In a famous case, Sherlock Holmes seemed to meet his demise. Yet the character survives, and for a detective 126 years old, he manages rather well to this day in part because of an apparent quirk in copyright law. One scholar, though, wants to put an end to Holmes as a money-maker for the Conan Doyle Estate. Earlier this week, Publishers Weekly reported on suit filed by author and scholar Leslie Klinger that asks a federal court to declare that Holmes, Watson, and others of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters lie firmly in the public domain.
“Copyright has indeed expired on most of the Sherlock Holmes stories—there are more than 50 such stories now in the public domain. But about 10 stories remain under copyright for about another decade,” Andrew Albanese, PW senior writer, explains to CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “The problem, Klinger says, is that the Conan Doyle estate is strong-arming authors and publishers into license deals unnecessarily.”