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Monday, 5 March, 2001, 18:12 GMT
Pooh deal could help struggling authors
Pooh and Christopher Robin
Pooh and Christopher Robin, as drawn by EH Shepard
Authors who have fallen on hard times look set to benefit from a deal guaranteeing Disney's rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh characters for the next 25 years.

The global entertainment corporation is close to finalising a multi-million pound agreement which means it will keep the rights to Pooh, along with Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger, until their copyright expires in 2026.

Among the beneficiaries will be the little-known Royal Literary Fund (RLF), which was set up in 1780 to help authors who have fallen on hard times.

The fund bought a share of the royalties to AA Milne's characters from his son Christopher Robin Milne, who is immortalised in the books, before he died five years ago.

Lump sum

Now the RLF, which has been receiving regular royalties from Disney, is set for a windfall as the studio plans to pay a lump sum in exchange for 25 years' worth of royalties.

Winnie-the-Pooh
Pooh made his Disney debut in 1966
However, general secretary Eileen Gunn told BBC News Online that reports that the fund, which is currently helping about 200 authors, was in line for 90m out of a total 240m payout were "not true".

She said they should receive a payout, however, and that "hopefully we can use the money to be more generous to those who really need the money".

"Professional writers can come to us for help if they can't work because they are ill, or if their publishing company has gone into liquidation," she added.

"The good thing about the fund is that authors do leave money to us so we can help other writers in need."

Royalties

Ms Gunn said a deal should be finalised this week.

The fund has received royalties from the works of GK Chesterton and Somerset Maugham in the past, while beneficiaries have included James Joyce and DH Lawrence.

Other beneficiaries include the public school which AA Milne's attended, Westminster, and the exclusive Garrick Club in London.

In 1998 the club, which admits only men, voted to divide any possible windfall between charity and renovations to its Covent Garden premises.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lamont reportedly wanted to see the money shared out between members.

A Disney spokeswoman at the company's European HQ in Paris confirmed it was purchasing "the rights to future uses" of Winnie-the-Pooh, and the company had "bought out the royalty stream" from the Milne Trust, which administers the rights to the characters.

She added it would guarantee Disney's rights to develop the Pooh characters in new media applications.

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See also:

14 Aug 98 | The Company File
Winnie the Pooh divides the spoils
21 Jul 99 | Education
Winnie the Pooh goes to university
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