Judge delays 'Catcher' spinoff
To consider whether case should go to trialNEW YORK -- A U.S. federal judge placed a temporary restraining order Wednesday on the publication of "60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye," a supposed sequel to the classic novel "Catcher in the Rye." "60 Years" was scheduled to be released in September without the permission of the original's author, J.D. Salinger.
The restraining order will last 10 days, during which time the judge will decide whether or not "60 Years Later" can be published or if the case should go to trial.
The author of the new book, Fredrik Colting, and his representatives, including copyright and publishing lawyer Edward Rosenthal, argued in court that there is not substantial similarity between the two novels to halt its publication. Colting writes under the pen name John David California.
"There are instances that draw from the original ... but the plaintiff has seriously overreached here, and to my view there is no substantial similarity," Rosenthal said Wednesday.
However, U.S. district judge Deborah Batts disagreed. "There is a great deal of substantial similarity in terms of format, (specific phrases), expressions, the way he talks, in the ways the books are crafted, the short period of time in each, the fact that there are visits to Central Park, to the Museum of Natural history, the characters, the settings," she said. "And every time there is a throwaway reference it's obviously meant to connect to the events in the (original) book."
The debate focused on whether or not the main character from "Catcher," Holden Caulfield, who is also used as the main character in "60 years" under a different name, was in fact copyrightable.
"He is iconic; he's important to us because he has been studied in high schools for 60 years," said Rosenthal. "That does not mean that Holden Caulfield has been elevated to protected status. I do not believe Holden Caulfield can stand on his own as a copyrightable character," said Rosenthal.
Salinger's lawyer, Marcia Paul, was most concerned with the fact that this new book has been advertised on several occasions as a sequel to "Catcher." "This is a case where a sequel has been created without the author's permissions," she said in court.
The defendants, however, claimed it to be a commentary.
Said Rosenthal: "It gets you to think about what happened in the original. It comments on 'Catcher' and Salinger, and it adds significantly to one's understanding of 'Catcher.' "
Paul responded: "The defendants claim it's a parody ... which means there has to be reference and ridicule," she said. "I see plenty of reference, but I don't see any ridicule."
Salinger's lawyer claimed that Holden Caulfield is on every page of the book "60 Years Later," and that "it's a sequel, plain and simple." She added: "Taking of the character is a taking of the book."
Although the judge agreed that there was substantial similarity and that Holden Caulfield was in fact a copyrightable character, she reserved her decision while she considers whether there is a fair use defense.
Rosenthal commented afterwards: "The fact that she's thinking about these complicated facts is a victory for us."