Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Justices pooh-pooh Winnie the Pooh

Copyright battle has raged in the courts for a dozen years

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court refused on Monday to decide whether the granddaughter of A.A. Milne, British creator of Winnie the Pooh, can recapture control of the copyright for stories featuring the children's book character.

Milne wrote the Pooh books between 1924 and 1928 and granted a U.S. license to Stephen Slesinger in 1930.

Slesinger, in turn, granted his rights to Stephen Slesinger Inc.

The company sublicensed to Walt Disney Productions certain rights to the Pooh works.

When Milne died in 1956, he did not bequeath ownership of the copyright to his family but to a trust that later became known as the Pooh Properties Trust.

Clare Milne, who was not born when her grandfather died, sought to use a 1976 copyright law to terminate the prior licensing agreement and recapture ownership of the copyright.

Lawyers for Slesinger urged justices to reject the appeal, accusing Disney of bankrolling Milne's lawsuit because of a 13-year-old dispute over royalties owed to Slesinger.

Disney is a co-plaintiff in Milne's lawsuit.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Milne had no termination right to exercise.

The court said the parties -- the trust, Disney and Slesinger -- entered into an agreement in 1983 designed to block the family from ever regaining control of the copyright.