7th Circuit Denounces the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd.

In a scathing opinion issued today, the 7th Circuit granted in full our petition for reimbursement of legal fees in the case of Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. More importantly, the Court ripped the Estate’s position, saying: “The Doyle estate’s business strategy is plain: charge a modest license fee for which there is no legal basis, in the hope that the ‘rational’ writer or publisher asked for the fee will pay it rather than incur a greater cost, in legal expenses, in challenging the legality of the demand. The strategy had worked with Random House; Pegasus was ready to knuckle under; only Klinger (so far as we know) resisted. In effect he was a private attorney general, combating a disreputable business practice – a form of extortion – and he is seeking by the present motion not to obtain a reward but merely to avoid a loss. He has performed a public service – and with substantial risk to himself…. As a result of losing the suit, the estate has lost its claim to own copyrights in characters in the Sherlock Holmes stories published by Arthur Conan Doyle before 1923. For exposing the estate’s unlawful business strategy, Klinger deserves a reward but asks only to break even.” The Court went on to admonish the Estate: “It’s time the estate, in its own self-interest, changed its business model.”

I hope that other creators get the message: Say “no” when the Estate demands a license fee, unless it’s clear that (a) you are using copyrighted elements from the 10 stories that remain in copyright and (b) your proposed use is not “fair use.”

The opinion can be found here: https://freesherlock.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/fee-opinion-7th-circuit.pdf


  1. Keith Raffel on August 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Congratulations, Les. You have won a victory for the public over a bully.

  2. Scott Monty on August 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Les, you are a benefit to mankind. Thank you for your tireless work on all things related to Sherlock Holmes and the BSI.

    If you care to read it, our take is available at http://www.ihearofsherlock.com/2014/08/7th-circuit-orders-conan-doyle-estate.html

  3. curtis evans on August 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Congratulations for your victory against this legal bullying.

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