New Zealand passes new law to make sure it keeps 'The Hobbit'

The war for Middle-earth maybe just got bigger and more epic than almost anything Professor Tolkien imagined. After years of delays and legal wranglings among the studios Warners, New Line and MGM, the loss of original director Guillermo del Toro and then Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson stepping up to bat, the parliament of New Zealand has taken up arms to make sure that Jackson's humongous two-part production of Tolkien's novel The Hobbit will stay in New Zealand and not be shipped to Europe or Australia.

According to Variety, the so-called "Hobbit law" will amend existing labor law so that actors hired to work on the Lord of the Rings prequel films will have the status of independent contractors, not employees. 3 News in New Zealand reports that, according to Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson, the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill "[C]larifies what is already widespread industry practice. That actors, crew members and other production personnel in the film industry who sign on as independent contractors are just that, independent contractors. If they sign on as an employee, they are an employee."

Labour and Green Party members tried to nix the bill, saying it will create more litigation. And looking at the track record of the Hobbit films so far, maybe that's a pretty safe bet, no matter your political leanings.

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