The Corporate Law Group

Is it a Rye-p-Off?

Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger was not amused by the tribute piece by “J.D. California” entitled “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye.” Salinger attacked and quickly won. The case begs questions about so-called “fan fiction;” works by fans using characters from popular works. Until now, the Buzz doesn’t know of any so-called fan fiction that anyone attempted to publish. Typically such fan fiction is shared for non-economic reasons, out of love for the original, and usefully promoting and advertising the original. Author “California” said that, “just like [in] the first novel, [Caulfield] leaves, but this time he’s not at a prep school, he’s at a retirement home in upstate New York….It’s pretty much like the first book in that he roams round the city, inside himself and his past.” Salinger argued that the sequel was not a parody and did not comment upon or criticize the original,” and was therefore illegal copyright infringement. Of course, there are fair use infringement exceptions for use in critiques and discussion that does not involve true commercial use. And “copying” for copyright infringement does not have to involve broad paragraphs of exactly duplicated text; it can be present where the copying is more subtle and involves copying of characters. Write away, but don’t try to sell your update of Luke Skywalker’s latest exploits.
Paul Marotta

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