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A court battle over the works of John Steinbeck

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The Penguin Group and heirs of John Steinbeck’s third wife, Elaine, won a major victory in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today.

The New York court reversed a lower court decision that was in favor of a son and granddaughter of the late author.

Today’s ruling returns to Penguin the rights to 10 of the author’s earlier works including, “Of Mice and Men,” “Tortilla Flats,” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” Steinbeck is one of the best-known and most widely read authors of the 20th Century.

He was born in Salinas, California in 1902 and attended Stanford University before seeking his fortune as a writer. He won a Pulitzer for “The Grapes of Wrath” in 1940 and a Noble Prize for Literature in 1962 as well as many other honors. Steinbeck died in 1968, leaving his copyrights to his wife, Elaine.

In 1994, she signed a new licensing agreement, replacing contracts made in the 1930s, for a number of Steinbeck’s works with Penguin. Steinbeck’s widow passed away in 2003. 

A court battle followed. In 2006, a lower court terminated the agreement with Penguin and awarded the copyrights to the author’s only surviving son, Thomas Steinbeck and granddaughter, Blake Smyle.

 Today, the  federal appeals court upheld the agreement between Penguin and Elaine Steinbeck.

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