Friday, July 18, 2014

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Copyright

Want to write your own Sherlock Holmes story?  Or even publish your own favorite Sherlock Holmes stories?  Have at it. That's the ruling of the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has held that the copyright on Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective has lapsed and the characters and stories are now part of the public domain.

Just this week, the United States Supreme Court refused to stay the Seventh Circuit's decision pending the high court's decision on whether to hear the case.

The case arose out of two collection of short stories written by author Leslie Klinger.  The first book, A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon, was published in 2011 by Random House. Despite Klinger's objection, Random House paid a $5,000 royalty to the Doyle Estate to publish the book.

When Klingler and her new publisher, Pegasus Books, were ready to publish her sequel, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, they refused to pay the royalty and Doyle's estate sued.  And lost.

The last ten Sherlock Holmes stories remain under copyright protection.  The copyrights on those stories expire between 2018 and 2022.  But the character of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Lestrade and Moriarty are no longer under copyright protection -- unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes the case and reverses the Court of Appeals decision, something that is not expected.

For the Seventh Circuit's decision, CLICK HERE.

Note: There has been a paucity of posts on this blog over the past seven or eight months. I have been working on my own writing project, a second novel tentatively titled Deadly Innocence. That novel is now finished, so I hope to be posting on this blog more frequently.  That is, until another writing bug hits me.  -- SMT

*photo credit: <a href="">GregHausM.D.</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>