Appeals court rules most of 'Sherlock Holmes' public domain

By Kyle Johnson,

An appeals court ruled against the Arthur Conan Doyle estate, stating that most of the character of Sherlock Holmes is now public domain.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that 46 stories and four novels of Doyle's were indeed in the public domain and sided with Leslie Klinger, reports The Guardian.

The situation started in 2011 when Klinger was set to publish A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon and the estate came a-calling, demanding a $5,000 license fee. Random House paid then, but Klinger, who will publish a second anthology through Pegasus Books later this year, felt that most of the stories on Holmes were now in the public domain and filed a lawsuit.

Also, Klinger didn't seem to take kindly to a letter from the estate declaring that many retailers would refuse to sell the book because "We work with those compan[ies] to routinely to weed out unlicensed uses."

The ruling backs up U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo, who ruled in December that Klinger could continue to write stories based around the earlier books of Holmes, so long as he didn't use any information or character traits mentioned in any of the later 10 stories.

The Doyle estate tried to argue both times that those 10 books made Holmes a more "round" character and not "flat," thus the copyright should be extended. Judge Richard A. Posner wrote in the decision, "What this has to do with copyright law eludes us."

image courtesy of INFphoto.com



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