Atticus Finch didn’t give a stirring courtroom speech but the lawyers seem to have worked out an end to Harper Lee’s latest lawsuit over To Kill A Mockingbird’s copyright and royalties anyway. A settlement has been reached between the Pulitzer-winning author and her former literary agent Samuel Pinkus, sources confirm. The paperwork and a filing to formally dismiss the federal case as well as a related state court case is expected early next week. In a filing on September 5, (read it here), journalist Gerald Posner and Pinkus’ spouse Leigh Ann Winick were dismissed as defendants in the case. This is the beginning of the end of a curious legal battle whose latest round started in the spring. In May, the 87-year old Lee filed a complaint in NY federal court, alleging that in 2002 Pinkus used the declining health of his father-in-law and Lee’s longtime agent Eugene Winick to take control of the affairs of McIntosh & Otis agency clients like the Mockingbird author. Lee also claimed that Pinkus then took advantage of a stroke she suffered back in 2007 and the fact that she was already partially deaf to trick her into signing over the copyright to her 1960 modern classic for nothing. He then supposedly slipped the work through various companies so it would be hard for Lee to legally find and to collect royalties. That didn’t work out because Lee did get the copyright back in 2012 and then obviously went after Pinkus, his Veritas Media Inc. agency and other companies, and the other defendants earlier this year for, among other things, not paying a hefty judgment ordered in arbitration on the previous case. The McIntosh & Otis agency sued Pinkus in state court a few weeks later. In a motion to dismiss the McIntosh case, Pinkus claimed that he never did anything to deprive Lee of her royalties or other funds.
The 1962 movie adaptation of Lee’s book won a trio of Oscars including the Best Actor award for Gregory Peck’s performance as the lawyer Finch. The character, who becomes a pariah in his small Southern town as he defends a black man accused of raping a white woman, was hailed by the AFI in 2003 as the greatest film hero of all time. In 2012, President Obama introduced the film at a 50th anniversary screening at the White House.
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