Judge Stops Publication of Catcher in the Rye Sequel

Posted on July 1, 2009

A federal district court judge in Manhattan has ruled that a Swedish author may not publish a sequel to J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye in the United States. Salinger had sued to stop publication of the book on the grounds that it infringes on his copyright to the original novel. The author tried to argue it was a parody, but the judge wasn't buying it, saying that the sequel mirrors the original and lacks parody or critique that might be allowed under federal copyright law.

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts issued her written ruling in Manhattan after considering arguments in a lawsuit brought by the 90-year-old reclusive author against the publishers of "60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye." Batts said Swedish author Fredrik Colting had "taken well more from 'Catcher,' in both substance and style, than is necessary for the alleged transformative purpose of criticizing Salinger and his attitudes and behaviour."

She said Colting's claim that he also wrote the book to critically examine Salinger's most famous character, Holden Caulfield, was "problematic and lacking in credibility." She also rejected arguments that the depiction of a character in Colting's book to represent Caulfield 60 years later was a parody. She said in a footnote that Colting and his publishers made no indication before the lawsuit was filed that the book was meant as a parody or critique of Salinger's work.

"Quite to the contrary, the original jacket of '60 Years' states that it is '... a marvelous sequel to one of our most beloved classics,"' the judge said. "It is simply not credible for defendant Colting to assert now that this primary purpose was to critique Salinger and his persona."

The book has already been published in England. Today's ruling is temporary and will hold until a full trial is held on the merits of the case. But the fact that the judge granted a preliminary injunction against publication shows that the judge believes Salinger will win at trial.