A Moron In A Hurry

June 27, 2006

Winnie the Pooh

Filed under: Uncategorized — nick @ 11:27 am

The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of A.A. Milne’s granddaughter and whether she can regain control of the copyright over Winnie the Pooh. The NY Law Journal reported on the ruling of the 9th Circuit against Milne in December, but the story goes like this: A.A. Milne licensed the right to sell toys based on the Pooh stories to Stephen Slesinger in 1930, who in turn granted Disney an exclusive right to distribute Pooh toys in 1961. Passage of the 1976 Copyright Act granted authors the right to terminate previous licensing agreements, but rather than reject the deal with Slesinger, the Milne estate renewed the deal in 1983 and received a larger share of royalty payments than they had enjoyed in years prior. The 1998 amendments to the Copyright Act again gave authors the opportunity to cancel previous licensing agreements and by then Claire Milne, A.A.’s granddaughter and sole remaining heir, attempted to cancel the agreement with Slesinger.  The court essentially ruled that the 1983 renewal precluded Milne from canceling the original licensing deal and could not itself be canceled under the 1998 amendments.
The case is interesting in its discussion of termination rights under the Sonny Bono Act (see here and here), but also because David Nimmer, son of Melville Nimmer and author of the influential Nimmer on Copyright, represented Milne on the losing side. Further, Melville had represented the Slesinger side in the early stages of the case.
In the opinion, the court dismissed David Nimmer’s contention, supported by his treatise, that a moment of freedom must have existed between the simultaneous revocation and regranting of the rights over Pooh in the 1983 agreement, making it a mere amendment rather than a new contract, as “his assumption.” Ouch.
The 9th Circuit opinion, Milne v. Stephen Slesinger, 430 F.3d 1036 (9th Cir. 2005), can be read here.

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1 Comment »

  1. very nice blog!mary

    Comment by Blogs, news and more! — January 10, 2007 @ 9:20 pm


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