Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Milne v. Steven Slesinger, Inc. (9th Cir. - Dec. 8, 2005)

This case would be worth reading if only for the fact that it concerns who owns the copyright to the Winnie the Pooh books. The details are obviously more involved than what you read in this truncated opinion, but Judge Callahan's opinion is still a neat little introduction to the story. You'll hear about Steven Slesinger getting on a boat to England to try to persuade Alan Milne to sell him the copyright to the Pooh books. You'll read about the death of Alan Milne and the resulting copyright transfer to his wife and son, Christopher Robin Milne (recognize the name?). You'll read about how the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 affected the Pooh copyright, and how Christopher Robin and his daughter, Clare (Milne's granddaughter), negotiated for an increase in revenues from Disney and subsequently got into a fight about the Pooh revenues. And you'll read about how Disney subsequently funded litigation in Clare's name regarding the ownership of the copyright.

Interesting stuff, all. Neat. Worth a gander.

The other interesting thing is something that seems to entirely escape Judge Callahan's attention, since it's not mentioned anywhere in the opinion. Judge Callahan recognizes that the strongest argument on Clare/Disney's behalf is the "movement of freedom" argument based on Section 304(c)(6)(D), and that her/its position is one that is squarely supported (and advanced) by Professor Nimmer's seminal copyright treatise. Judge Callahan ends up saying, basically, yeah, that's his view, and he's smart all right, but there's actual precedential support for that position, so we're not going to adopt it. Which is fine. But she might also have mentioned -- or at least I'll mention here -- that Professor Nimmer also isn't entirely a stranger to the litigation, since the counsel of record for Clare/Disney is none other than David Nimmer, who's Professor Nimmer's son and who continues to maintain his father's treatise. So, basically, Clare's best argument amounts to "Well, my lawyer wrote a book that says that I should win, so I should win." Not something you see every day!

Anyway, Clare loses, Disney loses, and Nimmer loses. Affirmed.