Copyright has officially expired for the original set of works surrounding the sleuth known as Sherlock Holmes according to a US Federal Judge this week. This includes the original 50 Holmes stories published before January 1st, 1923 covered by United States copyright law. This allows writers and creators of media of all types to use any and all bits and pieces of these original stories to use the ideas included in these works without paying licensing fees to the original Conan Doyle estate.
The ruling appears to split the works of Conan Doyle into pieces, starting with the first 50 stories before the first of January, 1923, keeping the rest under copyright. The 10 stories included in the Conan Doyle-written stories about Holmes after January of 1923 remain under copyright and all ideas within those stories remain protected.
These protected works include ideas like the fact that Holmes' partner Watson played rugby for Blackheath. If a story about Holmes should include any mention of Watson playing rugby for the Blackheath team, the writer will need to pay royalties to the Doyle estate.
This case came up after a complained filed February of 2013 by Leslie S. Klinger, editor of several Homes books and collections, including a new collection called "in the Company of Sherlock Homes", consisting of new stories written by a variety of authors.
The publisher of this book had received a letter from the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. that they'd prevent the collection from being sold by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and "similar retailers" unless it received a fee on top of a previous $5,000 licensing fee Klinger had paid previously. While the publisher decided to halt at that point, Klinger decided to forge forward.
With great success, it would seem.
So bust out the Homes-inspired fanfic without fear, ladies and gentlemen!
VIA: New York Times