The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 19, 2014

'Mockingbird' author settles museum lawsuit

BIRMINGHAM — "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee has settled the federal lawsuit she filed against a museum in her south Alabama hometown over its sale of souvenirs featuring her name and the title of her book, court documents show.

An attorney for the Alabama native filed a motion Tuesday in federal court in Mobile saying Lee had reached an agreement with the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville.

The settlement notice came days after a judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit, filed last fall, that said the museum uses Lee's name and the title of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel without compensating her.

The document did not provide details on the settlement, and a lawyer for the museum, Matthew Goforth, declined to comment Wednesday. He cited the terms of settlement negotiations.

An attorney for Lee did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

A judge would have to approve any settlement.

Lee, 87, has had a stroke and lives in Monroeville after years of splitting time between the town of 28,000 and New York.

Lee's lone published novel, released in 1960, tells the story of small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, his two children and the struggle against racial prejudice and injustice in the Jim Crow South. Considered a modern classic, the book was turned into a movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck.

The set for the movie's climactic courtroom scene recreated the Monroe County Courthouse, where the museum is located. The museum includes a gift shop that has sold book-related souvenirs including clothing.

The lawsuit said the museum took advantage of Lee's trademarks to sell souvenirs and wrongly used the title of the book as a website address without any compensation. The museum took in more than $500,000 in 2012, the lawsuit said. Goforth previously said the museum earned $28,566 from merchandise sales that year.

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