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Harper Lee Sues Over 'Mockingbird' Copyright

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now, from one American institution to another.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD")

GREENE: You might recognize it. That's one of fiction's greatest legal minds; Atticus Finch, as portrayed by Gregory Peck, making his closing argument in the film adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird." The novel itself, about a white lawyer defending a falsely accused black man in the segregation-era South, won the Pulitzer Prize for its author, Harper Lee, and is considered an American classic.

And now, just like Finch, the 87-year-old Lee is turning to the courts for justice.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD")

GREENE: Lee is suing, charging that the son-in-law of her longtime agent duped her into giving him the book's copyright, by taking advantage of her failing hearing and eyesight. She filed a suit last week in a federal court in Manhattan.

Harper Lee is famously reclusive. She hasn't published another novel since "To Kill a Mockingbird," and very rarely speaks to the press. But through her book, she has made her views very clear about the legal system, courage and justice.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD")

GREENE: A reality Harper Lee is now putting to the test.

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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