Settlement Details On The Banning Of Unauthorized Catcher in The Rye Sequel Even More Troubling

from the free-speech-isn't-free dept

Back in December, we were disappointed to find out that the author of an “unauthorized sequel” to Catcher in the Rye had settled the lawsuit brought by the estate of JD Salinger, such that the book was permanently banned in the US. It seemed like a serious blow to basic First Amendment freedoms, to have the US banning books that have significant unique expression. However, drew points us to some more details about the settlement which seem really troubling from a free speech standpoint. The book is banned in the US, but not elsewhere, though the author, Colting, has to change the title. But where it gets ridiculous is the following conditions:


Under the terms of the deal, Colting is forbidden from dedicating the book to Salinger.

It also prohibits him or any publisher of the book from referring to The Catcher in the Rye or Salinger.

They are also prevented from using the copyright claim or Salinger’s so-called “ban” to promote the work.

Perhaps that last one is kind of understandable, but what’s with banning him from dedicating the book to whomever he wants? How is that possibly a copyright issue?

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Comments on “Settlement Details On The Banning Of Unauthorized Catcher in The Rye Sequel Even More Troubling”

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54 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Perhaps that last one is kind of understandable, but what’s with banning him from dedicating the book to whomever he wants? How is that possibly a copyright issue?

It could imply knowledge and approval of the work. They don’t want anything to do with the work period, in no way and no manner.

How hard is that to understand?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

As part of an agreement, you can specify almost anything. Basically, in return for allowing him to publish the book in some manner (even though it will still end up playing somewhat off of CitR), they agree to those terms, and as a result, he no longer has to worry about copyright litigation.

Even at that, mentioning JD in any way could be a connection, which in turn could cause some confusion, that would lead back to the main issue at hand. It’s a list of things not to do in order to avoid having problems.

Remember, it says “under the terms of the deal”. They could have agreed to have every other page in pink, and while it would be odd, it would be part of the agreement.

Honestly, it sounds like a list the plaintiff (or their lawyers) wrote up, and was agreed to because there was no intention to do any of that anyway. It’s a non-issue except maybe for TD, who can’t accept this ruling or agreement very well. TD sort of needs to learn to suck it up on this one.

Killer_Tofusays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

They would not have been able to sue, and force such a stupid agreement if it wasn’t for copyright. There is no reason they should have been able to sue over this book to begin with (and they sued because of copyright). So yes, this does have to deal with copyright. The specific terms of their agreement might not have anything to do with copyright, but it shouldn’t have gotten that far to begin with.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

The issue of copyright is about the book itself, not anything else. The terms of the agreement are not specific about copyright, but an agreement by which they won’t push any further on copyright issues, even though they very well could have.

It isn’t “copyright forbids him from putting in a dedication”, that is only because of an agreement to avoid further legal issues. The courts ruled, and found in favor of the plaintiff. Suck it up.

Killer_Tofusays:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

I do realize this. I was trying to point that out to the other AC but he refuses to acknowledge that Copyright is why they were forced to come to this stupid agreement to begin with. Without such horrible copyright there would have been no lawsuit, and thus, no agreement. It is pretty simple.

Killer_Tofusays:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Additionally, you still have no response at all other than to repeat your previous talking point (which I already acknowledged) as to my comment that copyright is why they came to this agreement and me saying copyright needs to be scaled back (or removed).
I will never support censorship. Judging by your glee in defending this and telling everyone to just suck it up though, you are in full favor of censorship. If you are not, then I do not see how you can support copyright as it is since it brought all of this about.

C.T.says:

It's not a copyright issue, it's a contract issue

A settlement agreement is for all intents and purposes a contract. Breach of the settlement agreement would constitute a breach of contract — it would not constitute copyright infringement unless the conduct underlying the breach was itself infringing. So, if the author violated any of the terms of the settlement agreement you listed, there would be no possible copyright claim.

halleysays:

mechanical turk meets streisand?

I’ve followed this case a little bit, and it reminds me a bit of the “Wind Done Gone” case.

I have also wondered if various fans could/would basically thumb their noses at the ridiculous contract. If fifty or a thousand fans (or artificial fans) blogged noisily about “the Sequel to Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye,” what could they possibly do about it? Unsolicited PayPal donations to the author, and underground e-book copies flow both ways across the embargo.

MrWilsonsays:

Re: Re:

I wonder if anyone will be confused by the first 3 “customers who bought this also bought” books are by or about Salinger…

This is another example of people misunderstanding the way information works. Information is like culture. You can’t kill it by silencing one person. You can’t dictate to others what they choose to do with it once it is uttered (unless you’re an oppressive totalitarian regime). We know the name of Herostratus despite the attempts to condemn him to obscurity.

The book will be posted online and anyone who’s interested will find it and no one will deny that it has a connection to Catcher in the Rye. Just because Salinger or his estate had a problem with it doesn’t mean the readers have to pretend that a connection doesn’t exist.

Salinger is one of my favorite authors, but he gave up the right to complain about this when he stopped publishing. There was demand for more of his writing, even if it had nothing to do with The Catcher in the Rye. Because of the hole created by his silence, that demand had to be filled by someone else. And I doubt I’ll enjoy this “sequel” as much as I do Salinger’s writing.

average_joesays:

It seemed like a serious blow to basic First Amendment freedoms, to have the US banning books that have significant unique expression.

It’s not being banned for its original expressive speech, it’s being banned for its infringing speech. Infringing speech is not protected by the First Amendment.

While the copying it contains is not literal, it is non-literal copying. The test for non-literal copying is whether or not it’s substantially similar to the original. The district court held that it was substantially similar, and the court of appeal unanimously agreed.

Dark Helmetsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Another reason not to use my real name when writing stories. If something doesn’t have to be directly copied just “substantially similar”…”

Then the ten or twelve basic plots for fiction all go right out the window? Ambiguous words like that are the reason laws can be abused….

Marcus Carabsays:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, on the parody side, everything about this work would seem to fall under the established fair use defenses for parodies.

On the sequel side, if it’s telling a brand new story using evolved and updated versions of the original characters and settings, is that not arguably a new expression of the same idea, rather than a copying of the expression?

Dark Helmetsays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

“How else could such a determination be made if not on a case-by-case basis?”

I don’t know that it could, which is what makes all of this difficult. The only other solution appears to be taking the law out of the equation entirely by making non-literal copying a non-offense. Obviously there’s problems there too, but in my opinion it’s the lesser of the two evils….

average_joesays:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re: Re: Re: Re:

Define “immaterial.” How different must it be to be material? Do you have a quantifiable number?

Of course there’s no quantifiable number. That’s just not how these things work. There are certain tests that are applied. The district court explains that in the opinion. The finding of substantial similarity here was simple since Colting argued that his novel was a parody. By doing so, he ADMITTED it was substantially similar. It also didn’t help his case that he referred to his book as a “sequel” right on the book’s cover.

You can read the district court’s opinion here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/17040458/Salinger-v-Colting-Opinion

And the Second Circuit’s opinion here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/17040458/Salinger-v-Colting-Opinion

Chronno S. Triggersays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

This book was a sequel as you said. The story was different, the situations were different, from what I understand the characters were different. The simple fact that it was a sequel is why this book was injunctioned. The vast majority of that book was different from the original. The original idea wasn’t copied, just expanded on.

Legally it was the correct outcome (morally probably not), this was an unauthorized sequel. But the law is vary ambiguous, and that is where my worry sits. If something that is only built upon something else is considered copyright infringement, then something that just looks like it’s built upon something else can be as well. How many new anythings do you see that are completely unique.

I personally think fan fictions should be legal, and that’s really all this is, a fan fiction.

(Is anyone else having problems posting with Firefox today?)

RDsays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The finding of substantial similarity here was simple since Colting argued that his novel was a parody. By doing so, he ADMITTED it was substantially similar. It also didn’t help his case that he referred to his book as a “sequel” right on the book’s cover.”

Ah, right, so parody is no longer allowed now? Guess there are a number of authors who are going to be in DEEP trouble now that parody is illegal and no longer a part of the exceptions to copyright law. Thanks for clearing that up.

average_joesays:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ah, right, so parody is no longer allowed now? Guess there are a number of authors who are going to be in DEEP trouble now that parody is illegal and no longer a part of the exceptions to copyright law. Thanks for clearing that up.

Don’t be ridiculous. You should read the opinion I linked to. The court went into great detail about how this wasn’t actually parody.

Re: Re:

It’s not being banned for its original expressive speech, it’s being banned for its infringing speech.

So, if it trivially changed the infringing speech – changed the character’s names, for example – it could be sold in the U.S.?

That’s sort of a curious solution, I think.

I’m still not sure why this shouldn’t be inconsistent with the “Wind Done Gone” case, where the judge ruled that an outright injunction (as opposed to an award of damages) was prior restraint.

Dannysays:

A dirty trick if you ask me

They are also prevented from using the copyright claim or Salinger’s so-called “ban” to promote the work.

To say “Salinger’s so-called ‘ban’…” sounds to me like the Salinger estate really doesn’t think its a ban when that is just what it is. And prevention from using the copyright claim is just a PR move.

The words ‘ban’ and ‘copyright’ are pretty hot words when talking about content and media. The Salinger estate can’t help but know that if those two things were to come up it would draw more attention (and probably sales) to the book, which is what they don’t want. If anything I’d make sure there is something in their telling them they must explicitly say that this new book is not officially tied to the original CitR. That is I would make sure of that if my concern were about making sure buyers know the difference. If my concern were to try to block sales….

Sales Boots

This entire drama has attracted attention and brought in sales where there would not have been. Despite any agreement, it is impossible for the controversy to not be a promotional tool. The author himself doesn’t need to do this, so it was easy to agree to in the settlement.

He also doesn’t need to dedicate it to JD because again, the statement that he is not permitted to does that for him.

As for the ban in the US? Really? Who thinks in today’s global Internet business world that will hurt him? The only people missing out are the US booksellers. Everyone in the US who wanted to read the book, will be able to buy it. Even people who aren’t interested in the book but just want it because it’s banned will be able to buy it.

This settlement is all WIN for the author and really just embarrassing for the Salinger estate. They did the author a huge favor.

G Thompsonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Sales Boots

Good luck with that, because all that will happen is someone in the USA will get someone else from outside the USA to buy it and then ship it to them once it arrives.

They will both then be classified as criminals and need to be flogged with the nearest huge tome of course.

We will probably need a RIAA Clone for Books then eye roll

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