Holden Caulfield misheard a word in the song "Comin Through the Rye" — "catch" a body instead of "meet" a body — and so wanted to stand between a cliff and children heading towards it, unawares, through a field of rye and catch them before they could tumble off and down. See Catcher in the Rye (1951).
Caulfield's creator, J.D. Salinger, who died this year, didn't like a fake "sequel" to Catcher and sued under federal copyright law to stop its sale. The district court obliged by granting a preliminary injunction.
The Second Circuit yesterday reversed. It held that the district court erred by not using all four prongs of the Supreme Court's test for injunctive relief in eBay, Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388 (2006). Salinger v. Colting, No. 09-2878-cv (2d Cir. Apr. 30, 2010). That standard calls for proof that the injunction-seeker will likely win on the merits, that he will suffer "irreparable" harm unless the court issues an injunction, that the "balance of hardships" favors him, and that an injunction won't disserve the "public interest". The district court looked only at the first prong — likelihood of success — and concluded that the Second Circuit's pre-eBay precedent allowed the court to presume irreparable harm resulting from infringement of copyright.
The panel ruled that eBay bars such a presumption and remanded the case for the district court to consider whether the evidence shows probable irreparable injury, balance of hardships, and public interest. The court upheld the findings under the first prong and rejected the idea that 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye didn't infringe Salinger's copyright.