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THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Pooh Heirs Stake Rights Claim

5 Nov, 2002 By: Jessie Hiestand

The legal drama surrounding the Winnie the Pooh merchandising rights took a new twist Monday when heirs to original author A.A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepard exercised a provision of U.S. copyright law to "recapture" the rights to themselves, ending all current rights agreements in November 2004.

According to the Walt Disney Co., Milne's granddaughter Clare Milne and Shepard's granddaughter Minette Hunt have separately agreed to grant Disney exclusive worldwide rights to Pooh when the new copyright terms take effect in two years. Terms of that deal were not disclosed.

"Disney is the primary reason there's a marketplace for Pooh merchandise in the world today," Disney spokesman John Spelich said. "We've had an enduring relationship with the Milne family interests since 1961, and it's our belief that the representatives for Clare Milne did this because Disney has been the best steward over the years for Pooh." Disney and the Sleshingers, who are locked in a lawsuit over Disney's alleged underpayment of royalties, respectively own the international and U.S. rights to Pooh, a character whose books, videos and other merchandise generate about $1 billion in annual revenue for Disney.

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