Estate of Denial:  A messy legal dispute over the publication rights to many of John Steinbeck’s famous works was denied further review by the Supreme Court, the justices announced Monday.

The legendary author’s only surviving son and sole grandchild filed notice seeking to regain control of the copyrights that had been signed away in 1938. But lower courts have ruled that the pair’s application is invalid because of an agreement Steinbeck’s third wife Elaine made 17 years ago.

Over the years, Congress has passed several laws allowing for artists or their heirs to assume control over copyrighted work decades after the fact. The laws were created as an acknowledgment that creative works often don’t realize their full commercial value until well after their initial publication.