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'To Kill a Mockingbird' author, museum settle lawsuit over book

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - A federal lawsuit that pitted "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee against the Alabama museum she accused of illegally profiting from her Pulitzer prize-winning book has been dismissed after the two sides reached a settlement.

The reclusive author sued the Monroe County Heritage Museum in October, saying it had never paid her a licensing fee for using the novel's title and a mockingbird image on merchandise it sold in its gift shop.

U.S. District Judge William Steele dismissed the case on Wednesday after attorneys said they were finalizing a settlement, court records show.

The details of the agreement were not announced, and museum officials and attorneys for Lee had no comment on Thursday.

The museum has removed the book's title from its website name and was not offering gift shop merchandise online on Thursday, though items tied to the book are still being sold on site.

Steele earlier this month denied the museum's motion to dismiss the suit outright, according to court records.

The 25-year-old museum is located in Monroeville, the rural town that inspired the setting for Lee's 1960 bestselling classic about racism and injustice. The tourist attraction includes the old courthouse that served as a model for the courtroom in the book's movie version, which earned Gregory Peck the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of small-town lawyer Atticus Finch.

Lee's suit contended that the museum earned more than $500,000 in 2011 by selling goods including aprons, kitchen towels, clothing and coasters emblazoned with the title of her sole published work.

The museum's attorney, Matthew Goforth, disputed that and previously told Reuters it earned only $28,500 from its merchandise sales in 2012.

Museum officials said Lee had never requested compensation for the souvenirs honoring her literary legacy before filing the federal lawsuit.

Lee, 87, is in declining health after suffering a stroke and lives in an assisted living facility in her hometown of Monroeville, according to the suit.

(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; editing by Andrew Hay)

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