NEW YORK - A federal judge said yesterday that she found substantial similarities between J.D. Salinger's
The Catcher in the Rye
and a new book by a Swedish author and questioned whether the new volume should be published in the United States.
U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts commented as she listened to lawyers argue whether Salinger had a right to stop U.S. publication this summer of a novel called 60 Years Later by Fredrik Colting, who writes under the name John David California.
Batts said she had read both books and could rule that the similarities left her to decide whether the new book made fair use of Salinger's work by providing commentary, criticism, or parody.
She temporarily blocked publication until she could decide what she called serious legal questions raised by the dispute. The temporary order makes it likely that a ruling would occur within a month.
Edward Henry Rosenthal, a lawyer for Colting, argued that the book's publication should be allowed because it provided meaningful criticism of Salinger and his character Holden Caulfield.
Batts said the issue was not that she was having trouble determining whether the criticism in the book was effective. "Let me be clear," she said. "I am having difficulty seeing that it exists" at all.
Marcia Beth Paul, a lawyer for Salinger, said the book copied his and was "pure commercialism," meant to capitalize on the spectacular success of Salinger's classic novel about the days of a disaffected 16-year-old's life after he is expelled from boarding school and has a series of experiences in New York City. She said the defendants were wrong to claim that blocking publication because it infringes copyrights would be the same as banning a book.
"Make no mistake about it," Rosenthal responded: "To enjoin the book before a full exploration . . . is a prior restraint that raises very serious First Amendment questions."
In 60 Years Later, to be published in Britain this summer and in the United States soon after, the main character is 76. Rosenthal did not dispute that "Mr. C." is Caulfield.