Sherlock Holmes stories are now a part of the public domain, according to a new ruling from a federal judge.
The decision comes out of a lawsuit brought about by author Leslie S. Klinger against the Conan Doyle estate. Klinger was working on an anthology called In the Company of Sherlock Holmes and the estate contacted the publisher Pegasus Books explaining that they must get a license in order to publish a book. The estate said they would block the book from major book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The publisher didn’t want to get sued or get blocked from the big book store chains and dropped the book.
The author asserted that he didn’t need a license, claiming that the characters, character traits and other story elements from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are free for the public to copy under the Copyright Act.
The judge ruled that while certain character elements that were written post 1923 are protected under copyright law, “Klinger and the public may use the pre-1923 story elements without seeking a license.” (Via The New York Times).