Mouse Pursued By Lawyer in Bear Suit


Isn't it funny how a bear likes money?

The attorney for Stephen Slesinger Inc., which owns licensing rights to the A.A. Milne/Ernest Shepard classic, Winnie the Pooh, has filed an appeal of the dismissal of its lawsuit against Disney, which Slesinger Inc. says owes it $700 million in unpaid royalties over the past 20 years, which may include some video rights and ad sales revenues from Pooh TV titles.

The suit was thrown out of a state court back in April 2004 after the court found that an investigator had gone onto Disney property to secure documents from the garbage.

Slesinger, which purchased the original merchandising rights back in 1930 then sublicensed them to Disney,  Wednesday appealed that dismissal to the California Court of Appeals, saying it wants the state court to try the case without using those challenged documents. Disney has 90 days to respond.

Disney secured agreements for all but book rights to the Pooh property in 1961, then reorganized those rights in 1983. It is that reorganization that is the subject of at least two lawsuits.

The other suit, an attempt by heirs of Milne and Shepard to recapture the rights from Slesinger and renegotiate them with Disney, was rebuffed by the courts in 2002, but that also is being appealed.

In extending the length of copyrights, Congress has made it clear that its intent was to help authors and families, not licensers like Disney or Slesinger. That includes giving those families a mechanism for reclaiming the rights and negotiating new deals in some cases, according to attorney Roger L. Zissu, who is representing Slesinger in the federal suit involving the Milne and Shepard heirsReply briefs in that suit are due this month.