MANHATTAN (CN) – An attorney’s heirs say Random House is cheating them of their 25 percent share of royalties from the books of Kahlil Gibran, one of the world’s bestselling authors. The federal complaint is the latest chapter in a long-running estate dispute that began in 1953. Gibran died in 1931.
Gibran’s sister, Mary Gibran, unsuccessfully tried to take control of the author’s literary estate 22 years after her brother’s death.
The lawyer who won continued control for the original rights-holders, George Shiya, gained a 25 percent share of the royalties as part of the deal. Now, the lawyer’s heirs say Gibran’s publisher cut off their royalty payments.
Gibran, author of “The Prophet,” “A Tear and a Smile,” and many other books, who was too poor to attend school as a child, willed the rights to his literary estate to his Lebanese hometown, Becharre. He asked the city to use the money to “do good works.” The National Committee of Gibran, made up of elected townspeople, was formed to administer the estate.
In 1946, his initial copyrights began to expire. Mary Gibran filed renewal copyrights and sued Gibran’s publisher, Alfred Knopf, in an attempt to take over the literary estate.
The publisher filed an interpleader action against the committee, which hired George Shiya as its lawyer. Shiya won continued rights for the committee. In return, the committee gave him a 25 percent share of royalties.
Later, the committee claimed that it intended to give Shiya his share of royalties only until he stopped working for it. But in 1967, the 2nd Circuit found that Shiya was entitled to a continuing 25 percent share of Gibran’s royalties.
Shiya’s heirs say that in January this year, Random House, which had bought Gibran’s original publisher, stopped sending them their share of royalties, claiming their rights expired after the second copyright renewal period. The heirs say the committee was behind the move.
Shiya’s heirs – Jeanette Lederer, Marie Lojacono, George Fouddoul, Georgia Kolcum and Anna Reid – want the royalties and a declaration of their continued rights.
Shiya’s heirs are represented by Cindy Chan of the Blakely Law Group in Hollywood, Calif.