Over his illustrious 125-plus-year career, Sherlock Holmes has captured the public’s imagination by catching thieves, stopping assassins, and breaking up spy rings. His adventures have led to his appearance in many books, motion pictures, video games, and television series, including two of the most popular programs currently airing. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective’s latest case lands him in an Illinois district court. An earlier blog posting on the case is here.
Is copyright a greater foe to Sherlock Holmes than Moriarity? The answer depends on what a court says – and whether you think that the duration of copyright protection in the United States is too lengthy.
In the United States the current duration of copyright protection is generally the life of the author plus 70 years (with some notable exceptions). Many older works, generally speaking those works published before January 1, 1923, are in the public domain, which means anyone can copy, publish, and modify them without restriction in the United States.