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Copyright Law

Harper Lee settles case claiming agent tricked her for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ rights

Posted Sep 9, 2013 2:00 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Harper Lee has reached a settlement with the agent she claimed tricked her into giving him the copyright for To Kill a Mockingbird, the man’s defense lawyer told Reuters.

Lee’s attorney confirms the information as well, Hollywood Esq. reports.

In 2007, according to Lee’s Southern District of New York federal complaint (PDF), she did not receive compensation to give Samuel Pinkus the copyright to her classic novel.

Lee, 87, has declining hearing and eyesight, Reuters reports. Her lawsuit states that she has no memory of discussing the matter with Pinkus, or of signing the document that gave him the copyright.

“Since 2007, after suffering a stroke, Harper Lee has lived in an assisted living facility, and Pinkus visited her there, sometimes without prior announcement, until Harper Lee finally gave orders that the management of the facility was not to permit his entrance,” the complaint states.

Pinkus has a different version of events. According to a motion he filed, Hollywood Esq reports, Lee’s assignment of the copyright retained to her “all rights to any revenue, financial benefit, royalties, or any benefit whatsoever derived from the exploitation of the Property, now or in the future."

Vincent Carissimi, who is defending the case, told Reuters that he expects the case will be dismissed next week. He mentioned that another defendant, attorney Gerald Posner, was voluntarily dismissed from the case recently. Posner, who is also an investigative reporter, helped set up a company with Pinkus as the director, and Pinkus transferred the rights to Lee’s novel to that company, reports Reuters.

Also voluntarily dismissed as a defendant was Leigh Ann Winick, Pinkus’ wife and president of Keystone Literary. She’s the daughter of Lee’s former agent, the late Eugene Winick. Lee’s lawsuit claims that Pinkus, who is also a lawyer, inappropriately diverted Eugene Winick’s clients to himself in 2002, when the elder agent became sick.

Formerly with literary agency McIntosh & Otis, Pinkus left to set up his own agency, Veritas Media, about 10 years ago, Hollywood Esq reports. The two agencies entered arbitration regarding commissions, and an arbitrator awarded a judgment to McIntosh & Otis. According to Lee’s lawsuit, Pinkus’ motive for allegedly tricking her was to avoid judgment collection efforts.

Related article:

ABAJournal.com: "Author Harper Lee sues, says agent tricked her into signing over ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ royalties"

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