February 17, 2013

The case of the over-extended copyright

Filed under: Books, Law, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:28

In this story, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson encounter a true mystery: why the heirs of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are still able to pressure publishers for licensing fees long after the original stories should have been fully in the public domain:

It isn’t often one gets a ringside seat at a legal-literary battle royal, but it would seem that we’re about to bear witness to some activity in that particular area.

Of course, you’ll recall that recent legal battles in England have revolved around Undershaw, Conan Doyle’s home for about a decade that included when he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles. [. . .] But this is wholly different.

The noted Sherlockian scholar, Baker Street Irregular and prominent attorney Leslie Klinger, editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library and The Grand Game: A Celebration of Sherlockian Scholarship, to name a few, has filed a civil lawsuit against the Conan Doyle Estate to determine that the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are in fact in the public domain.

Currently, the so-called estate undertakes high-handed legal action to levy royalties and other payments from authors who use the characters in their own works. This is despite the fact that there are only 10 stories in the entire Canon that are still under copyright protection (in the United States). Klinger, for one, will not stand for this bullying, and has formally filed suit and issued a press release.

H/T to Tim Harford (and Cory Doctorow) for the link.

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