The judge's ruling on the Holmes copyright is important but not very elementary.
By Lee Pfeiffer
In a landmark ruling, an Illinois judge has ruled that Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle prior to 1923 are now considered public domain under U.S. copyright law. The ruling stems from an author's suit that protested what he felt were unnecessary licensing fees paid to the Doyle estate in relation to a new book based on the characters of Holmes and Dr. Watson. The judge ruled that any elements of the stories contained in published works prior to 1923 can now be used without permission of the Doyle estate. These include key elements of the stories and the character of the villain Prof. Moriarty. However, in defending the copyrighted elements of the later stories, the judge cautioned that any elements of the Holmes legend that were introduced in those published works are still considered under copyright. The Doyle estate said it may appeal the ruling but also expressed confidence that the primary aspects of the characters that are routinely used in popular culture and new versions of the stories would be protected by copyright law. They assert that, under the judge's rulings, ten of Doyle's Holmes stories would be subject to copyright protection- but this is debatable and depends upon how many specific personality traits and relationship changes can be said to be defined in those post-1923 stories. Such legendary aspects of the series as Holmes' address at 221 B Baker Street would be in the public domain, as would the essence of the character as the world's greatest detective- as well as his friendship with Dr. Watson. Elements that expand and better define those aspects of the stories in the post-1923 writings would not be available in the public domain. Nevertheless, the judge's ruling opens the gates for anyone to create their own Holmes projects and stories as long as they are based on elements of the early books. The Holmes character is one of the most enduring and popular in literay history. Today a recent film series starring Robert Downey Jr. has proven to be a major success, as have various TV series based on the Holmes stories.For more click here