The Work

July 23, 2009 6:11 PM

Frankfurt Kurnit Kicks Off Round Two in Salinger Copyright Fight

Posted by Ed Shanahan

The copyright fight over a new book based on The Catcher in the Rye entered Round Two yesterday as lawyers for the Swedish author of the disputed work filed their appeal of a district court ruling that has thus far blocked the book’s publication in the U.S.

In a brief filed with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, the lawyers from Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz who are representing Fredrik Colting argued that their client’s book, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, does not infringe Catcher author J.D. Salinger’s copyright, but rather deserves fair use protection. Download Colting appellate brief here.

Colting’s book, written under the pseuodonym John David California, “is a complex and undeniably transformative comment on one of our nation’s most famous authors, J.D. Salinger, his best known creation, Holden Caulfield, and his most celebrated work, The Catcher in the Rye,” the Frankfurt lawyers write in their 58-page brief. “In a fictional medium, the author of 60YL has done the same thing as many critics and academics who came before him.”

Already published in England, 60 Years Later has as its central character a 76-year-old man named Mr. C. who is clearly an elderly version Caulfield, of one of American literature’s most disaffected teens. Upon learning of the book’s existence—and plans to bring it to the U.S.—the reclusive Salinger filed suit in federal court to block it from being sold in this country. Last month, District Court Judge Deborah Batts ruled that Colting’s book did indeed infringe Salinger’s copyright—on the Caulfield character as well as the book—and issued a restraining order barring its publication here.

Edward Rosenthal, who is leading Colting’s defense, said simply that Batts erred in reaching her conclusions. Beyond the copyright dispute, he said, the First Amendment is at issue in the case because the people are being denied the right to read the book and make their own judgments about its merits.

Asked about the potentially problematic point that the original marketing materials for 60 Years Later billed it as a Catcher in the Rye sequel—and not the meta-critical-parody he now describes it as—Rosenthal said he expects the appeals court won’t focus on such terminology.

“What’s really important here is what his intentions with the book are, not what words he used to describe it,” Rosenthal said.

Marcia Paul, Salinger’s longtime lawyer from Davis Wright Tremaine who is leading the author’s legal team, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Her reply brief is to be filed in mid-August. Rosenthal said oral arguments could come as early as August 21.

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How does this affect the Harry Potter books? A young boy named Harry Potter first appeared in a film "troll" in the 1980's. He was learning magic to fight a troll.

Ugh. This guy irritates me. He wrote a sequel to Catcher in the Rye. He initially repped it as such and was very honest about it. Then when he was told "no, those characters belong to someone else" he started to whine that it wasn't a sequel but inspired by it.

The judge was protecting Salinger's copyright to the character. What this guy made was akin to a Prada knockoff that you'll find in the seedier markets in NYC. If the tables were turned do you think he'd be happy someone did this? Nope. He'd be whining about how someone ripped off his work. If he really wants his work read, why doesn't he just "accidentally" leak a copy to the internet so the public can judge if his work is original or if he's just a cheap knock off artist?

It sounds like someone wanted to get a quick boost into the public spotlight & didn't want to do it on his own merit. He wanted to get rich off of someone else's creativity. And then he raised a fuss in the media hoping that it would gain him public sympathy & have people buy his work. Sorry Charlie, I have to side with Salinger. I dislike his work & I can't stand the man, but I stand by his FREEDOM OF SPEECH to copyright his characters. Freedom of speech doesn't always mean that you get the right to do as you please. Sometimes it's to protect something you have created & made.

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