I've been wondering about the rights for THE HOBBIT, though, since
        those have had a separate history all along.


        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Adam Smith" <amsmith0903@...> wrote:
        >
        > I just ran across an interesting bit of news. It appears that the
        > Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar suit against New Line
        > Cinema regarding unpaid royalties from the first movie trilogy.
        >
        > Apparently the suit also seeks the ability to block any further
        movies
        > from New Line, including the already-slated Hobbit twin-pack. I
        just
        > put up a more detailed post on my Tolkien-news blog at
        >
        > <http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-news.html>
        >
      • David Bratman
        I m surprised that the Tolkien Estate (or Tolkien Trust) is owed any royalties from the Jackson films, as the rights had already been sold outright during
        Message 3 of 13 , Feb 11, 2008
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          I'm surprised that the Tolkien Estate (or Tolkien Trust) is owed any royalties from the Jackson films, as the rights had already been sold outright during Tolkien's lifetime. I knew that New Line had offered the Estate monetary rights for the Tolkien family's participation in and endorsement of the film project, but that would have been an additional deal and the Estate turned it down.

          I thought maybe somebody had confused the Tolkien Estate with Tolkien Enterprises, an entirely different body with no connection to the Estate, but I looked at your source and that's what it says.

          On the other hand, I glanced down at your post about reading Simon Armitage's translation of _Sir Gawain_ and how it's more contemporary than the Tolkien & Gordon translation of 1925. You write that Tolkien & Gordon "were traditionalists ... aiming to keep the archaic flavor of the Middle English language," and I should say they were, since their book was an edition of the original text and not a translation at all!

          However, your Amazon link _is_ to Tolkien's (not Gordon's) translation, a quite different book, probably written in the early 1950s and not published until 1975. There seems to have been a little confusion here.


          Adam Smith <amsmith0903@...> wrote:

          >I just ran across an interesting bit of news. It appears that the
          >Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar suit against New Line
          >Cinema regarding unpaid royalties from the first movie trilogy.
          >
          >Apparently the suit also seeks the ability to block any further movies
          >from New Line, including the already-slated Hobbit twin-pack. I just
          >put up a more detailed post on my Tolkien-news blog at
          >
          ><http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-news.html>
          >
        • Adam Smith
          There was some confusion regarding the _Sir Gawain_. Thanks for clearing that up David. My own understanding (admittedly unresearched) was that the
          Message 4 of 13 , Feb 11, 2008
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            There was some confusion regarding the _Sir Gawain_. Thanks for
            clearing that up David. My own understanding (admittedly
            unresearched) was that the Gordon/Tolkien edition released in 1925
            was the same one I had in my collection (the aforementioned Tolkien
            translation from the 1950's). I'd assumed it was the same edition,
            merely packaged under Tolkien's name to sell copies. I have to get
            that fixed.

            In regards to the LotR movie proceeds and what claims the Tolkien
            Estate has to it, I'm unclear as well. The movie rights were sold
            by Tolkien himself in 1969 to United Artists/MGM.


            --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Bratman <dbratman@...> wrote:
            >
            > I'm surprised that the Tolkien Estate (or Tolkien Trust) is owed
            any royalties from the Jackson films, as the rights had already been
            sold outright during Tolkien's lifetime. I knew that New Line had
            offered the Estate monetary rights for the Tolkien family's
            participation in and endorsement of the film project, but that would
            have been an additional deal and the Estate turned it down.
            >
            > I thought maybe somebody had confused the Tolkien Estate with
            Tolkien Enterprises, an entirely different body with no connection
            to the Estate, but I looked at your source and that's what it says.
            >
            > On the other hand, I glanced down at your post about reading Simon
            Armitage's translation of _Sir Gawain_ and how it's more
            contemporary than the Tolkien & Gordon translation of 1925. You
            write that Tolkien & Gordon "were traditionalists ... aiming to keep
            the archaic flavor of the Middle English language," and I should say
            they were, since their book was an edition of the original text and
            not a translation at all!
            >
            > However, your Amazon link _is_ to Tolkien's (not Gordon's)
            translation, a quite different book, probably written in the early
            1950s and not published until 1975. There seems to have been a
            little confusion here.
            >
            >
            > Adam Smith <amsmith0903@...> wrote:
            >
            > >I just ran across an interesting bit of news. It appears that
            the
            > >Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar suit against New
            Line
            > >Cinema regarding unpaid royalties from the first movie trilogy.
            > >
            > >Apparently the suit also seeks the ability to block any further
            movies
            > >from New Line, including the already-slated Hobbit twin-pack. I
            just
            > >put up a more detailed post on my Tolkien-news blog at
            > >
            > ><http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-news.html>
            > >
            >
          • WendellWag@aol.com
            Another news story: _http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/02/11/financial/f115544 S35.DTL&tsp=1_
            Message 5 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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              Another news story:

              _http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/02/11/financial/f115544
              S35.DTL&tsp=1_
              (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/02/11/financial/f115544S35.DTL&tsp=1)

              Wendell Wagner



              **************The year's hottest artists on the red carpet at the Grammy
              Awards. Go to AOL Music.
              (http://music.aol.com/grammys?NCID=aolcmp00300000002565)


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • William Cloud Hicklin
              It s very straightforward, really: When JRRT sold the rights to United Artists in 1969 (the only sale of film rights) he received cash on the nail *and* a
              Message 6 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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                It's very straightforward, really: When JRRT sold
                the rights to United Artists in 1969 (the only
                sale of film rights) he received cash on the nail
                *and* a percentage. I had always assumed that
                this was a back-end, i.e. net-profits, deal
                (generally worthless, since Hollywood accountants
                make sure no film ever shows a profit); but
                apparently JRRT was canny enough to hold out for a
                front-end deal or a share of the gross.

                There are no 'rights' based on the Ace Books
                edition, which was not semi-pirate but all-pirate,
                and the 'loophole' Ace claimed never existed.


                --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Bratman
                <dbratman@...> wrote:
                >
                > I'm surprised that the Tolkien Estate (or
                Tolkien Trust) is owed any royalties from the
                Jackson films, as the rights had already been sold
                outright during Tolkien's lifetime. I knew that
                New Line had offered the Estate monetary rights
                for the Tolkien family's participation in and
                endorsement of the film project, but that would
                have been an additional deal and the Estate turned
                it down.
                >
                > I thought maybe somebody had confused the
                Tolkien Estate with Tolkien Enterprises, an
                entirely different body with no connection to the
                Estate, but I looked at your source and that's
                what it says.
                >
                > On the other hand, I glanced down at your post
                about reading Simon Armitage's translation of _Sir
                Gawain_ and how it's more contemporary than the
                Tolkien & Gordon translation of 1925. You write
                that Tolkien & Gordon "were traditionalists ...
                aiming to keep the archaic flavor of the Middle
                English language," and I should say they were,
                since their book was an edition of the original
                text and not a translation at all!
                >
                > However, your Amazon link _is_ to Tolkien's (not
                Gordon's) translation, a quite different book,
                probably written in the early 1950s and not
                published until 1975. There seems to have been a
                little confusion here.
                >
                >
                > Adam Smith <amsmith0903@...> wrote:
                >
                > >I just ran across an interesting bit of news.
                It appears that the
                > >Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar
                suit against New Line
                > >Cinema regarding unpaid royalties from the
                first movie trilogy.
                > >
                > >Apparently the suit also seeks the ability to
                block any further movies
                > >from New Line, including the already-slated
                Hobbit twin-pack. I just
                > >put up a more detailed post on my Tolkien-news
                blog at
                > >
                > ><http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-
                news.html>
                > >
                >
              • David Bratman
                ... I do not recall having ever read about this percentage before. Sources say that Tolkien sold the film rights outright, instead of selling an option (in
                Message 7 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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                  William Cloud Hicklin <solicitr@...> wrote:

                  >It's very straightforward, really: When JRRT sold
                  >the rights to United Artists in 1969 (the only
                  >sale of film rights) he received cash on the nail
                  >*and* a percentage.

                  I do not recall having ever read about this percentage before. Sources say that Tolkien sold the film rights outright, instead of selling an option (in which the producers have a set period of time to commence making the film, in the absence of which the rights revert). To say that the rights were sold outright gives the impression that no additional money, e.g. a percentage, is owed, and indeed most writings on the subject tend to imply that although the payment seemed large at the time, Tolkien got rooked.

                  If the Estate is owed a percentage by the contract, then that makes far more serious the case of the Rankin-Bass "Return of the King", which was made without authorization on the (dubious) grounds that it was based on the (supposedly) out of copyright first edition. I had always presumed that little fuss was made over that because the rights had already been sold, so making an unauthorized film took no money out of the Estate's pocket. But if the Estate was owed a percentage, then it did.

                  Very recently I heard a Tolkien scholar criticize the Estate for not having accepted the offer to be consultants on the film, because that did come with a percentage payment and would have earned them a bundle of dough. That anecdote is far less piquant if they were already owed a bundle of dough.

                  So I would like to know your source for your statement.




                  I had always assumed that
                  >this was a back-end, i.e. net-profits, deal
                  >(generally worthless, since Hollywood accountants
                  >make sure no film ever shows a profit); but
                  >apparently JRRT was canny enough to hold out for a
                  >front-end deal or a share of the gross.
                  >
                  >There are no 'rights' based on the Ace Books
                  >edition, which was not semi-pirate but all-pirate,
                  >and the 'loophole' Ace claimed never existed.
                  >
                  >
                  >--- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Bratman
                  ><dbratman@...> wrote:
                  >>
                  >> I'm surprised that the Tolkien Estate (or
                  >Tolkien Trust) is owed any royalties from the
                  >Jackson films, as the rights had already been sold
                  >outright during Tolkien's lifetime. I knew that
                  >New Line had offered the Estate monetary rights
                  >for the Tolkien family's participation in and
                  >endorsement of the film project, but that would
                  >have been an additional deal and the Estate turned
                  >it down.
                  >>
                  >> I thought maybe somebody had confused the
                  >Tolkien Estate with Tolkien Enterprises, an
                  >entirely different body with no connection to the
                  >Estate, but I looked at your source and that's
                  >what it says.
                  >>
                  >> On the other hand, I glanced down at your post
                  >about reading Simon Armitage's translation of _Sir
                  >Gawain_ and how it's more contemporary than the
                  >Tolkien & Gordon translation of 1925. You write
                  >that Tolkien & Gordon "were traditionalists ...
                  >aiming to keep the archaic flavor of the Middle
                  >English language," and I should say they were,
                  >since their book was an edition of the original
                  >text and not a translation at all!
                  >>
                  >> However, your Amazon link _is_ to Tolkien's (not
                  >Gordon's) translation, a quite different book,
                  >probably written in the early 1950s and not
                  >published until 1975. There seems to have been a
                  >little confusion here.
                  >>
                  >>
                  >> Adam Smith <amsmith0903@...> wrote:
                  >>
                  >> >I just ran across an interesting bit of news.
                  >It appears that the
                  >> >Tolkien Estate has filed a $150 mil + dollar
                  >suit against New Line
                  >> >Cinema regarding unpaid royalties from the
                  >first movie trilogy.
                  >> >
                  >> >Apparently the suit also seeks the ability to
                  >block any further movies
                  >> >from New Line, including the already-slated
                  >Hobbit twin-pack. I just
                  >> >put up a more detailed post on my Tolkien-news
                  >blog at
                  >> >
                  >> ><http://www.tolkien-online.com/tolkien-
                  >news.html>
                  >> >
                  >>
                  >
                  >
                • John D Rateliff
                  ... I also did not know about the percentage, though there have been a number of references in passing over the last few years about the Estate receiving
                  Message 8 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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                    On Feb 12, 2008, at 7:19 AM, David Bratman wrote:

                    > William Cloud Hicklin <solicitr@...> wrote:
                    >> It's very straightforward, really: When JRRT sold the rights to
                    >> United Artists in 1969 (the only sale of film rights) he received
                    >> cash on the nail *and* a percentage.
                    >
                    > I do not recall having ever read about this percentage before.
                    > Sources say that Tolkien sold the film rights outright, instead of
                    > selling an option (in which the producers have a set period of time
                    > to commence making the film, in the absence of which the rights
                    > revert). To say that the rights were sold outright gives the
                    > impression that no additional money, e.g. a percentage, is owed,
                    > and indeed most writings on the subject tend to imply that although
                    > the payment seemed large at the time, Tolkien got rooked.

                    I also did not know about the percentage, though there have been a
                    number of references in passing over the last few years about the
                    Estate receiving substantial amounts of money from the films;
                    presumably these shd have instead been about the Estate's being DUE
                    subst. amounts &c.
                    The various news reports posted here, and those linked to them,
                    give a pretty full picture of the Estate's case, including the
                    specific percentage, and a lot of interesting details besides. The
                    only earlier evidence I cd find on a quick search is the following
                    from Rayner Unwin's memoir (which Kristin Thompson's book pointed me
                    toward). In his discussion of selling film rights for THE HOBBIT, he
                    says that a contract with Rembrandt Films was ready in 1962 but had
                    to be renegotiated because of the unsettled status of the copyright,
                    and that in the end it went for a $15,000 advance "and a share of
                    any profits earned in countries that were signatories of [the] Berne
                    [Convention] . . . Over the next few years instalments of the advance
                    arrived from Rembrandt" until a script was finished "at the end of
                    1964", at which point the project seems to have lapsed. "ultimately
                    [Rembrandt] were bought out by United Artist as part of a complex
                    deal that was eventually signed in 1969 for THE LORD OF THE RINGS,
                    with an option on THE HOBBIT". He describes the fifty-page contract
                    with United Artist as "a complicated and ambiguous document"
                    requiring some two years to negotiate (GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN--A
                    REMEMBRANCER, pages 109-110, 129-130).


                    > If the Estate is owed a percentage by the contract, then that makes
                    > far more serious the case of the Rankin-Bass "Return of the King",
                    > which was made without authorization on the (dubious) grounds that
                    > it was based on the (supposedly) out of copyright first edition. I
                    > had always presumed that little fuss was made over that because the
                    > rights had already been sold, so making an unauthorized film took
                    > no money out of the Estate's pocket. But if the Estate was owed a
                    > percentage, then it did.

                    I've always presumed that since this bombed it wasn't considered
                    enough of a threat to be worth undertaking a major lawsuit over,
                    especially given the fact that the status of the copyright at that
                    time was uncertain. Who knows how such a case wd have come out? Now I
                    think they'd be in a much stronger position if they wanted to stop
                    sales of the dvd (which was only released after the Jackson films
                    revived interest in adaptations of JRRT's story).

                    --JDR
                  • Merlin DeTardo
                    ...
                    Message 9 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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                      --- John D Rateliff <sacnoth@...> wrote:
                      << In [R. Unwin's] discussion of selling film rights for THE HOBBIT,
                      he says that a contract with Rembrandt Films was ready in 1962 but
                      had to be renegotiated because of the unsettled status of the
                      copyright, and that in the end it went for a $15,000 advance "and a
                      share of any profits earned in countries that were signatories of
                      [the] Berne [Convention] . . . Over the next few years instalments
                      of the advance arrived from Rembrandt" until a script was
                      finished "at the end of 1964", at which point the project seems to
                      have lapsed. >>

                      Apparently Rembrandt Films (William Synder) did produce and publicly
                      exhibit (just once) a cheap, short animated film of _The Hobbit_ in
                      1966, to retain its option until the rights could be sold back to
                      Tolkien. The animator Gene Deitch discusses his work on the project
                      here:

                      http://genedeitch.awn.com/index.php3?ltype=chapter&chapter=22

                      Deitch's site includes a few images that Jiri Trnka had prepared for
                      a full-length version that was never made.*

                      See also p. 21 of Scull and Hammond's _Reader's Guide_, which also
                      quotes from the same passage in Unwin's "Remembrancer".

                      Has anyone here seen this first film version of _The Hobbit_?

                      -Merlin DeTardo


                      *Thanks to Darkstone at TheOneRing.net for bringing Deitch's site to
                      my attention:

                      http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?
                      post=60880#60880
                    • William Cloud Hicklin
                      ... Back around the time Film I came out either The Economist or The Financial Times reported that Tolkien got a percentage above a certain sum, on top of IIRC
                      Message 10 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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                        --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Merlin
                        DeTardo" <emptyD@...> wrote:
                        >


                        Back around the time Film I came out either The Economist
                        or The Financial Times reported that Tolkien got a
                        percentage above a certain sum, on top of IIRC $250,000 US-
                        which meant he only realised $10,000, the other 96% going
                        to the Inland Revenue.

                        However I had believed it was a profits percentage, and
                        therefore worthless.



                        going to > --- John D Rateliff <sacnoth@> wrote:
                        > << In [R. Unwin's] discussion of selling film
                        rights for THE HOBBIT,
                        > he says that a contract with Rembrandt Films was
                        ready in 1962 but
                        > had to be renegotiated because of the unsettled
                        status of the
                        > copyright, and that in the end it went for a
                        $15,000 advance "and a
                        > share of any profits earned in countries that were
                        signatories of
                        > [the] Berne [Convention] . . . Over the next few
                        years instalments
                        > of the advance arrived from Rembrandt" until a
                        script was
                        > finished "at the end of 1964", at which point the
                        project seems to
                        > have lapsed. >>
                        >
                        > Apparently Rembrandt Films (William Synder) did
                        produce and publicly
                        > exhibit (just once) a cheap, short animated film
                        of _The Hobbit_ in
                        > 1966, to retain its option until the rights could
                        be sold back to
                        > Tolkien. The animator Gene Deitch discusses his
                        work on the project
                        > here:
                        >
                        > http://genedeitch.awn.com/
                        index.php3?ltype=chapter&chapter=22
                        >
                        > Deitch's site includes a few images that Jiri
                        Trnka had prepared for
                        > a full-length version that was never made.*
                        >
                        > See also p. 21 of Scull and Hammond's _Reader's
                        Guide_, which also
                        > quotes from the same passage in Unwin's
                        "Remembrancer".
                        >
                        > Has anyone here seen this first film version of
                        _The Hobbit_?
                        >
                        > -Merlin DeTardo
                        >
                        >
                        > *Thanks to Darkstone at TheOneRing.net for
                        bringing Deitch's site to
                        > my attention:
                        >
                        > http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/
                        gforum.cgi?
                        > post=60880#60880
                        >
                      • David Bratman
                        ... Um - what _are_ those ghastly things? Is that bird-lizard thing supposed to be Smaug? And what about the grinning shapeless whatever with the bird feet?
                        Message 11 of 13 , Feb 12, 2008
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                          Merlin DeTardo <emptyD@...> wrote:

                          >Deitch's site includes a few images that Jiri Trnka had prepared for
                          >a full-length version that was never made.

                          Um - what _are_ those ghastly things? Is that bird-lizard thing supposed to be Smaug? And what about the grinning shapeless whatever with the bird feet? Is it an orc? Gollum? A Ringwraith imported from LOTR? Beorn halfway through changing shape?
                        • WendellWag@aol.com
                          Excuse me if I m replying to the wrong person. I can t figure out who s saying what here. I wish people would be more careful in showing what is being
                          Message 12 of 13 , Feb 13, 2008
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                            Excuse me if I'm replying to the wrong person. I can't figure out who's
                            saying what here. I wish people would be more careful in showing what is being
                            quoted and who said it.

                            In a message dated 2/12/2008 11:37:47 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                            solicitr@... writes:

                            Back around the time Film I came out either The Economist
                            or The Financial Times reported that Tolkien got a
                            percentage above a certain sum, on top of IIRC $250,000 US-
                            which meant he only realised $10,000, the other 96% going
                            to the Inland Revenue.
                            What does Film I mean? Does this mean the first of the Jackson films? The
                            top income rate in the U.K. is 40% and hasn't been 96% since at least the
                            1970's. Is this talking about the money paid to Tolkien in 1968 when he sold
                            the film rights to the books? According to everything I've read before,
                            Tolkien got about $250,000 and didn't get any future percentages.

                            Wendell Wagner





                            **************The year's hottest artists on the red carpet at the Grammy
                            Awards. Go to AOL Music.
                            (http://music.aol.com/grammys?NCID=aolcmp00300000002565)


                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          • William Cloud Hicklin
                            ... of the Jackson films? The ... been 96% since at least the ... Tolkien in 1968 when he sold ... everything I ve read before, ... future percentages.
                            Message 13 of 13 , Feb 13, 2008
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                              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, WendellWag@...
                              wrote:

                              > What does Film I mean? Does this mean the first
                              of the Jackson films? The
                              > top income rate in the U.K. is 40% and hasn't
                              been 96% since at least the
                              > 1970's. Is this talking about the money paid to
                              Tolkien in 1968 when he sold
                              > the film rights to the books? According to
                              everything I've read before,
                              > Tolkien got about $250,000 and didn't get any
                              future percentages.
                              >


                              By Film I I meant The Fellowship of the Ring, so the story
                              appeared at the end of '01 or early '02. The top tax rate
                              was indeed 96% in 1969, when JRRT sold the rights to UA,
                              and so it's correct in a way to assert he got either a)
                              $250,000 or b) $10,000. Both have been reported.

                              Anyway, six years ago the press, quoting someone from
                              HarperCollins, confirmed that there was a percentage deal
                              in the contract.
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