The Law Office of Lynnette Ariathurai A Professional Corporation

Contract dispute may determine the fate of 'Grapes of Wrath'

California movie and classical novel lovers are undoubtedly familiar with John Steinbeck's, "The Grapes of Wrath" which is certainly one of best known American novels of all time. Steinbeck died in 1968, but several of his heirs are currently engaged in a contract dispute over who owns the rights to his work. A central focus of the battle pertains to a proposed film adaptation of the story that director Steven Spielberg wanted to share with the world but was prohibited from doing so.

Steinbeck's son, Thom, and his wife are two of the key players in the ongoing contract dispute. They are reportedly unhappy with their share of the author's inheritance pie. It seems his third wife and her daughter are the main beneficiaries. According to a U.S. District Court judge, the son breached a 1983 royalties agreement by claiming copyright ownership and exploiting Steinbeck's work.

Several big name Hollywood stars were slated to take the stand in court as witnesses in the case, including Ron Howard and James Franco. However, the plaintiff (daughter of Steinbeck's third wife) is challenging these witnesses (and several others), saying the defendant already agreed not to call them. The competency of Steinbeck's son has also been questioned, although the judge ruled that it is a matter for the jury to determine.

When contentious battles of inheritance arise between family members, either immediate or extended, it can take a long time to sort things out in court. Any California resident facing similar problems may want to consult with a business and commercial law attorney who has successfully addressed copyright issues for other clients. A successful outcome often hinges on experienced, aggressive representation.

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