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article imageHarper Lee sues for Copyright of 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

By Layne Weiss     May 4, 2013 in Entertainment
Monroeville - Harper Lee, 87, has sued a literary agent she claimed tricked her into assigning him the copyright of her classic, Pulitzer-Prize winning book, "To Kill A Mockingbird."
Lee claims Samuel Pinkus took advantage of her failing hearing and eyesight to transfer the rights to "To Kill A Mockingbird" and has failed to respond to license requests, BBC News reports.
The author sued Pinkus along with others seeking ownership of the copyright to 1960 novel and to compel forfeiture of the agent's commissions according to a complaint filed in New York Friday, Bloomberg reports.
According to the complaint, Harper Lee was living in an assisted-living facility following a stroke in 2007 when she signed a document assigning her copyright to Pinkus's company. Last year, after legal action was taken, the copyright was re-assigned back to Lee and Pinkus was fired as Lee's agent, but was still receiving royalties from the novel.
"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."
The lawsuit also alleges that in 2002, her longtime literary agent, Eugene Winick, became ill. His son-in-law Samuel Pinkus switched several of his clients to his own company, BBC News reports. Mr. Pinkus is alleged to have transferred the rights to Lee's book in order to secure himself "irrevocable" interest from it.
According to the lawsuit, he also sought to avoid paying the legal obligations he owed to Winick's company for royalties.
Mr. Pinkus is also accused for failing to respond to offers on e-book requests and a request related to To Kill A Mockingbird's 50th anniversary.
Lee is known to keep a low profile and lives in a small house in Alabama, The Guardian reports. She refuses nearly all media requests. It is quite shocking she is in the spotlight at all even in this case.
To Kill A Mockingbird is set in Depression-Era Alabama and tells the story of a lawyer who defends a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. In 1962, it became a classic film, which starred Gregory Peck.
In a 2006 interview with The New York Times, Harper Lee said she loves the way young people bring a new perspective to the book. "They always see new things in it," she said. "And the way they relate it to their lives is really quite incredible."
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