After years of a protracted legal battle, fantasy author Peter S. Beagle has finally regained the rights to much of the literary work that he produced over the course of his life.
The announcement comes nearly three years after he won a court case against his former manager, who he accused of breach of fiduciary duty, financial elder abuse, and fraud.
Beagle is best known for his fantasy novel The Last Unicorn, which he published in 1968 and which was adapted into an animated film in 1982. Over the course of the following decades, he remained a prolific and acclaimed author, screenwriter, and in 2018, SFWA named him the 34th Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master.
But in 2015, he ran into some significant legal issues, filing a lawsuit against his manager, Connor Cochran, accusing him of cheating him, “falsely telling family members, fans, and the general public that he is incompetent and/or an alcoholic, amongst other lies, committed elder abuse against him (by withholding funds to which he was lawfully entitled, and maintaining him in a state of poverty for years,) and attempted to steal his present and future livelihood.”
Vice has a longer feature that goes into more depth about the situation, and notes that Cochran began managing Beagle in 2001 during a tough point in Beagle’s life, and within a couple of years, Cochran set up a publisher to handle Beagle’s body of work, Conlan Press. Beagle said that Cochran shut him out of the publisher’s revenue and set up an excruciating publicity tour in 2013 that supported a re-release of The Last Unicorn film:
During one 29-day stretch, Beagle says he only got one 35-hour break. When Beagle’s health forced him to cancel a string of appearances in 2015, he says Cochran forced him to personally sign 5,000 apology notes to his fans, leaving him exhausted and in pain.
Beagle launched his suit in 2015, and in 2019, the court ruled in his favor, ordering Cochran to pay $332,500 in response to the claims and $7,500 for defamation. That judgement was against Cochran himself, rather than his companies, which declared bankruptcy shortly before the trial began. That led to some further complications, particularly when it came to the ownership of Beagle’s intellectual property.
Now, it looks as though the bankruptcy case has made its way through the courts. In a press release, Beagle’s representatives say that “the Bankruptcy Court recently approved a sale, which was effectuated shortly following that order that facilitates the return of Beagle’s body of work to an ownership group that includes Beagle, the IP’s creator and rightful owner.”
Beagle’s lawyer, Kathleen Hunt, said that “First we won the trial, and then Peter and I followed his ex-manager right to the Bankruptcy Court. Peter wanted his reputation and his life’s work back.”
With those rights back in hand, Beagle will now be able to profit off of that body of work, and specifically, the rights to The Last Unicorn, and the ability to produce “author-driven sequels.” It also sounds as though he and his team have some plans to reintroduce those stories to new readers, although they haven’t specifically revealed any plans for what might be coming.
The release does spell out some projects that Beagle is working on: a nonprofit that will “advocate and raise awareness about elder abuse,” as well as potential new projects “based upon his extensive library of works,” as well as some new stories.