Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Warner Bros. Tries to Copyright Strike ‘LOTR’ Fan-Made Movie After Taking Its Name

Excitement for Warner Bros.’ Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum quickly dissipated when fans realized the studio’s movie bore the same title as a 15-year-old fan-made Lord of the Rings film, which the studio then tried to remove from the internet.

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During its first-quarter earnings call on May 9, Warner Bros. tried to distract from the growing vitriol against it and its CEO, David Zaslav, by announcing The Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum. The film marks the first live-action Lord of the Rings film in over a decade and is eyeing a 2026 release date. Andy Serkis will return to reprise his role as Gollum for the movie and will serve as director while Peter Jackson is producing. Although no plot details were revealed, many social media users theorized it would expand on an adventure briefly alluded to in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, where Aragorn and Gandalf capture Gollum and try to bring him to Mirkwood.

At first, the movie seemed to have quite a lot of potential. Quickly, though, many realized that The Hunt for Gollum is actually the title of a 15-year-old fan-made movie directed by Chris Bouchard. Interestingly, the film also has the exact same plot that many theorize Warner Bros.’ movie will have. As if that weren’t suspicious enough, Warner Bros. then decided to try to get rid of The Hunt for Gollum, which has been watched and loved by millions of Lord of the Rings fans for 15 years without issue.

Warner Bros. temporarily removed The Hunt for Gollum from YouTube

Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
(New Line Cinema)

Hours after Warner Bros. announced The Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum, viewers were outraged to find the fan film had been removed from YouTube. Viewers trying to play the movie were met with a black screen with the statement, “This video contains content from Warner Bros. Entertainment, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.” The copyright strike means that Warner Bros. likely filed a copyright removal request with YouTube.

Unfortunately, Warner Bros. does have grounds for the copyright strike, as it owns the film rights to Lord of the Rings. Hence, any Lord of the Rings movie made without its permission could be accused of copyright infringement. However, the studio left this movie alone for a whole 15 years. Additionally, director Bouchard confirmed that it was a non-profit fan work. Even though studios can copyright strike fanmade films, most of them allow fan-created derivative content to exist in peace. After all, it’s usually good advertising for the original copyright holders, and the well-made ones, like The Hunt for Gollum, are careful to highlight the fan-made status and lack of affiliation with the studio.

A studio already has to be a pretty big bully to go after a years-old fan film that the creators aren’t profiting off of. The fact that Warner Bros. basically took its name and potentially its plot before trying to delete it makes the matter even worse.

Bouchard soon revealed he was trying to undo the copyright strike as social media users expressed outrage over the studio’s actions.

Fortunately, within a few hours, Bouchard successfully got the film restored as YouTube dismissed the copyright claims.

Even though Warner Bros. seemingly backed down, it was only after receiving intense backlash for its decision. Also, one X user pointed out the copyright suit may have only been dismissed because The Hunt for Gollum received explicit permission from Tolkien Enterprises to move forward with the movie back when it was first in development.

Meanwhile, the copyright strike resolution doesn’t explain why the films have the same title and potentially the same plot. Granted, The Hunt for Gollum‘s story isn’t wholly original as it was taken from a passage in Lord of the Rings that can be used by Warner Bros., too. Still, it sure is strange that Warner Bros. just happened to hone in on the exact same story as the fanmade film and pick an identical title before trying to scrub the fanmade film from the internet.


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.