Salinger clearly had an intense and oddly private relationship with his most-famous character, perhaps because, as Kenneth Slawenski wrote in a piece for Vanity Fair in 2011, the character and writing that would become the book accompanied Salinger throughout much of his adult life. And so, not only did he not want the book to be made into a movie, he didn't want the character to be made into other books. Salinger was so protective of the depiction of his character in the media that he didn't even want book covers to feature the image of Holden Caulfield. Further, according to a 2010 piece in Salon, "he asked to have his image taken off the dust jacket, and he objected to James Avati’s art [at right] for the paperback (he didn’t want any art on it at all)." Hence, the cover designs that have become iconic representations of the book—the white one with the rainbow stripes in one corner, or the plain maroon cover with gold lettering. (More covers here.)
In 2009, before Salinger died, his estate prevented the book 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, by a writer with the (clear homage) pen name John David California, from being published in the U.S. According to the affidavit, on the matter of Salinger's refusal to create or authorize the creation of derivatives, "Although Catcher and the character of Holden Caulfield have a distinctive place in contemporary American culture, neither Salinger nor anyone else (with or without his permission) has written any new narrative for Holden Caulfield or created any works derivative of Catcher in the 58 years since the novel's release. For over 50 years, Salinger has been fiercely protective of both his intellectual property and his privacy has been well-documented. He is equally protective of his work." Phyllis Westberg, Salinger's agent and president of Harold Ober Associates, added in that document, "Based on my 40 years as a literary agent and 19 years of representing Mr. Salinger, I have no doubt that if Salinger were, contrary to his stated intention, to write and publish a sequel to Catcher, it would command substantial payment, including at least a $5 million advance.... While Salinger's copyright in Catcher is potentially therefore quite valuable, it is his wish not to further exploit it. That too goes for Holden Caulfield, the character he created and who narrates Catcher."
Harold Ober Associates still manages the rights to the Salinger Estate, and we've reached out to Westberg, to Marcia Paul (the lawyer in the California case), and to Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books as well as to O'Connell to find out more about the rights as related to her upcoming new work. In the absence of their responses, we can look to the previous case (note: it's unclear in the New York Times report on the deal whether the publisher has acquired rights from the Salinger estate to publish this book; what is clear is that the publisher bought the book from O'Connell). According to Jon Tandler, a publishing lawyer in Denver, who spoke to TIME's Andrea Sachs about Salinger's copyright in 2010, "If he says that he doesn't want a revised work, or a secondary work or a derivative work, or he doesn't want anything related to Catcher in the Rye licensed, then whoever is managing his estate would be bound by that. He can say, 'Thou shall not create a sequel.'"