Catcher in the Rye Sequel Case on Appeal

Posted on September 8, 2009

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has heard arguments in the case in which an author wrote an unauthorized sequel to J.D. Salinger's classic novel, Catcher in the Rye. Salinger was not amused and sued. He got a preliminary injunction from the lower court to stop publication of the book pending the outcome of the trial and the author has appealed. Publisher's Weekly reports:
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday heard arguments that a preliminary injunction barring U.S. publication of Swedish author Fredrik Colting's 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye should be vacated. Despite a negative review of Colting's book by one of the judges, Guido Calabresi, who called the effort a "dismal piece of work," the judges' questions suggested that the court was leaning toward giving Colting a second look in court.

"This case is about banning a book," Ned Rosenthal, lead counsel for Colting, told the court, noting that such an extreme action should only happen after vigorous consideration of all the issues. In addition, Rosenthal argued, no evidence of any actual harm had been introduced in the preliminary hearing.

Salinger's attorney, Marcia Paul, faced a much more serious grilling than at the preliminary hearing, where Judge Deborah Batts, based on her readings of both Colting's and Salinger's books, seemed unconvinced that Colting's work could be perceived as commentary or parody. This time, the court seemed to doubt whether sufficient evidence had been considered and asked Paul to explain why money damages would not sufficiently compensate Salinger, should the book be published and later found at trial to be infringement. Paul conceded that Salinger's sole interest in the case is blocking the use of his characters and work, and that therefore Salinger's grievance could not be addressed by money damages. "You can't put the genie back in the bottle," Paul said.
The judge in the lower court said the book -- in addition to being poorly written -- was clearly a sequel and not a parody or critique of the work, which are exceptions to copyright law. We find the whole case to be just disgusting. Salinger owns the copyright and this author has no right to try to steal Salinger's hard work to make a buck. He should go make up his own story instead of stealing someone else's characters and ideas.