4 May 2013

'To Kill a Mockingbird' author sues literary agent

9:00 pm on 4 May 2013

The author of the classic American novel To Kill A Mockingbird has sued a literary agent whom she says tricked her into assigning him the copyright on the book.

Harper Lee says Samuel Pinkus took advantage of her failing hearing and eyesight to transfer the rights and has not responded to licence requests.

Since first being published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird has sold more than 30 million copies.

It's the only published book by Ms Lee, who is now 87. A resident all her life of Monroeville, Alabama - on which the fictional town of Maycomb in the novel is based - she is rarely seen in public and declines nearly all interview requests.

In the lawsuit, she alleges that when her long-time literary agent, Eugene Winick, became ill in 2002, his son-in-law, Mr Pinkus, switched several of Mr Winick's clients to his own company.

He is alleged to have done so in order to secure himself "irrevocable" interest in the income derived from the book.

It is further alleged that he failed to respond to offers on e-book rights and a request for assistance related to the book's 50th anniversary.

The lawsuit bids the court to assign any rights in the book owned by Mr Pinkus to Ms Lee and asks that she be returned any commission he took from 2007 onwards.

Set in Depression-era small-town Alabama, To Kill A Mockingbird tells the story of a lawyer who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman.