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Sherlock Holmes belongs to the public, US court rules

Published on Jun 17, 2014 6:33 AM
 

(REUTERS) - A US appeals court said 50 Sherlock Holmes works published before 1923 by Arthur Conan Doyle are in the public domain, and others may refer freely to them without paying licensing fees to the Scottish writer's estate.

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Monday said US copyright law did not cover earlier works depicting the brilliant detective, including references to Holmes, his sidekick Dr Watson, his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty, 221B Baker Street, and even Holmes' cocaine use.

Writing for a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Richard Posner said there was no basis to extend US copyrights beyond their expiration.

He said only Conan Doyle's last 10 Holmes works, which were published between 1923 and 1927, and have copyrights expiring after 95 years, deserved protection. Conan Doyle died in 1930. "When a story falls into the public domain, story elements - including characters covered by the expired copyright - become fair game for follow-on authors," Posner wrote.

 
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