Sherlock Ramifications

Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan now in the public domain?

Category: writing

label_outline tag Legal

Sherlock Holmes the character is now in the public domain per the US Courts. So what does that mean?

SCOTUS declined review, letting the lower appellate court’s decision stand. What did the Seventh Circuit say? “On June 16, 2014, [7th Circuit] upheld an earlier ruling…regarding copyright protection, not for the stories themselves, but for the characters of Holmes and Watson.” (Emphasis mine.)

Sherlock Holmes and other characters existed before 1923. The series they were a part of extended past 1923. Those books from before that date are public. The characters in those books are also public domain as well. Therefore, it appears you can now write a new Sherlock Holmes novel using characters that existed before the current 1923 cut-off.

Tarzan was created in 1912. It looks like he is now in the public domain. Buck Rodgers was created in 1929. Now, in 2024, Buck Rodgers the character will be in the public domain.

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t mean much to authors today. Nothing to see here but a geek’s curiosity.

It’s also interesting how other countries viewed the copyright.

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Photo Credit: Esteemed Judge (Orange County Archives/Flickr under CC BY 2.0.)