I have just published my first novel, titled 'Sherlock Holmes And The Dead Boer At Scotney Castle'. Deliberately I wrote it in the style of the originals. Is there a space opening up between Sherlock Holmes as Dr Who - viz certain recent movies - and 'classic' Sherlock Holmes?
The Doyle descendants still take an active interest and some authors of pastiches ask them to endorse the new work, presumably for a fee or a share of the royalties.
I seem to recall that a ghost-written sequel to "Gone With The Wind" was published just so the Mitchell heirs could continue to exercise rights over the characters and such.
But I didn't know you could just sort of declare it was still yours.
Is this a matter that moves over into trademarking, rather than actual copyright?
I'm not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, but it is my understanding that you can reprint all of Doyle's original work, but you cannot write new stuff without permission. I ran into the same issue when I wanted to write a story with the Zorro character. You can reprint the original "Curse of Capistrano" book, but the character itself is not in the public domain.
Ah, now THAT makes sense. So it's like I was suspecting, not about copyrights but trademarking of the characters and titles. Registered properties. I don't think there is any limit to how long those last: they're closer to patents than copyrights.
14 March 2012 10:43:
Copyright in the Sherlock Holmes stories expired in Canada in 1980.
The last copyright on ACD's work in the United Kingdom expired at the end of the year 2000.
In the United States, the only Sherlock Holmes remaining in copyright is The Case Book, which will enter the public domain between 2016 and 2023. A legal challenge that would have invalidated a 1998 extension to the length of copyright — putting Sherlock Holmes into the public domain immediately — was thrown out by the Supreme Court January 15, 2003.
The American copyrights are owned by Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. The American agent for administering them, and related rights in the Sherlock Holmes character, is Jon Lellenberg (Hazelbaker & Lellenberg, 220 East Walton Place, Chicago, Illinois 60611), JonLellenberg@gmail.com. The British agent is Robert Kirby of United Agents (12-26 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LE), email@example.com.
A web site for "the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate" represents Andrea Plunket, the former wife of Sheldon Reynolds, producer of the 1954 television series starring Ronald Howard as Holmes. Reynolds controlled the copyrights in the 1950s. Plunket is proprietor of a guest house in Livingston Manor, New York. Her claims to rights in the Sherlock Holmes stories have been repeatedly rejected in U.S. federal court decisions (including Plunket v. Doyle, No. 99-11006, Southern District of New York, February 22, 2001; Pannonia Farms Inc. v. ReMax International and Jon Lellenberg, No. 01-1697, District of Columbia, March 21, 2005). She has also filed a claim to the name "Sherlock Holmes" as a United States trademark, and that too has been turned down.
The “official website” at www.sherlockholmes.com represents the former proprietors of the Sherlock Holmes Memorabilia Company, who also own no rights to Arthur Conan Doyle works and characters. They have filed a U.S. trademark application, which has been blocked by formal Oppositions filed by the Estate and others.
The American copyrights are owned by Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. The American agent for administering them, and related rights in the Sherlock Holmes character, is firstname.lastname@example.org Jon Lellenberg (Hazelbaker & Lellenberg, 220 East Walton Place, Chicago, Illinois 60611), JonLellenberg@gmail.com. The British agent is Robert Kirby of United Agents (12-26 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LE), email@example.com.
I likely have a different view than most who have posted here, but I don't have a problem with the new movies. Holmes was a boxer, a cocaine user, he used disguises and was an all around oddball. I don't think the creative license used in the new movies are such a wild jump.
Sounds like they should do a Downing Street Get-Down rap video.