Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction after being published in 1960. More than 30 million copies of the novel have been sold in the half-century since, as it has been translated into over 40 languages and the book is required reading at schools across the country.
The Associated Press reported that the 87-year-old author filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan, New York, on May 3 to reacquire the copyright to the novel. Lee is seeking unspecified damages from the son-in-law of her former agent, after he allegedly took advantage of her declining hearing and eyesight to get her to assign the book’s copyright to him and a company he controlled. Lee suffered a stroke in June 2007 that limited her mobility, according to the New York Times. Her lawsuit alleges that Samuel Pinkus “failed to properly protect the copyright of the book” after his father-in-law, Eugene Winick, became ill a decade ago. The AP reported that Winick had represented Lee as a literary agent since the book was published in 1960.
The lawsuit alleges that Pinkus “engaged in a scheme to dupe” Lee into assigning the novel’s copyright without any payment, and failed to respond to license requests including offers on e-book rights and a request for assistance related to the book’s 50th anniversary. “The transfer of ownership of an author’s copyright to her agent is incompatible with her agent’s duty of loyalty; it is a gross example of self-dealing,” the lawsuit says.
Los Angeles business litigation attorney Robert G. Klein has more than 25 years of experience helping clients with complex intellectual property issues, and you can find more information about copyright infringement on our website. If you have legal questions about your own copyrighted material, use the form located on this page or contact our firm at (323) 653-3900 to let our Los Angeles copyright infringement attorney review your case.
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