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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Writing Quote: Sherlock Holmes No Longer Protected by Copyright

     A federal judge has ruled that Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. John H. Watson, are no longer protected by copyright, and that all elements of the famous sleuth's stories by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle before 1923 are now in the public domain.

     The court case required U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo to become something of a Sherlock Homes expert, and in a 22-page ruling issued last week [December 2013] in Chicago, he began by summarizing the four novels and 56 short stories Conan Doyle wrote about the fictional detective. The character first appeared in 1887. The final 10 Holmes stories appeared in the U.S. in 1923.

     Before Castillo's ruling, only the final ten stories retained their copyright in the United States. The rest of the Holmes "cannon" was in the public domain, though Conan Doyle's estate claimed that those 10 copyrighted stories were enough to prevent anyone from using the Homes character in new works. Many book publishers and movie studios thus entered into licensing agreements with the estate.

     Castillo's ruling allows anyone to use the Holmes character as long as they don't use elements from the 1923 stories, which include details about Holmes' and Dr. Watson's past.

Hector Tobar, The Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2013 

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