Relative of Winnie the Pooh writer fails to win back rights

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The Independent US

The granddaughter of Winnie the Pooh's creator AA Milne has failed in an attempt to regain the copyright on stories featuring the much-loved children's character.

The Supreme Court in San Francisco has rejected an appeal by Clare Milne, who is believed to have joined forces with her co-plaintiff Disney in a challenge to licensing arrangements in place since the books were written in the 1920s.

In 1983 the long-time owner - the estate of the literary agent Stephen Slesinger - signed a deal blocking AA Milne's family from ever regaining control over the publications.

In 1961 the company sublicensed certain rights to Disney, including some Pooh merchandise. Retail sales of Pooh merchandise reached $6bn (about £3.3bn) in 2005. A copyright battle between the two companies has raged in the courts for 13 years.

Ms Milne sought to invoke a provision in copyright law that lets descendants of authors recapture the rights to works that prove unexpectedly popular.

Disney had hoped that her case would end its 45-year obligation to pay royalties to Slesinger Inc. But the court ruled that the 1983 ruling was still valid and that she had no right to change it.

The bear with little brain celebrated his 80th birthday this year, but the Milne family have not had a stake in their ancestor's work since the author, who died in 1956, signed away all rights in 1930. Pooh first appeared in the London Evening News in 1925 in a story called The Wrong Sort of Bees.

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