Harper Lee Sues Over Mockingbird Copyright

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 4 2013 1:38 PM

Harper Lee Sues Agent OverTo Kill a Mockingbird Copyright

Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird says her literary agent took advantage of her poor health to trick her into signing over the copyright of her book to him. In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Friday, the 87-year-old is seeking to reclaim full ownership of the copyright to the 1960 novel and take away any remaining commissions owed to the agent, reports Reuters. The lawsuit claims Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of Lee’s long-time agent Eugene Winick, "engaged in a scheme to dupe" Lee in 2007, when she was living in an assisted-living facility after suffering a stroke.

“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” Gloria Phares, Lee’s lawyer, said in the complaint. Lee apparently had no knowledge that she had signed over her copyright. Although the copyright had been reassigned to Lee after separate legal action last year, “he was still receiving royalties from the novel as of this year, according to the complaint,” reports Bloomberg.

To Kill a Mockingbird has sold more than 30 million copies.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.


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