BooksJacket Copy

Harper Lee sues literary agent over 'To Kill a Mockingbird' rights

Arts and CulturePatents, Copyrights and TrademarksAcademy AwardsTo Kill a Mockingbird (movie)Pulitzer Prize Awards

Harper Lee, the 87-year-old author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," has filed suit against her literary agent over the rights to her classic novel. The suit alleges that the agent took advantage of Lee's age and infirmity when she assigned the copyright to him six years ago.

In 2007, Lee was living in an assisted living facility and had recently suffered a stroke when she signed over the rights of "To Kill a Mockingbird" to her agent, Samuel Pinkus, and his agency Keystone Literary.

“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” the complaint contends. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright” to Pinkus’ company, the suit states.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" was published in 1960; the story of a young girl learning about tolerance and racial injustice has sold more than 30 million copies. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was made into a film starring Gregory Peck, which was nominated for eight Oscars and won three. A 1999 survey by Library Journal deemed it the best novel of the century.

It's the only novel that Lee has ever published. Lee has eschewed the spotlight and lived quietly in Alabama for nearly half a century, declining most interview requests and rarely making public appearances.

Her longtime literary agency was McIntosh & Otis, whose principal was Eugene Winick. According to the complaint, Winick fell ill in 2002 and several of his clients were transferred to a company owned by Pinkus, his son-in-law. According to the complaint, McIntosh later won a judgment against Pinkus’ company over commissions he diverted from the firm, Bloomberg reports.

A letter that recently came up for auction seems to support the claim that Lee has had vision difficulties. In 2003, she wrote to a friend that she had cataracts and macular degeneration.

Last year, Lee successfully sought to have Pinkus discharged as her agent and to have "To Kill a Mockingbird" royalites reassigned to her. However, Lee's suit contends that he has continued to collect her royalties.

ALSO:

Reclusive Harper Lee speaks to reporter -- about ducks

Harper Lee letter for sale: 'Please don't put this on the internet'

F. Scott Fitzgerald's compensation for 'Great Gatsby' movie rights? $16,666

Carolyn Kellogg: Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Arts and CulturePatents, Copyrights and TrademarksAcademy AwardsTo Kill a Mockingbird (movie)Pulitzer Prize Awards
  • Literary T-shirts a go-go
    Literary T-shirts a go-go

    Some people wear their emotions -- like a love of books -- on their sleeves. And with literary T-shirts they can do that literally. Some feature books' covers, others text, and others pay tribute to beloved authors.

  • Thomas Pynchon's 'Inherent Vice' reported to begin filming
    Thomas Pynchon's 'Inherent Vice' reported to begin filming

    Paul Thomas Anderson is getting back to work, according to /film. The director of "The Master," "There Will Be Blood," "Punch Drunk Love" "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights" is beginning to film his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel...

  • Literary journalist Gail Sheehy on her 'Daring' career
    Literary journalist Gail Sheehy on her 'Daring' career

    In her new memoir, "Daring: My Passages," literary journalist Gail Sheehy describes her struggles and triumphs as she made an imprint on the world of journalism starting out in the 1960s when it was a "man's world." At the heart of the memoir is the deep love she shared...

  • 10 bookish movies coming in September
    10 bookish movies coming in September

    September is full of bookish film adaptations, with movies made from kids books, an international bestseller, a bestselling mystery and a couple of heart-stopping YA thrillers, of course. Here's what's in theaters, and what's coming soon.

  • Riding with Easy Rawlins in Walter Mosley's 'Rose Gold'
    Riding with Easy Rawlins in Walter Mosley's 'Rose Gold'

    Easy Rawlins is back, this time hunting a missing Patty Hearst-like heiress in Walter Mosley's undercooked 'Rose Gold.' Although set in 1967, the story line and racial issues are sadly familiar.

  • 'The Case Against the Supreme Court' pushes for reforms
    'The Case Against the Supreme Court' pushes for reforms

    Erwin Chemerinsky has made an exemplary career out of teaching, writing and lecturing about the U.S. Supreme Court. And though he has strongly liberal views, he is widely admired for his ability to explain the work of the court in a way that is thoughtful, clear and fair.

Comments
Loading