WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court declined 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 from 1924 to 1928 and granted a license to Stephen Slesinger in 1930. Slesinger, in turn, granted his rights to Stephen Slesinger Inc. The firm sublicensed certain rights to the Pooh works to Walt Disney Co.
When Milne died in 1956, he bequeathed ownership to a trust that later became known as the Pooh Properties Trust.
Clare Milne sought to use a 1976 copyright law to terminate the previous licensing agreement and recapture ownership of the copyright.
Lawyers for Stephen Slesinger Inc. urged justices to reject the appeal, accusing Disney of bankrolling Milne's lawsuit because of a 13-year-old dispute over royalties owed to the Slesinger company. Burbank-based Disney is a co-plaintiff of Milne's.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Milne had no termination right to exercise because the parties -- the trust, Disney and the Slesinger company -- entered into an agreement in 1983 designed to block the family from ever regaining control of the copyright.