All is fair in love and literary circles


copyright infringement, fair use, famously litigious, Fredrik Colting, Gone With The Wind,J.D. Salinger, Jane Austen, parody, reclusive author, Shepard Fairey, The Catcher in the Rye

Quick recap of the latest “fair use” dispute: The Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger has sued author, Fredrik Colting (writing under the pseudonym John David California) for copyright infringement. Colting’s book, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, has been published in the UK while its publication is pending in the States. Salinger is seeking to block that release. Colting responded by citing protection under fair use laws. The reclusive and litigious Salinger has won many lawsuits concerning his privacy and his seminal work.

Sound familiar? Shepard Fairey (Obama/Hope poster), Andy Warhol (Campbell Soup cans), Woody Allen (his film, Zelig) to name a few who have successfully repurposed original material and created something new. The Fairey case versus the AP is still pending.

The Catcher in the Rye is not yet in public domain. Published in 1951, the novel is still under copyright protection, but Colting considers his book a literary commentary and parody that are protected under fair use laws. The law will determine how this story ends, but many contemporary authors have reimagined classic novels with their endings:

  • Emma Tennant Pemberley continued Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, imagining Elizabeth Bennett’s worries as the childless wife of Mr. Darcy.
  • Alexandra RipleyScarlett, a sequel to Gone with the Wind. Ripley was chosen by the estate of Margaret Mitchell.
  • Alice RandallThe Wind Done Gone retold Gone with the Wind from the point of view of Scarlett’s mixed-race half-sister. This novel ran into copyright infringement from the Mitchell estate. Ultimately it was published.
  • Valerie MartinMary Reilly: The Untold Story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as seen through the eyes of a maid who falls in love with Dr Jekyll.

Shakespeare. Dickens. Verne. Twain. One could argue that Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is a classic akin to those authors’ works. If their work can be rethought or expanded upon, why can’t his?

Some may call it sacrilegious, but that doesn’t make it illegal.


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