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Scholar Sues Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Over Sherlock Holmes Copyright

Scholar Leslie S. Klinger has filed a civil suit in federal court against the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate, hoping to prove that “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson are no longer protected by federal copyright laws.”

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Along with Laurie R. King, Klinger edited A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon. He was working on a new collection called In the Company of Sherlock Holmes with stories by Sara Paretsky, Michael Connelly, Lev Grossman and more. He made his case, in the release:

The Conan Doyle Estate contacted our publisher … and implied that if the Estate wasn’t paid a license fee, they’d convince the major distributors not to sell the book. Our publisher was, understandably, concerned, and told us that the book couldn’t come out unless this was resolved … It is true that some of Conan Doyle’s stories about Holmes are still protected by the U.S. copyright laws. However, the vast majority of the stories that Conan Doyle wrote are not. The characters of Holmes, Watson, and others are fully established in those fifty ‘public-domain’ stories. Under U.S. law, this should mean that anyone is free to create new stories about Holmes and Watson.

You can read PDF copies of the court filings at this link. We also discussed this legal question on the Morning Media Menu. Press play below to listen on SoundCloud…

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