Law: Foul Weather for Fair Use

A wave of copyright suits puts scholars on the defensive

It was a perfect day for bananafish, but inclement for scholars and publishers. On Jan. 29, 1987, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York City, ruled that the reclusive author J.D. Salinger could prevent quotation of his unpublished letters by a biographer. The decision (which the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review) went further. The biographer, Ian Hamilton, could not even describe the correspondence in such a way that it caught the spirit of Salinger's writing. Hamilton found himself, in the words of the court, with "no inherent right to copy the 'accuracy' or the 'vividness'...

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