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View Full Version : Sherlock Holmes now fair game in U.S.



blacbird
12-28-2013, 10:40 AM
A most singular development, Watson:

http://news.msn.com/pop-culture/sherlock-holmes-is-now-in-the-us-public-domain

caw

williemeikle
12-28-2013, 04:43 PM
Good news for me.

I'm writing three Holmes novellas for a publisher, and I'd have had to give 15% of the profits to the Conan Doyle Estate before this judgement. Publisher's just confirmed that's no longer the case, so, yay!

JoBird
12-28-2013, 08:09 PM
The game is afoot.

James D. Macdonald
12-28-2013, 09:24 PM
Do be careful. Anything derived from the post-1923 stories is still under copyright, things derived from the movies and stage plays rather than the stories (e.g. Holmes' calabash pipe) are still under copyright, and (as the news report mentions) while the stories are public domain (i.e., anyone can reprint them), the characters themselves are under license in the UK which will make publishing original works featuring Holmes and Watson in the UK ... tricky.

Polenth
12-28-2013, 09:49 PM
This mainly seems like a middle-sized to big publisher good development, as they can afford the court case if they have to prove their work doesn't include elements from the later stories. The average individual or very small publisher won't have the funds for the court case, so could still be pressured into paying a fee they don't need to pay. Or more likely, having to drop the project. That's always the trouble with legal rulings... you still need to afford the fees to prove you did nothing wrong.

But I've got a good chance of living until the copyright expires. At which point I'll gleefully publish my Holmes story in the US. I predict a mini-trend in the year we're finally free.

Filigree
12-28-2013, 09:49 PM
I'll be watching the fallout with interest.

veinglory
12-28-2013, 10:13 PM
IMHO it is about time someone called the so-called Doyle estate (no relation) on their shit.

Filigree
12-29-2013, 01:31 AM
Not to derail, but I'm waiting for someone to call Disney on their shit. It won't happen in my lifetime.

blacbird
12-29-2013, 05:07 AM
For further info, there's a parallel thread on this over in the PC&E forum.

caw

Wilde_at_heart
12-29-2013, 05:16 AM
So long as it doesn't mean more dreadful shoot-em-ups starring Robert Downey Junior...

Jamesaritchie
12-29-2013, 08:18 PM
So long as it doesn't mean more dreadful shoot-em-ups starring Robert Downey Junior...

The best Sherlock Holmes movies to date.

Amadan
12-29-2013, 09:00 PM
The best Sherlock Holmes movies to date.

He's baaaaaaaack!

blacbird
12-30-2013, 11:36 AM
The best Sherlock Holmes movies to date.

Surely you jest. Better than these?:

The Hound of the Baskervilles, the original with Basil Rathbone.

The Seven Per-cent Solution, with Nicol Williamson as Holmes.

Murder by Decree, with Christopher Plummer as Holmes, and James Mason as Watson.

Not to mention the wonderful TV series, based on original Conan Doyle stories, starring Jeremy Brett.

caw

ZachJPayne
12-30-2013, 11:45 AM
I'm interested in any possible ramifications for the Tolkien estate. I know we still have a few more decades before anything of theirs comes under the public domain argument, but it'd be nice to call them, especially Christopher Tolkien, on their shit. They're so tight-fisted with the IP, even with scholars (Corey Olsen et. al.), it's not even funny.

Alessandra Kelley
12-30-2013, 04:48 PM
I'm interested in any possible ramifications for the Tolkien estate. I know we still have a few more decades before anything of theirs comes under the public domain argument, but it'd be nice to call them, especially Christopher Tolkien, on their shit. They're so tight-fisted with the IP, even with scholars (Corey Olsen et. al.), it's not even funny.

Possibly not. So far as I understand it copyright lasts the life of the creator (or the date of the copyright) plus 95 years (thank you, Disney). It hasn't been anywhere near that long with Tolkien. Under current laws the Tolkien copyrights were properly registered and the estate legally controls the rights.

And remember that part of the reason the copyright laws were reformed was because Tolkien himself had been so badly ripped off.

The "Conan Doyle Estate Ltd," by contrast, appears to have committed blatant shenanigans. They copyrighted an uncopyrighted post-1923 Holmes book in 1981, then used that as a pretext to claim ownership and financial control of all Holmes material through 2076, which is effectively well past even the extraordinarily generous copyright terms of today. They give all signs of not acting in good faith and have finally been called on it.

williemeikle
12-30-2013, 05:00 PM
I'm interested in any possible ramifications for the Tolkien estate. I know we still have a few more decades before anything of theirs comes under the public domain argument, but it'd be nice to call them, especially Christopher Tolkien, on their shit. They're so tight-fisted with the IP, even with scholars (Corey Olsen et. al.), it's not even funny.

They're allowed to be "tight-fisted with the IP". It's theirs. Given the way they've been ripped off over the years I don't blame them a bit.

Amadan
12-30-2013, 08:13 PM
They're allowed to be "tight-fisted with the IP". It's theirs. Given the way they've been ripped off over the years I don't blame them a bit.

Oh. Really.

I'm starting to sympathize with those who just want to hoist the jolly roger.

Not there yet... but I'm getting there.

veinglory
12-30-2013, 08:20 PM
I see Tolkein as quite different, much more recent, and handled by a reasonable estate acting within the law. The Doyle situation was quite different because it was about flouting the law, not about whether the law as it stands is as it should be.

I have just added reformatting my Sherlock Holmes collection for Kindle release to my "to do" list.

shaldna
12-31-2013, 02:11 PM
Do be careful. Anything derived from the post-1923 stories is still under copyright, things derived from the movies and stage plays rather than the stories (e.g. Holmes' calabash pipe) are still under copyright, and (as the news report mentions) while the stories are public domain (i.e., anyone can reprint them), the characters themselves are under license in the UK which will make publishing original works featuring Holmes and Watson in the UK ... tricky.

Several very good points here which highlights how tricky copyright can be, especially with international differences.

If in doubt please speak with a solicitor / lawyer who specialises in intellectual property.

Although, I am not-so-secretly waiting on the raft of slashy novels that will hopefully follow now.

Russell Secord
01-01-2014, 01:54 AM
... I am not-so-secretly waiting on the raft of slashy novels that will hopefully follow now.

Okay, but I think my Sherlock Holmes vs. Predator and Sherlock Holmes vs. Aliens will have to wait a while longer.

blacbird
01-01-2014, 09:44 AM
Everybody should also be aware that trademark issues may be at play in using characters/settings from earlier works. Certainly you cannot write and freely publish Harry Potter stories, for precisely that reason. Likewise Tarzan stories. Trademark protections are legally unrelated to copyright statutes.

caw

Terie
01-01-2014, 11:48 AM
Everybody should also be aware that trademark issues may be at play in using characters/settings from earlier works. Certainly you cannot write and freely publish Harry Potter stories, for precisely that reason.

No, the reason you can't freely publish Harry Potter stories is because of copyright. If the films had never been made and the trademarks never established, you still couldn't publish in the Harry Potter world.

It's true that people have to be careful about trademarks, but it doesn't help for you to muddy the waters by confusing the two yourself.

Maxinquaye
01-03-2014, 05:29 AM
These kinds of things are interesting. A comparative story is the copyrights of JM Barrie who wrote Peter Pan. I'm not too certain of the status of these copyrights today, but I believe that the British Prime Minister Callahan reaffirmed in law the copyrights. Maybe some Brit with better knowledge could elaborate?

The reason for the reaffirmation is that one of the most important childrens hospitals in the UK, and indeed Europe, was granted the copyrights. So, to this day, the Great Ormond Street Hospital, gets paid for every performance of Peter Pan. Without this copyright, a lot of important work would be halted because the hospital gets a lot of income from this IP.

Torgo
01-03-2014, 05:38 AM
These kinds of things are interesting. A comparative story is the copyrights of JM Barrie who wrote Peter Pan. I'm not too certain of the status of these copyrights today, but I believe that the British Prime Minister Callahan reaffirmed in law the copyrights. Maybe some Brit with better knowledge could elaborate?

The reason for the reaffirmation is that one of the most important childrens hospitals in the UK, and indeed Europe, was granted the copyrights. So, to this day, the Great Ormond Street Hospital, gets paid for every performance of Peter Pan. Without this copyright, a lot of important work would be halted because the hospital gets a lot of income from this IP.

That's basically it, yes - a perpetual right to collect royalties was granted to GOSH in the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.

This was really to protect GOSH from the expiry of Barrie's copyrights, which were briefly revived in 2007 by the extension of copyright term, but which would now otherwise have lapsed again.

The interesting thing is that this is just a UK law; in my own direct experience, nothing more than courtesy prevents a US publisher or author from treating Peter Pan as public domain.

Polenth
01-03-2014, 06:57 AM
The interesting thing is that this is just a UK law; in my own direct experience, nothing more than courtesy prevents a US publisher or author from treating Peter Pan as public domain.

That's a difference between these two cases of course. The hospital is a good cause, so people want to keep paying. Whether people pay because they care or they pay because they don't want the bad publicity, they're still paying.

Whereas the whole Conan Doyle thing is a private group getting the money, who've tended to upset people by trying to lock down the things outside of copyright too. There's not a lot of goodwill there.

blacbird
01-03-2014, 11:56 AM
Further developments:

http://news.msn.com/pop-culture/writer-doyle-estate-dispute-copyright-on-sherlock

This is shaping up as a major legal question about the entire issue of copyright protection.

caw