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Bulk of Sherlock Holmes stories now in public domain

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2014 | Intellectual Property

As fans of the Sherlock series broadcast on public television enjoy its the third season, there is legal news to report regarding the copyright to Arthur Conan Doyle’s works involving Sherlock Holmes, which serves as an inspiration. The copyright on many of the Sherlock Holmes stories has run, a judge recently ruled, leaving it in the public domain.

The decision was the result of a civil lawsuit filed in 2013 by an individual who sought to make a differentiation between the 10 stories still protected by copyright, and the bulk of Doyle’s work. What this means for writers is that as long as one does not refer to the final stories involving the sleuth, (which were released after 1922 in the United States), they need not pay license fees to the estate of the creator of Sherlock Holmes when writing new material involving the famous character. Similarly, permission to write these stories is no longer needed.

This situation provides a good example of how copyright law protects the works of individuals such as writers. Prior to this ruling Doyle’s estate has collected licensing fees from those who wished to make Sherlock Holmes based projects. Writers based in the Los Angeles area could take advantage of those same protections.

Because few artists are also well versed in intellectual property law, most individuals who have created works they want to protect or obtain licensing fees for, find it beneficial to work with a lawyer familiar with this area of law. Doing so could make a big difference regarding the income made off of the creative works.

Source: National Public Radio, “Sherlock’s Expiring Copyright: It’s Public Domain, Dear Watson,” Jan. 7, 2014


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