There are many movies that take original Lord of the Rings characters. Such as human, orcs, and elves. One of these movies is Bright with Will Smith

To make such movie, do they need copy right approval from anyone? Or can anyone use any character they want without permission

Would it be ok if they used Harry Potter's characters?

  • 12
    The question only makes sense if you're not talking about individual characters but fantasy races. But in that case, why do you include "human"?
    – JollyJoker
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 9:17
  • @JollyJoker Why wouldn't, for example, Bilbo Baggins make sense? That's also an originally created character, noted by the answer.
    – Johansson
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 10:01
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    @JackJohansson But there are no other movies using Bilbo Baggins
    – JollyJoker
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 10:02
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    @JackJohansson: I assume your point is about "hobbit" and not "Bilbo Baggins" (in which case it is a valid point), but your comment does not make that clear.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 11:03
  • 4
    You can't copyright an archetype. And AFAIK, Bright didn't use any proper nouns that the Tolkien estate holds a copyright over.
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 1:17

2 Answers 2


For a character to be protected by copyright, it must be an original creation. Tolkien never had a copyright on elves or orcs, because both of those creatures existed in literature prior to The Lord of the Rings. On the other hand, Hobbits were an original creation, so the use of a Hobbit character would require a license from the Tolkien estate. That's why Dungeons and Dragons, for example, refers to Hobbit-like creatures as "Halflings".

Extending that to Harry Potter, we see a similar mix of established and original characters and creatures. Anyone can tell a story with a basilisk, or a centaur, or a hippogriff, because these creatures are all derived from classical antiquity. On the other hand, I could not include a Death-Eater or a Horcrux in a new work, as those would be protected by copyright.

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    To clarify "horcrux" as a name might be a problem but not as a concept. It's been around for a long while - an object that prevents a magician from dying by housing (part of) their soul. A common example is a lich's phylactery from D&D but it's far older than that - many folk tales have a similar object. One of the more well known folk characters is Koschei the Deathless from Russian folklore - he famously had his soul in a needle nested in several elusive animals that one had to hunt.
    – VLAZ
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 6:14
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    @vlaz Would one of the more well known examples of a "horcrux" type item be The Picture Of Dorian Grey?
    – Philbo
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 11:50
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    The One Ring is basically a horcrux
    – AndFisher
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 12:22
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    Tolkien didn't invent the name Gandalf which is an old Germanic one. Some people have heard of Castle Gandolfo in Italy or Philadelphia newswoman Cathy Gandolfo. My favorite Gandalf was a king of the small kingdom of Alfheimr, a name that means "Elf Home". Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 18:50
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    FYI: The makers Dungeons and Dragons were legally allowed to use the term 'Hobbit' in the game (ie. it was determined that Tolkien's copyright didn't prevent it), but the designers (Gygax in particular) decided against. See this answer.
    – GreySage
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 23:51

Names and titles are not protected by US copyright. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics.

You may be thinking of trademarks; I suggest searching TESS to find out what protections exist for a given name. If you want to make commercial use of an existing character you should definitely get a lawyer.

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