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Judge reinstates 'To Kill a Mockingbird' author's lawsuit against museum

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM Ala. (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday reinstated a lawsuit by "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee against an Alabama museum she accuses of illegally profiting from her Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

Attorneys for Lee and the Monroe County Heritage Museum announced in February that the two sides reached an out-of-court settlement.

But the agreement has fallen through, according to legal filings from Lee's attorneys. An Alabama judge on Thursday reset a trial date for November 2014.

Norman Stockman, an attorney for Lee, said in the filing that the museum has not complied with the terms and is attempting to add new requests. The museum's lawyer, Sam David Knight, declined to comment. Details of the agreement have not been made public.

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

Lee's suit contended 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 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.

Museum officials contend that Lee never requested compensation for the souvenirs honoring her literary legacy before filing the lawsuit.

Lee, 88, is in declining health after suffering a stroke and lives in an assisted living facility in Monroeville, according to the suit.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Ken Wills)

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