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JD Salinger and the Unauthorized Sequel to Catcher in the Rye

An anonymous author, JD California, sold his manuscript to Nicotext, a Swedish publisher who owns UK-based Windupbird Publishing. 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye is billed as an unauthorized sequel to “Catcher in the Rye.” It’s written in the same style and features the same main character: Holden Caulfield.

JD Salinger has not published since 1965 (and has no need to do so as Catcher in the Rye sells hundreds of thousands of copies per year). On Monday Salinger filed papers enjoining the publication and sale of the Coming Through the Rye. It will be interesting to see what the courts will say as to whether this derivative work is creative enough to be a fair use or whether its infringement.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

7 Comments

  1. Kalen Hughes
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 08:35:50

    It will be interesting to see what the courts will say as to whether this derivative work is creative enough to be a fair use or whether its infringement.

    If it is I’m going to start writing In Death sequels (Nora, I promise to only write about them as old people, as apparently that’s the ticket to copyright evasion being used here), and Stephanie Plum books, and Twilight spin-offs, and Harry Potter sequels and ooooooo all those Darkover shorts I wrote when I was twelve are already ready to go!

    PLEASE NOTE: I am JOKING above. I firmly believe that writing sequels or spin-offs of copyrighted works infringes on the rights of the author and is illegal.

    I mean pa-leeze. It's one thing to argue that parody is covered (I keep seeing journalists mentioning The Wind Done Gone in articles), but if sequels to works still in copyright are ruled legal (and I don't expect them to be), all bets are off: Get ready for The Draco Trilogy to hit the shelves and for the mother of all plagiarism suits (since not only would Rowlings be howling mad, but all the other fanfic authors who may have been plagiarized in TDT would also come out foaming at the mouth).

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  2. Jody
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 08:46:48

    If the Draco Trilogy is as funny as Bored of the Rings, I’d buy it :). I think a lot of those stories are as ripe for parody as LOTR was. I wonder if authors could even get away with something like Bored of the Rings based on Twilight or Harry Potter? Does anyone know of any other legitimate parodies that have been published?

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  3. Kalen Hughes
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 09:40:42

    Legitimate parody is generally legal (please note, The Draco Trilogy is NOT a parody, it's Harry Potter fanfic). So books like Bored of the Rings and The Wind Done Gone will usually not be considered to infringe on the author's copyright (same rule applies to film: hence Spaceballs is ok, and so is all the porn that plays off of popular fiction and film).

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  4. SonomaLass
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 13:58:40

    Yes, a couple of parody works have come out of the Harry Potter phenomenon, and JKR hasn’t tried to stop them. She knows the difference, or her lawyers do. I would be very surprised to see a ruling not in Salinger’s favor on this one.

    I don’t think Nora has to worry about unauthorized In Death sequels until she’s long gone — but then watch out, you could be the next Jane Austen in terms of unauthorized sequels, rip-offs, retelling from different viewpoints, et cetera.

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  5. RKB
    Jun 04, 2009 @ 15:54:34

    @SonomaLass, You mean like the latest Jane Austen parody? Zombies in Death would be a great parody. :-)

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  6. SonomaLass
    Jun 05, 2009 @ 00:45:35

    @RKB: Yeah, I was thinking of that one, actually, but there are a lot of non-parody Austen derivative works, too. It’s a whole sub-genre, I think! There’s one on Jane’s ARC giveaway list, if I’m not mistaken — one I requested, just to be clear.

    I have no trouble with derivative works based on out-of-copyright works; some are good, some are mediocre, some are bad, none is ever (in my experience) as good as the original. Totally different ballgame when the author is still very much alive.

    Still, the question nags at me — would a zombie Roarke be better than no Roarke at all?

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  7. Kalen Hughes
    Jun 05, 2009 @ 10:34:08

    would a zombie Roarke be better than no Roarke at all?

    Now I can’t stop thinking about Fido, LOL!

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