Harper Lee sues agent. Who owns 'To Kill a Mockingbird' copyright?
Harper Lee sues: Calling Atticus Finch! Author Harper Lee is suing her agent over the copyright to her classic novel, 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' She alleges she was tricked into signing away rights to the book, first published in 1960.
Courtesy of Universal Picture/Photofest/PBS
It sounds strange that such an issue would come up 53 years after the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which features Mr. Finch as lawyer who fights for racial justice, was published.
But here’s what the 87-year-old author is alleging in a case filed Friday in a federal court in Manhattan. The lawsuit argues that the son-in-law of her long-time literary agent took advantage of her declining hearing and eyesight seven years ago to get her to assign the book's copyright to him and a company he controlled.
"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.
The former agent's son-in-law didn't immediately return a call seeking comment, the Associated Press reports.
The son-in-law, Samuel Pinkus, became involved with Lee after Eugene Winick – who had represented her as a literary agent since the book was published in 1960 – became ill about a decade ago.
The novel is Lee’s only book, but it has become a classic of modern American fiction, and its story a widely influential tale of moral courage and of race relations in the American South. Lee lives in Monroeville, Ala.
"To Kill A Mockingbird" tells the story of two children growing up in a small Southern town. The book addresses racial injustice, as the children's father is selected to defend a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. The man is convicted despite his innocence.
Material from wire services was used in this story.