The Work

January 28, 2010 2:35 PM

R.I.P. J.D. Salinger

Posted by Zach Lowe

GettyImages_3380455 We've already waxed poetic about reading J.D. Salinger's landmark "The Catcher in the Rye" in our freshman year of high school, and the Web will no doubt be filled today with remembrances of the curious and reclusive author. He will be missed, and his work will remain must-read material for...just about everyone, we think.

Of course, his most famous work ("Catcher") was the subject of one of the more interesting fair use cases in recent years, as chronicled in various stages by our colleague Ed Shanahan. Salinger won the first major round in that case, when a federal district court judge in Manhattan issued an injunction banning the publication in the U.S. of a book purporting to be a sequel to "Catcher." The book, written by a Swedish man named Frederik Colting, portrays a 76-year-old Holden Caulfield escaping a retirement home and exploring New York City. (It's title: "60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye.")

Salinger (represented by his longtime lawyer, Marcia Paul of Davis Wright Tremaine) sued Colting and Colting's publishing company last June, alleging copyright infringement. Colting's lawyer (Edward Rosenthal of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz) argued that the book was protected by fair use provisions in U.S. copyright law, claiming it was transformative and amounted to a parody of Salinger's work. Judge Deborah Batts disagreed and issued an injunction banning the publication of Colting's book in the U.S. (Neither lawyer returned messages seeking comment.)

Colting appealed to the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Second Circuit, and that court has yet to issue a ruling after hearing oral arguments in September. (Judge Guido Calabresi, a member of the Second Circuit's three-judge panel hearing the case, labeled Colting's book "a rather dismal piece of work" but said his literary misgivings would not effect his ruling in the case.)

Under U.S. copyright laws, Salinger's passing today starts a 70-year clock after which Salinger's "Catcher" protections will expire.

Photo of J.D. Salinger: Getty Images

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