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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Steinbeck's son gets novel rights
US author John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.
The son and granddaughter of author John Steinbeck have been awarded publishing rights to his early novels by a US judge.

Rights for the 10 books, including Grapes of Wrath, had previously been held by publisher Penguin and heirs of Steinbeck's widow Elaine.

A lawyer for Thomas Steinbeck and Blake Smyle said they wanted to "protect and preserve the legacy of John Steinbeck".

Some of the novels published by Penguin will be affected by the ruling.

A spokesperson for the publishing company said it was disappointed with the ruling and was "evaluating its options".

Penguin is scheduled to turn over the rights to Of Mice and Men in 2012 and The Grapes of Wrath in 2014.

The lawyer for Steinbeck and Smyle said they planned to renegotiate contracts to publish the novels with Penguin or other publishers.

'High stature'

US District Judge Richard Owen said US copyright laws now recognised young writers like Steinbeck could not "predict the high stature they would attain" when they signed early contracts.

The law permits authors or their heirs to terminate contracts or renegotiate deals "allowing creators or their heirs appropriate rewards for their artistic gifts to our culture," he said.

The judge also awarded Steinbeck and Smyle the film rights for The Long Valley and The Red Pony, which previously belonged to Paramount.

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas California in 1902. His first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929.

He died in New York in 1968, six years after he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

His estate was originally bequeathed to his third wife Elaine on their marriage in 1950.

In the early 1980s the author's sons from a previous marriage sued for partial control and the case was settled out of court.

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