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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Judge has to rule that Sherlock Holmes (yes, a 125-year-old character) isn't copyrighted

Because Arthur Conan Doyle wrote some Sherlock Holmes stories after 1923, currently the cutoff date for the (idiotically long) US copyright protection law, his estate has argued that all his work is still copyright protected - i.e., you have to pay if you want to reprint or do something fun with the most famous charater in English literature - even though the first Holmes story, "A Study in Scarlet", was written in 1886, when there were only 38 states.

However, as the Washington Post reports, a federal judge has rejected that argument. (Whole blog post is here.)

Judge Rubén Castillo ruled ... that every Holmes story that followed the first ought to be considered a derivative based on the original. As far as the court is concerned, Holmes and Watson were fully formed characters by the last page of "A Study in Scarlet." (A)nything published before Jan. 1, 1923, is considered public-domain by law — a fact that covers 50 of Conan Doyle's tales."