June 17, 2009KR Blog

Temporary restraining order

Via PW:

In a precedent-setting ruling today, federal judge Deborah Batts ruled that J.D. Salinger’s most famous character, Holden Caulfield, is protected by copyright. She did not rule, however, on whether Swedish author Fredrik Colting’s use of Salinger’s iconic character in his book 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye was allowable under fair use, and issued a temporary restraining order blocking its publication. Salinger’s lawyers have asked for a preliminary injunction permanently blocking publication of the book in the U.S., claiming it is tantamount to an unauthorized sequel. Batts now has 10 days under the order to decide whether to enjoin publication of 60 Years Later, though she can extend that period by another 10 days if necessary.

Batts’s ruling is the first time that the Second Circuit has explicitly ruled that a single character from a single work is copyrightable. Colting’s attorneys argued that past cases have extended copyright to characters that are more clearly delineated–whether as recurring characters or via illustration or through extension into another medium, such as television. Batts, however, said that did not mean that single characters from single works could not be copyrighted, and ruled that Caulfield, though appearing in only one book, was sufficiently delineated.