Monday, August 17, 2009

Cather in the Rye Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Most of us have read J.D. Salinger's classic novel The Catcher in the Rye.

Not many of us ever tried to write a sequel to it.

(As a side note: In high school, I had an English class in which our assignment was to write a continuation of To Kill a Mockingbird, and I am sure that Harper Lee would never have approved of my sense of humor in that assignment.)

Frederik Colting is a novelist who wrote 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, which is a sequel to Salinger's novel.

Oops. The problem with this idea is that it is a straightforward case of copyright infringement, as said in the last link.

This is a derivative work. Just like any "Weird Al" Yankovich song, any "Mystery Science 3000 Episode," The Wind Done Gone (maybe Scarlett was more appropriate in this analogy) or any of the "Star Trek" sequels in television and movies.

The characters are from Salinger's creation, and any story that follows from those characters are only allowed to come from Salinger (or anyone he appoints). He controls any derivative work.

Now, there are some arguments to be made for the sequel's right to exist and it might fall under Fair Use, but I think they are weak.

I think it's an interesting case, because we, as a society, have become used to freely taking and using characters (do a search on Google for "star trek fan fiction" or "x-files fan fiction" to see how some people use another's characters). However, only the copyright holder of the original work is allowed to control sequels to that work.

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Blogger jjvors said...

No question that derivative works are controlled by copyright law. "Fair Use" provision generally requires 1) no profit involved (ie commentary, criticism); 2) no profit impact on the original copyright holder. (lost revenue, dilution of trademark, etc)

It's pretty vague, IMO, so there is a lot of litigation on "Fair Use", some of it contradictory.

A larger question, IMO, is how long SHOULD a copyright exist? The life of the creator? His/her heirs? Or indefinitely, perpetuated by the owning corporation? I think the first case is PLENTY (or 20 years--whichever is longer) I do not want to thwart free expression and I want ideas to be in the public domain as quickly as possible.

1:16 PM  

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