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Sherlock Holmes Finally In the Public Domain In the US 207

Posted by timothy
from the and-mycroft-is-even-older dept. writes "As reported on the Australian ABC news website, film-makers in the US are finally free to work on Sherlock Holmes stories without paying a licencing free to the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle after a ruling by Judge Ruben Castillo. A quirk of U.S. copyright law kept 10 stories out of the public domain, on the basis that these stories were continuously developed. In his ruling Judge Castillo opined that only the "story elements" in the short stories published after 1923 were protected and that everything else in the Holmes canon was "free for public use" — including the characters of Holmes and Watson. Holmes scholar Leslie Klinger, who challenged the estate, celebrated the ruling. 'Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world,' Mr Klinger said in a statement posted on his Free Sherlock website. IANAL, but the ruling of Judge Castillo that "adopting Conan Doyle's position would be to extend impermissibly the copyright of certain character elements of Holmes and Watson beyond their statutory period," is surely going to have implications across U.S. copyright law. Mark Twain must be twisting and writhing in his grave."
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Sherlock Holmes Finally In the Public Domain In the US

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  • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @12:48AM (#45803131)
    Sherlock Holmes --- an imaginary character --- has more rights than real people.

    Hitler, Albert Einstein and Elvis make frequent cameos in media and often star in YouTube videos, having no rights because they are *REAL* people.

    But Mickey Mouse and Sherlock Holmes and Barbie have more rights as imaginary characters.

    Curious legal system we have. Feel free to use Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter or Richard Nixon (hello Futurama!) in a story ... it's just bizarre!!!
  • I'm confused... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by king neckbeard (1801738) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:37AM (#45803299)
    Doyle has been dead since 1930. That means that Sherlock Holmes has been in the public domain in Scotland since 2000. If something is PD in the country of origin, it is PD to all Berne signatories. That's part of how the CTEA was sold to the US public, as our authors would be 'disadvantaged' if we kept a shorter term.
  • by Eivind Eklund (5161) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:45AM (#45803513) Journal

    You got an extra zero in there, right? As in 7 years sounds about right?

    I know some authors protest that seven years is too long, and the majority of income is made in the first three years and after five it would be advantageous to have the works available in the public domain (but the publishers don't want the competition from previously released works), but I think that varies from author to author, so doing a compromise of seven seems reasonable - we can experiment with shortening it further after having seen what happen when we cut it to seven.

  • by langelgjm (860756) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @10:10AM (#45804973) Journal

    And if you want it, then surely you should agree that it is _worth_ paying for. You can't seriously argue that you want it but it's not worth money.

    The problem is, that logic runs into pricing issues. Take this book [] for example. At the time I wrote this post, the new price was $218, the Kindle edition was $180, and used copies also sold for $180. I would be happy to pay for that book, but not $180, and certainly not $218. I might pay $30.

    In reality, I'll pay nothing, since it's so expensive that I'll just have to rely on the library's copy.

    Now you can argue that this is a special case since it's a limited run academic book, but the point is that when there is a gap between what someone is willing to pay, and the actual price of the item, you have a lost sale. With respect to physical goods, maybe that's a sale you don't want, since you'd have to take a loss. But with respect to copyrighted goods, in many cases any price is going to net you a profit.

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists. -- John Kenneth Galbraith