Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ruling for Salinger, Judge Bans ‘Rye’ Sequel; New York Times, 7/1/09

Sewell Chan via New York Times; Ruling for Salinger, Judge Bans ‘Rye’ Sequel:

"In a victory for the reclusive writer J. D. Salinger, a federal judge on Tuesday indefinitely banned publication in the United States of a new book by a Swedish author that contains a 76-year-old version of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of “The Catcher in the Rye.”

The judge, Deborah A. Batts, of United States District Court in Manhattan, had granted a 10-day temporary restraining order last month against the author, Fredrik Colting, who wrote the new novel under the pen name J. D. California.

In a 37-page ruling filed on Wednesday, Judge Batts issued a preliminary injunction — indefinitely banning the publication, advertising or distribution of the book in this country — after considering the merits of the case. The book has been published in Britain.

“I am pretty blown away by the judge’s decision,” Mr. Colting said in an e-mail message after the ruling. “Call me an ignorant Swede, but the last thing I thought possible in the U.S. was that you banned books.” Mr. Colting and his lawyer, Edward H. Rosenthal, said they would appeal. The decision means that “members of the public are deprived of the chance to read the book and decide for themselves whether it adds to their understanding of Salinger and his work,” Mr. Rosenthal said...

In a copyright infringement lawsuit filed June 1, lawyers for Mr. Salinger contended that the new work was derivative of “Catcher” and Holden Caulfield, and infringed on Mr. Salinger’s copyright.

The work by Mr. Colting, 33, centers on a 76-year-old “Mr. C,” the creation of a writer named Mr. Salinger. Although the name Holden Caulfield does not appear in the book, Mr. C is clearly Holden, one of the best-known adolescent figures in American fiction, aged 60 years.

(The similarities between the characters were not much in dispute. As Judge Batts wrote in her ruling, “Both narratives are told from the first-person point of view of a sarcastic, often uncouth protagonist who relies heavily on slang, euphemisms and colloquialisms, makes constant digression and asides, refers to readers in the second person, constantly assures the reader that he is being honest and that he is giving them the truth.”)

Mr. Colting’s lawyers argued, among other things, that the new novel, titled “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye,” did not violate copyright laws because it amounted to a critical parody that had the effect of transforming the original work.

Judge Batts rejected that argument, writing:
To the extent Defendants contend that 60 Years and the character of Mr. C direct parodic comment or criticism at Catcher or Holden Caulfield, as opposed to Salinger himself, the Court finds such contentions to be post-hoc rationalizations employed through vague generalizations about the alleged naivety of the original, rather than reasonably perceivable parody...

While the case could still go to trial, Judge Batts’s ruling means that Mr. Colting’s book cannot be published in the United States pending the resolution of the litigation, which could drag on for months or years."

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