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Harper Lee to sue over Mockingbird royalties

May 4: Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has filed a lawsuit to resecure the copyright to it, claiming the son-in-law of her former literary agent took advantage of her age and infirmity to deprive her of royalties.

The lawsuit filed yesterday in a federal court in Manhattan, New York, seeks unspecified damages from the son-in-law of Lee’s former literary agent and companies he allegedly created.

The lawsuit alleges Samuel Pinkus failed to properly protect the copyright of the book after his father-in-law, Eugene Winick — who had represented Lee as a literary agent since the book was published in 1960 through the firm McIntosh and Otis — became ill a decade ago. The 87-year-old author, who lives in Monroeville, Alabama, alleges Pinkus 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.

Lee was residing in an assisted-living facility in 2007 after suffering a stroke when she signed a document assigning her copyright to Pinkus’s company, according to the complaint.

While the copyright was re- assigned to Lee last year after legal action and Pinkus was discharged as Lee’s agent, he was still receiving royalties from the novel as of this year, according to the complaint.

“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. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright” to Pinkus’s company.

 
 
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