Friday, June 12, 2009

Here we go again

Someone (not J.D. Salinger) has written a sequel, or perhaps a re-evaluation, of J.D. Salinger's famous novel The Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger is suing to suppress the new book.

Possibly the new book will manage to find a safe harbor from actions for copyright infringement by claiming to be a "parody." Possibly not.

But, just as in the case of The Wind Done Gone, so in this case the question should not have arisen at all. If Congress had kept faith with the reading public, and kept the duration of copyright in pre-1978 works at 56 years, the term that applied when The Catcher in the Rye was first published, the novel would now be in the public domain. Authors of sequels and other derivations would not need to be trying to navigate the complexities of fair use. Salinger's novel would instead be "free as the air to common use."

1 comment:

Rene Kita said...

These continuing extensions are annoying. Years ago, I considered translating the central novel by the Finnish modernist classic Volter Kilpi. Since there is no money in English translations of foreign classics, I planned to release it online into the public domain. This would have enabled others to improve upon my translation, as well.
But then they went and extended his copyright term by 20 years. He re-entered the public domain last month, but I suspect that is a temporary state, too, since Mickey Mouse is not getting younger. Sigh.