On Valentine’s Day 2013, I made a big commitment: I filed an action in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois against the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. The Estate has for some time been insisting that creators who want to use the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in their new creation pay the Estate not insubstantial amounts for “permission” to do so. I believe that this violates U.S. copyright laws. Although 10 of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Conan Doyle remain protected by copyright for 95 years after publication date, the last expiring in 2022, 50 of the stories are in the public domain. Because the essential characteristics of Holmes and Watson are set forth in detail in those public domain stories, I believe that anyone can freely use the characters as they see fit. In particular, the Estate is trying to stop publication of a new anthology created by Laurie R. King and me, tentatively called “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes,” a second collection of stories inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon by an amazing group of writers.
For a good deal more about this subject, including copies of the Court filings, please check the website at www.free-sherlock.com.