Author Sued for "Children's Versions" of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' '2001: A Space Odyssey'

Big publishers and the estates of Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and Arthur C. Clarke have teamed up for a copyright lawsuit.

Swedish author Fredrik Colting, who infamously went to court a decade ago after writing a "sequel" to J.D. Salinger's classic novel, Catcher in the Rye, is now in a legal dispute for allegedly infringing the copyright to four classic novels — Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Old Man and the Sea, On the Road, and 2001: A Space Odyssey

On Thursday, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and the trustees managing the estates of Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and Arthur C. Clarke, collectively filed suit in New York federal court.

Colting's 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye was enjoined from publication in 2010. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals would later affirm a judgment that rejected the author's fair use defense.

Now, according to the lawsuit, Colting is operating under the name Moppet Books and "once again proceeds to brazenly infringe the rights of different authors, and the author's heirs and publishers, in complete disregard of copyright law. Remarkably, he also has the temerity to claim on the KinderGuide Website that an upcoming title is none other than Catcher in the Rye."

The plaintiffs allege he is attempting to recast unauthorized derivatives of these famous novels as "study guides" intended for those in elementary school. But they add, "Quick review readily reveals that the Infringing Works do not even purport to be companion guides or reference books intended for use by readers of the Novels because, as defendants also admit in their marketing materials, the Novels address adult themes and concepts."

The publishers and authors' estates say that if Colting was really interested in introducing young children to classics, he should pick one of the thousands of books in the public domain. Instead, he's once again chosen to go the route of publishing without consent. 

"The injury caused by defendants' infringement is not purely monetary, as it also impacts the reputation of the Novels, their authors and, by extension, the plaintiff heirs and publishers," continues the complaint (read here). "Reviewers of the Infringing Works for The New York Times, Forbes, The Guardian and The Chicago Tribune have roundly criticized defendants' expurgated editions of the Novels."

The plaintiffs demand an injunction, a recall of unauthorized copies, and either profits or statutory damages. They are represented by Marcia Paul at Davis Wright Tremaine.

"We strongly believe that we are doing nothing different than what the many other educational publishers providing study guides have been doing for many years," Colting tells THR, mentioning Cliff's Notes and Sparknotes as examples. "We strongly believe that this case is without merit since we feel that we are protected by law to provide a literary commentary on these classic novels."

Colting adds, "It is hard, especially as a small publisher, not to feel as if we are being bullied by these big publishers for something that is meant to provide a better environment for literature in the future. Study guides play an important part in understanding our culture and we will fight for our right to be able to continue to publish Kinderguides."