Steinbeck family lose latest round in copyright feud

Wed Oct 13, 2010 7:19pm EDT
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday dismissed claims by John Steinbeck's descendants for control of copyright and royalties to the works of the American novelist.

In the latest round of a long-running and bitter family feud over Steinbeck's estate, a New York appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that granted complete authority over the author's work to the estate of his third wife, Elaine.

Steinbeck's son Thomas and granddaughter Blake Smyle had sued the family of Elaine Steinbeck over control after she died in 2003 and left most of her estate to her children from a previous marriage.

The appeal court judges ruled on Wednesday that Elaine Steinbeck's estate had not breached its financial obligations to Steinbeck's descendants. They also dismissed a claim of unjust enrichment against Elaine Steinbeck.

John Steinbeck died in 1968 after becoming one of America's most beloved authors and journalists. Novels like "The Grapes of Wrath" and "East of Eden" remain big sellers.

"The heirs of Elaine Steinbeck are delighted that the courts have confirmed that her estate has complete power over the use of John Steinbeck's works," Susan Kohlmann, an attorney for Elaine Steinbeck's estate, said in a statement.

"At long last, John Steinbeck's wishes related to ownership and control of his literary works have been fully validated," Kohlmann said.

Thomas Steinbeck and his family said they were disappointed with the ruling and considering their next move.

"What is most disappointing to them is that they never received their day in court, including an opportunity to present their concerns to a jury," said Jennifer Semko, a lawyer for Steinbeck's blood relatives.

(Reporting by Basil Katz; editing by Jill Serjeant)