SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – An heir to the author of “Lassie Come Home” did not sign away her termination rights to the story by inking a second contract, the 9th Circuit ruled.
Winifred Knight Mewborn is one of three daughters of Eric Wright, who wrote the tale of the brave collie who made an arduous journey home after being adopted by a wealthy nobleman.
Mewborn assigned her rights to the story in 1976 to Lassie Television Inc. She signed a second assignment in 1978, dealing with movie and merchandising rights, to match the agreements signed by her two sisters.
The district court ruled that the rights were owned in perpetuity by Classic Media Inc., the successor of Lassie Television Inc. Judge Wardlaw disagreed, stating that when Mewborn signed the 1978 agreement, she did not waive the termination rights from the first agreement.
Therefore, when the agreement expired at the beginning of 1996, Wardlaw ruled, the rights to the story reverted to Mewborn.