Sherlock Holmes Enters the Public Domain

The most famous detective in literature has entered the public domain, or at least most of him has. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court ruled Monday that Sherlock Holmes was largely no longer protected by copyright law; protections on all but 10 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories had expired. The Doyle estate attempted to keep Holmes out of the public domain, claiming those last 10 stories helped define the overall character. However, Judge Richard Posner wrote “We don’t see how that can justify extending the expired copyright on the flatter character.” He offered a more modern franchise, Star Wars, to prove his point. “Episodes IV, V, and VI were produced before I, II, and III. The Doyle estate would presumably argue that the copyrights on the characters as portrayed in IV, V, and VI will not expire until the copyrights on I, II, and III expire.”