The Supreme Court refused Monday to decide whether the granddaughter of A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, can recapture control of the copyright for stories featuring the popular children’s character.
Milne wrote the Pooh books between 1924 and 1928 and granted a license to Stephen Slesinger in 1930. Slesinger, in turn, granted his rights to Stephen Slesinger Inc. The company sublicensed certain rights to the Pooh works to Walt Disney Productions.
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 of Milne’s.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Milne had no termination right to exercise because the the parties — the trust, Disney and Slesinger — all entered into an agreement in 1983 designed to block the family from ever regaining control of the copyright.
The case is Milne v. Slesinger, 05-1332.