Scholar and author Leslie S. Klinger has recently filed a civil law suit in federal court regarding the right to use the figures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson in a book regarding stories inspired by the duo. The publisher of the book was notified by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate that the estate must be paid a license fee for the publication of the book or they would convince major distributors not to sell the book. This was, of course, concerning to the publishing company and has delayed publication of the book.
While a number of Conan Doyle’s stories are copyrighted and still protected under the law, the majority that were written are not. These non-copyrighted books also fully establish the characters of Holmes and Watson. Thereby, the use of their image is argued as public-domain and could be construed as free to use.
Many celebrity estates take great pains to protect the name, image, or personage represented by the estate. In fact, recently we’ve also written about the large amount of lawsuits being done by Humphrey Bogart’s estate, Marlon Brando’s estate and others. Only time will tell how the judge will rule on the copyright issues and the ability for Klinger to publish this book.
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