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Court voids attempt to strip Pooh license - Reuters, 12/8/05


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  • Court voids attempt to strip Pooh license - Reuters, 12/8/05

    A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected an attempt by the grand-daughter of "Winnie the Pooh" author A.A. Milne and backed by the Walt Disney Co to strip rights to the popular children's books from the estate of long-time Pooh licensee Stephen Slesinger.

    Slesinger's wife and daughter have been locked in a separate state court battle with Disney since 1991, claiming they are owed $700 million in royalties from Pooh.

    Stephen Slesinger's daughter Pati, said on Thursday that Disney "has been trying desperately to get rid of the Slesingers and get out from under their contract." She said she was "very, very gratified" by the ruling.

    A Disney spokeswoman had no comment.

    Clare Milne and Disney filed the federal lawsuit in 2002 to enforce a termination notice that she had served on the Slesinger estate. She assigned the U.S. and Canadian licenses to Pooh to Disney starting in 2004. Those had been granted to the Slesingers in two previous agreements.

    The federal trial court ruled, however, that Clare Milne could not void her father's 1983 agreement renewing the Slesingers' license.

    Disney did not join in the appeal but paid Clare Milne's legal expenses, according to the opinion.

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's finding. The appellate ruling "affirms that we have a valid agreement between Disney and Milne and Slesigner and that their attempts to end a relationship by this termination has failed," Slesinger's attorney Nancy Fineman said.
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    Re: Court voids attempt to strip Pooh license - Reuters, 12/8/05

    Milne relied on changes made in U.S. copyright law in 1976 that gave heirs of authors the right to reclaim the creator's copyrights after a period of years.

    But a lower court ruled that A.A. Milne's son, Christopher Robin Milne, had the chance to revoke the copyright in 1983, but chose not to. Milne instead signed a new, more lucrative, deal with SSI and Disney in 1983.

    A panel of three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the lower court ruling.

    "Quite simply, there is no principle of logic, canon of statutory construction, or consideration of fairness that supports Clare's reading" of the copyright law, the court ruled.

    "We are very, very gratified by the court's decision in this federal case, and protecting Pooh's American rights," Pati Slesinger said in a statement Thursday.

    Slesinger is still pursuing a lawsuit against Disney in state court seeking to revoke Disney's licensing rights.
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