Sherlock Holmes Is Now Officially Public Domain


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After many years of being a beloved book series, and recently being turned into popular films, the character of Sherlock Holmes is officially public domain. This allows authors from the United States to re-imagine the classic tales of the beloved British detective.

Before now, Sherlock Holmes has been adapted into films as well as popular television shows such as Sherlock and Elementary, but there will now be an opportunity for Sherlock Holmes to emerge through the medium of literature again.

The Sherlock Holmes novels were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and were first introduced in 1887. The books centered on Sherlock Holmes, a British detective who is accompanied by his sidekick Watson, and the many adventures that the two of them go on.

Sherlock Holmes entered public domain in Britain years ago. However, due to a US copyright law protecting 10 short stories in the vast Holmes collection, the descendants of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were able to retain intellectual property rights in the United States.

The lawsuit was brought on by Leslie Klinger, an author, editor, and Sherlock Holmes expert. Klinger reported being threatened by the Doyle estate, but she fought the case, claiming that most of the stories and characters in the Holmes canon were old enough that they belonged in the public domain.

There has been a resurgence in the popularity of Sherlock Holmes due to the new films starring Robert Downey Jr., while the BBC's production Sherlock has always gained a great amount of popularity that stretches to audiences in the United States as well.

The Conan Doyle estate claimed that Holmes and his partner Watson were continually developed that the copyright should extend to the characters themselves in addition to the 10 short stories.

However, a judge recently denied that claim and Judge Ruben Castillo ruled that Sherlock Holmes shall be public domain when saying "The effect of adopting Conan Doyle’s position would be to extend impermissibly the copyright of certain character elements of Holmes and Watson beyond their statutory period."

In the ruling, he concluded that only the story elements from the 10 short stories published after 1923 shall be protected, and that everything else in the Sherlock Holmes canon is free for public use.

After being published in 1887, the character of Sherlock Holmes has finally become public domain in the United States. As popularity is rising with the beloved detective again, fans are likely to see some new books featuring the detective in the near future.

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