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Monroeville, Alabama is like any other small Alabama town except for one thing.

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The Monroe County Old Courthouse Museum.  It’s built around a refurbished version of the courtroom where Atticus Finch mesmerized a nation.

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There are exhibits on Harper Lee and her famous friend, Truman Capote, also from Monroeville. The museum reels in tourists who spend money in the gift shop, hotels and restaurants. Especially the museum gift shop,The Bird’s Nest, where Mockingbird merchandise flies out the door.

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Townspeople in the Courthouse Cafe and Radley’s Fountain Grille are scratching their heads these days over a lawsuit filed by Harper Lee.

Ms. Lee contends that the museum is stealing and profiting from her ideas.  The complaint filed states that “historical facts belong to the world, but fiction and trademarks are protected by law.”

I’m not a lawyer but I do know that literary lawsuits usually allege violations of copyright, meaning the text itself.  Ms. Lee’s suit says that the museum is infringing on her trademarks.  One of her demands is that the museum not market any products based on her book, like Calpurnia’s Cookbook and an assortment of trinkets.

The museum is fighting to stay open for now but if Lee wins the lawsuit, it could be forced to close its doors.

Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House in Washington, D.C.

I googled Harper Lee.  (photo 2007) She suffered a stroke and is in ill health, living in Monroeville in an assisted-living facility.  And she is not backing down.

Harper Lee is writing a new story about injustice in the South.  It’s about T-shirts and tote bags.  Or is it?  Is it a squabble over a few thousand dollars in our litigious culture?  Or is the museum raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars on unlicensed packages of Mockingbird Lemonade Mix?

That’s for the court to decide.  Until then, what do you think?  Should Harper Lee should just kick back in her twilight years and enjoy the kudos she earned?  Or are you thinking, more power to you, Harper Lee, protect your trademark text? Or is it just another author behaving badly?

 

LEE LOVED AND STILL LOVES MONROEVILLE, HER HOME FOR HER ENTIRE LIFE. IT SEEMS ODD TO ME, EVEN SUSPICIOUS, THAT, IN HER LATE 80S, SHE SUDDENLY THINKS IT’S TIME FOR THE COUNTY MUSEUM TO PAY UP OR CLOSE UP.
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Where’s Atticus when you need him?

Remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.  And a museum.

Toni 11/18/13

Day 18

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8 thoughts on “TO KILL A MUSEUM

  1. Lee loves her town but hates the attention and commercialism attached to her book. Furthermore, she was defrauded into signing away the rights to her book not too many years ago. Is it any surprise that she should pursue copyright infringement?

    Frankly, the museum should have known this. At least respect the author’s rights and wishes during their lifetime.

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  2. This sounds more like a greedy relative trying to pad their inheritance than the woman who loves Monroeville. At this stage in her life I would think she would welcome the fact that people would remember and honour her work through this museum. I’m sure she isn’t looking for her legacy to be “the greedy old lady who killed the museum”.

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