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COPYRIGHT/ Fencing off the rye field

January Sun 23, 2011

J.D. Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye  J.D. Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye

The reclusive author, J.D. Salinger, passed away just about one year ago- 27 January 2010 to be exact. For all practical purposes, Salinger had been dead for decades, except for his incessant legal actions against anybody who dared, at least as he saw it, trespass on his literary property. A post yesterday on the The Economist's books and culture blog, Prospero, captures succinctly the truly sad legacy of the author of Catcher in the Rye.

 

Back in 2009, Salinger filed an injunction against the publication of a book, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, which by all accounts, including the literary opinion of one federal court judge, is a very poorly written novel that "tells the metafictional tale of J.D. Salinger's desire to resurrect his most famous character so that he can kill him in print, thereby silencing the troubling voice in his head. But Mr Colting's elderly Holden Caulfield proxy—whom he calls 'Mr C'—escapes his nursing home to revisit his New York haunts 60 years later, all the while eluding his creator's lethal authorial intentions." Without Salinger's successful effort to stop the book from being published in any form in the U.S., 60 Years Later would have quickly faded into oblivion.

 

The post goes on to chronicle some of the other legal actions Salinger instigated against any all who would deign to produce anything, films, biographies, or works in any way derivative of his. This is very troubling because it has huge implications by setting precedents in copyright law that greatly inhibit artistic and literary endeavor, especially in the day and age in which we currently live.

 

I agree that "the all-too-successful legal and legislative efforts of Disney, the recording industry and artists like Salinger" has come to establish a model of copyright that is "one more way in which our political economy is rigged to protect privilege." I also concur that this shift is very much at odds with an even "bigger shift in our creative culture" which "both draws from and adds to a common pool of shared culture."



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