The Devault-Graves Agency initiated the lawsuit March 16 in a Tennessee court against the Salinger Trust for what it claimed was interference with the international marketing of its book Three Early Stories by J.D. Salinger. The Salinger Trust represents the literary estate of the late Salinger.
Three Early Stories, released in 2014 in print, ebook and audio formats, was the first legitimate publication of a Salinger book in some 50 years. The Devault-Graves Agency obtained a copyright for the book from the U.S. Copyright Office, which awarded the publisher exclusive rights to an anthology of the three underlying short stories contained in the book.
On Oct. 19, U.S. District Judge Thomas Anderson disposed of the Salinger Trust's motion to dismiss the lawsuit in his Western Tennessee district court by transferring the case to a federal court in New Hampshire, where Salinger's widow resides.
"We felt this ruling might give the Salinger Trust an unfair 'home field' advantage," publisher Tom Graves said. "Considering the complexities of relocating our case from Memphis to New England, we felt another approach was in order."
The release of Three Early Stories in summer 2014 created a sensation among bibliophiles and Salinger fans the world over, and the book has already been published in several foreign markets.
Graves and partner Darrin Devault plan to continue to let foreign publishers who want the book decide if they have the legal right to publish it based on rulings and precedents in their home country.
"If the law in their home country backs our copyright, then the Salinger Trust cannot prevent publication in that country," Devault said. "Our decision to withdraw the lawsuit is certainly no loss for us. We've essentially put the Salinger Trust on notice that we will defend our right to publish in every foreign market that is legitimately open to us. It is merely a new way of looking at the equation."
Graves added: "The markets that are legally closed to us, obviously we will not market to. We have no wish to infringe on any rights that rightfully belong to the Salinger Trust. We want to be clear about that. By the same token, we do not intend to let the Salinger Trust discourage us in markets where we clearly have the legal right to publish and market Three Early Stories."
The Devault-Graves Agency published a new scholastic edition of Three Early Stories in October. It contains study materials intended for students and teachers at the high school and lower-division college levels.
"Our goal is for Three Early Stories to be available in every bookstore in the United States and studied in every school," Graves said. "These three stories by Salinger clearly display the talents of a man who was to become one of the 20th century's greatest writers."
Both U.S. editions of Three Early Stories are available on Amazon.com and bookstores across the U.S.