At last, the great detective Sherlock Holmes has broken free of the clutches of his captors.
Last month, a Chicago judge ruled that Holmes, a fictional character created in the late 19th century by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is in fact out of copyright—meaning that the exclusive copyrights once held by the publishers of the original Sherlock Holmes stories no longer apply. Unless the decision is overturned on appeal, new Holmes adaptations should be just about as legally unregulated as adaptations of Shakespeare or folk tales. Given the success of adaptations like Elementary and BBC’s Sherlock, that means we’re likely to see a whole lot more Holmes content in the not-too-distant future. And since a strong public domain benefits art, that’s a boon both for Holmes-lovers and for everyone else.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Sherlock Holmes was out of copyright already. The original novel, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1887—more than 125 years ago. Even in the U.S., where copyright has been extended and extended and extended again, protection usually applies only 95 years from the date of publication, meaning Holmes and Watson should be well out of it.
Read more. [Image: BBC; Wikimedia; CBS]