Re: Remind us how much SZC paid Tolkein / his estate for the rights?
Your reminder: publicly available from papers filed during litigation a number of years ago, for convenience here follows a summary of the situation you reference. (Citations to documents have been removed, but the information was largely taken from public sources. You likely won't find any public monetary figures published anywhere, but rest assured Zaentz did pay for certain rights, and was required by its licensor to actively go after infringers and enforce the Tolkien estate's rights):
Sales of The Lord of the Rings continued to rise steadily until 1965, when it was learned that an American publisher, Ace Books, was planning to issue an unauthorized paperback edition without paying royalties. “Because of the confused state of American copyright at that time, the publisher doubtless thought that he could do this with impunity; and he also realized that such an edition would probably sell widely, especially among American students, who were already showing an interest in the book.”
The unauthorized publication of The Lord of the Rings in June of 1965 by Ace in the U.S. presented Tolkien with major concerns, so that rather than rushing to lawyers right away, he was distracted from his successor works for six to nine months bothering with the situation. Tolkien’s attitude in the face of what he regarded as immoral appropriation can perhaps best be summed up by a comment in a letter to his son Christopher: “Wars are always lost, and The War always goes on, and it is no good growing faint.”
Tolkien began to include a note in his replies to American fan letters telling them that the Ace book was not authorized and asking them to discourage sales of it. “This soon had a remarkable effect. American readers not only began to refuse to buy the Ace edition but demanded, often in forcible terms, that booksellers remove it from their shelves.”
Tolkien’s authorized American publisher, Houghton Mifflin, planned to issue The Lord of the Ring in paperback in collaboration with Ballantine Books, but in order to register for copyright they would have to make changes, which was explained to Tolkien. Each authorized book, including the paperback edition of The Hobbit published by Ballantine since August 1965, and The Lord of the Rings published since October 1965, have carried Tolkien’s message: “This paperback edition and no other has been published with my consent and cooperation. Those who approve of courtesy (at least) to living authors will purchase it and no other.” Tolkien’s request provoked an immediate personal response in his readers, such as Vladimir Padunov, who wrote to Tolkien in March 1970, apologizing for having previously purchased the Ace edition without having provided any compensation to Tolkien.
Word of the war being waged on the moral front was disseminated by diverse means, such as an April 1968 newsletter from the Florida state English teacher’s association. The controversy and subsequent consumer boycott of the pirated edition had been so widespread that it was noted even by The New York Times in January 1967.
The Ace paperback edition quickly lost the market to the authorized “official” edition. As a result of unprecedented consumer pressure on booksellers, and the Science Fiction Writers of America applying its influential pressure on Ace, sales of the Ace version began to fall sharply for the rest of 1965. Ace finally offered to pay Tolkien a royalty for every copy that they had sold, and promised to not reprint after existing stock was exhausted. [ ... ]
Professor Tolkien granted U.K. publisher George Allen & Unwin the exclusive license to publish The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He also established trusts to exercise the author’s reserved rights, and in July 1969, during Tolkien’s lifetime, the trusts together with George Allen & Unwin, granted United Artists (UA) exclusive world-wide rights to use “the valuable name, character, symbol, design, likeness and visual representation of all characters, places, objects and events” of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in motion pictures, sound recordings, television production, merchandising and non-printed matter. As a result, UA obtained the sole and exclusive right to use the name, character, symbol, design, likeness and visual representation of all characters, places, objects and events referred to in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. UA also obtained all non-printed matter merchandising rights to use, and to license third parties to use, the names and marks of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien Enterprises is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Saul Zaentz Company, whose motion picture and merchandising rights for Tolkien’s fanciful Middle-Earth characters were acquired from UA. As part of the purchase from UA after Tolkien’s death, Zaentz had also acquired the right to license others to use the Tolkien characters.
Not only did all of Prof. Tolkien’s four children consent to the assignment from UA to Zaentz, they and publisher George Allen & Unwin specifically authorized exclusive use of the name “Tolkien Enterprises” in connection with the merchandising and licensing program.