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Salinger and the lawyers strike again

When you read this story, it is hard not to throw up your hands in total disgust at the court and copyright law link here. J D Salinger of Holden Caulfield fame has sued for infringement because a Swedish author's book writes about a thinly-disguised 76 year-old Holden character. The court agreed.

Here we are threading needles and splitting hairs as the judge doesn't seem to have thought about whether there is a real problem, trying instead to decide if the parody is successful or adds anything to the character portrayal. Sure, the new book deliberately treads on the fame of the Salinger character. Since most fiction is derivative in some sense--plot, characters, setting, you name it--drawing a line between what is or is not permissible seems a waste of the court's time. If the book appeals, it will sell. Here is a case where letting the market decide the book's fate would have been a great idea. Instead, the suit will be appealed.


Comments

This is especially astonishing when you consider the fact that courts would not even issue prior restraints on publications of the Pentagon Papers and other materials that deal with national security issues pending a trial on the merits - but when it comes to protecting copyrights, it seems that courts don't bother with their usual rules of prior restraints.


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