| June 16
June 16 A U.S. appeals court said 50 Sherlock
Holmes works published before 1923 by Arthur Conan Doyle are in
the public domain, and others may refer freely to them without
paying licensing fees to the Scottish writer's estate.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Monday
said U.S. copyright law did not cover earlier works depicting
the brilliant detective, including references to Holmes, his
sidekick Dr. Watson, his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty, 221B
Baker Street, and even Holmes' cocaine use.
Writing for a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Richard
Posner said there was no basis to extend U.S. copyrights beyond
He said only Conan Doyle's last 10 Holmes works, which were
published between 1923 and 1927 and have copyrights expiring
after 95 years, deserved protection. Conan Doyle died in 1930.
"When a story falls into the public domain, story elements -
including characters covered by the expired copyright - become
fair game for follow-on authors," Posner wrote.
To rule for the estate, he said, would encourage authors to
write more stories with old characters. "The effect would be to
discourage creativity," he wrote.
The decision was a victory for Leslie Klinger, editor of
"The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes" and other Holmes books.
Klinger had paid the estate a $5,000 licensing fee for a
prior work, but sued after refusing to pay another fee for a
compendium of new Holmes stories that he and co-editor Laurie
King were editing, "In the Company of Sherlock Holmes."
Their publisher Pegasus Books refused to publish the work
after the Conan Doyle estate threatened to stop sales by
Amazon.com Inc and Barnes & Noble Inc unless it
received another fee.
Monday's decision upheld a December 2013 ruling by U.S.
District Judge Rubén Castillo in Chicago.
Benjamin Allison, a lawyer for the Conan Doyle estate, said
no decision has been made on an appeal, and that it remains to
be seen how Klinger and others can use the author's characters
without using the "full expression" of those characters.
The last 10 Holmes works introduced such details as Watson's
second wife, and Holmes' retirement from his detective agency.
"Many aspects of Holmes' character, such as his growing
friendship with Watson and his human warmth, were created in the
last 10 stories, and remain protected by copyright," Allison
said in an interview.
Jonathan Kirsch, a lawyer for Klinger, said he was gratified
by the decision. "Copyright begins and ends, and cannot be
extended indefinitely," he said in an interview.
Klinger was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Grant