Harper Lee Battles Her Hometown's Tiny Museum

Files a lawsuit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2013 9:32 AM CST
Harper Lee Battles Her Hometown's Tiny Museum
Watching the filming of a scene for the 1962 movie "To Kill a Mockingbird" are producer Alan Pakula and author Harper Lee.   (AP Photo)

Harper Lee is apparently as litigious as she is reclusive. The To Kill a Mockingbird author has, in the Guardian's words, "shocked" her hometown of Monroeville, Ala., by suing its local museum. The 87-year-old's accusation: that the nonprofit is making use of her fame without compensation. The trademark infringement lawsuit, filed Oct. 15, calls out the Monroe County Heritage Museum's website and gift shop sales of Mockingbird-branded goods. The museum says that shop rakes in a measly $28,000 annually, which funds a few "pitifully paid" employees, and that it has sold such goods for two decades, reports AL.com. But the suit accuses the museum of taking advantage of the book, and cites its web URL as example: tokillamockingbird.com.

Just 30,000 visitors head to the museum annually, and it warns that the suit could prove its undoing. Making the story even more contentious: Locals aren't sure if Lee is actually the driver of the suit, and the museum suspects her "handlers" are taking advantage of her declining health. More confusing still, the suit suggests the museum is exploiting her health by committing bolder trademark violations, notes AL.com. Lee is deaf and nearly blind, and currently living in an assisted-living facility in Monroeville. The Guardian doesn't exactly make clear who is believed to be the driver, but floats one name: Tonya Carter, a lawyer married to Truman Capote's cousin (a longtime friend of Lee's). Many believe Lee handed Carter power of attorney, though the Guardian could find no paper trail proving that. (More Harper Lee stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.